Even the greatest lover of books has doubts
Whenever I doubt the vibrancy of my industry I take a tour of bookshops. It is amazing to see the difference between stores. Some are old, dark and smell unmistakably of books, others are bright, warm and air conditioned smelling only of the expensive coffee baristas are grinding in the attached cafes, a few fall somewhere between, showing neither the elegance and (usually) the stock depth of the old style nor the front list power and cheapness that pervades in the newer. I have favourites at both extremes, but some, a very few really, manage to drop into the middle and lack appeal for me.
If pressed I would say Hughes & Hughes are the best exponents of the new style in recent times in Ireland, though it has to be said that Barker & Jones of the Book Centre group sets new standards in my mind). Their newer stores (Most notably their Dun Laoghaire branch but with an honourable mention for their Wexford one too) are almost carbon copies of the huge Borders store in Blanchardstown (excpet for that stores incredible size).
Shelves of major and minor booksellers swell with attractive product, at juicy discounts featuring every conceivable fancy from footballer (and his wife) to chef (and his wife), from billionaire maverick, to spiritual patter. There is no end to the niches served by modern publishers in their quest for profit and no end to their inventiveness in attempting to reach readers.
The wealth of cover art, the experimentation with format, colour, price, finish, and every other physical parameter of books in the recent past forces even the most sceptical to accept that whatever problems might exist within the book publishing industry, inventiveness, effort, talent and investment are not amongst them.
The search for profit and the desire to bring new creativity to the market makes the bookshop a great place to renew a persons faith in books, the publishing industry and the people who work in it.
One more thing about bookshops old and new that always boost my spirit is people. Bookstores always have customers. Large and small, old and new they aways have broswers and buyers in search for bargin and classics, chic lit and humour, gifts and local history, serious current affairs and true crime. It reminds you that what we do provides entertainment for thousands and it reminds you of exactly who is important in the whole equation, the reader, our end customer.