Where do I begin to reply to J Scott and the Rare & Racy bookshop debate? The letter (April 13) supposes that everything should in due course be bulldozed in the name of progress. As if a belief in progress on the one hand and respect for community and continuity on the other are two entirely inimical concepts, the latter silly and outmoded. The blunt dismissal of bookshops, based on the fact that J Scott clearly doesn’t go in them, and by extension the dismissal of the people who work in them (I mean, don’t worry too much about their livelihood), and the many people who continue to enjoy and support them. The patronising tone, with references to “our exciting post-war jet age” and “our age of the computer”, as if we’re all schoolboys reading The Eagle. Or the vagueness of the correspondent’s analogy with the fate of the Gaumont cinema. Not being one of “our younger readers”, I fortunately don’t need to be told what the Gaumont was. However, quite what this has to do with an argument about the viability of bookshops in the 21st century I have no idea, unless the inference is that cinemas too have gone the way of all things ephemeral. The last time I checked the listings, there were still cinemas.
It’s not clear whether or not J Scott thinks books are “only” books - in which case, tell that to generations a thousand years hence, when the digital record may have deteriorated. There will always be a place for these wonderful institutions; indeed, their survival is vital to the publishing industry. The author David Nicholls says that while online shopping and digital downloads are obviously convenient and have their place in the market, the physical book remains something “special”, and he still feels that “a town without a bookshop is missing something”. I for one couldn’t agree more.