On the Book Shelf ...The book is dead. Long live the book!

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Things change. They always have done, and always will. Normally, change in everyday life is a gradual, creeping process that we all cope with, barely noticing, gradually altering our lives and times.

Every so often though, changes effect us in ways that force us to stop, take stock, and reflect on bigger issues that effect us.

This week, one of those changes is happening at Waterstones. The Kindle arrives today.

I became a bookseller 20 years ago, for the same reasons as every bookseller: the pleasure of reading, a passion for knowledge and story-telling, and a need to share them. Over the years, spreading books and knowledge has motivated my life. It is the greatest compliment when (more than once, over the years) a regular customer has called me their “pusher”, peddling books to them.

Back when I started, I.T. was not part of everyday life. It was something huge companies had a department for, or as at the small family bookshop I started in, was a large box of library cards, one for each book in stock! Times have indeed changed, not just how we all organise our lives, but how we do business and pleasure ... including reading.

In 2011, six per cent of sales of all book sales were electronic books, more than four times the year before. That increase is set to accelerate. As the last High Street specialist bookseller, we cannot afford to ignore the statistics, and have to embrace the changes in our customers’ reading habits. One thing more than any other has changed the game – the Kindle. It has become the ‘Hoover’ of e-reading – people refer to Kindles when they are talking about any make of e-reader.

So, we’re diving in at the deep end, and embracing the Kindle. We’re not just going to sell the devices. We’re installing Wi-fi so customers can browse and read e-books for free. We’ll offer the same expert, friendly advice and recommendations on what to read next.

So on reflection, these changes aren’t that huge. We’ll still be sharing our love of reading and knowledge with you, and we’ll still be helping customers get the best books for them – whether it’s a paper book or a virtual one. I’m even hoping to sell a few copies of a lovely new hardback – ‘Paper: An Elegy’ to people buying Kindles.

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