October 2011 | Nate Pedersen

Should Government Protect Bookshops?

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The Booksellers Association (BA) in Britain has requested aid from the UK government to keep bookshops in operation. Tim Godfray, head of BA, urged the government to act soon to protect more bookshops from closing.

The requests came after the BA discovered a decline in membership of 20% over the last six years, with an even steeper decline in independent bookshop members, which are down 26% over the same period.
The BA would like tax relief for businesses of cultural and educational value to keep bookshops operating on high streets and to protect "the well-being of society." The BA would also like local governments to build more free or low-cost parking near town centers to facilitate high street shopping. ("High streets," are the UK equivalent of "main streets.")

I formerly worked for McNaughtan's Bookshop, a small ABA bookshop on Leith Row in Edinburgh. While we were not on the "high street" in Edinburgh, we were not far from it and parking for our customers was certainly a problem. The few parking spots anywhere nearby were expensive and often full. Parking concerns, of course, affected all the local high street businesses and were not specific to bookshops. But sales would likely have been improved by better parking opportunities.

What do you think? Are bookshops worthy of specific government support? Do they provide a service to society that taxpayers should protect?

Read more about the proposal from The Bookseller here.