During one of my rants (‘traditional publishing is dead, long live the revolution’), a mate countered by saying that he’d believe it when there weren’t any books in Waterstones.
Way back in time I used to buy vinyl LPs and these exciting shiny discs were demonstrated on Tomorrow’s World. I’d been in computer science research and knew all about compact discs early on, but I carried on buying LPs. Out of curiosity, I did nip upstairs to have a look at the small CD section when it appeared in Virgin Megastore. They didn’t seem to be for me as I liked the big picture and CD players were expensive.
The section gradually grew, its stock containing more than compilations and best of albums until it dominated the first floor.
Then, one day I went into town, and the CDs were all downstairs by the entrance and LPs consigned to the upstairs. Still, I took the escalator and bought an LP.
Over time, the area the vinyl occupied decreased, until it fell back to a raised area demarcated by a step. This was a quarter of the first floor, so quite a space. This status quo remained for a long time with vinyl defending this hill fort until a brave t-shirt stand gained a foothold. It was precarious, the garments barely fluttering on the battlement, but clearly the end was nigh. I went downstairs and bought a CD, never to buy vinyl again. (In fact, I did buy a single of a local band as a nostalgia trip and it took several playings before I remembered that these record playing things have a 33/45 switch.)
But what of Waterstones?
The entrance does have books. There are books there, but this is the display 3-for-2 area that publishers purchase to show off their wares. In other words, the shop is primarily selling space, not books. Further back, we have stationary, trinkets, notebooks and calendars before the checkouts, and behind that are the ebook readers and then wrapping paper and greeting cards. There’s a coffee shop too.
Three quarters of the ground floor isn’t books.
Do they sell t-shirts?