For the love of a bookshop – the closure of another independent bookshop.

Appleby’s Bookshop in Morpeth, Northumberland is closing its doors for the last time. An official statement from the shop’s mailing list stated:

 Dear All,

As you may or may not be aware, as of yesterday (7/2/12) Applebys decided to close. This means we are no longer taking online orders but for the time being we are taking orders in the shop or over the phone.The final nail in the coffin was the ill conceived and untimely roadworks together with the one way system.Trade was affected very badly with so many people staying away from Morpeth.

All our stock ( even if previously marked down ) is half marked price apart from ordnance survey maps and most local stock which have 25% off. We also are unable to sell or redeem National Book Tokens as of today.

Many thanks for your custom over the years and for being loyal customers.It has been hard work but very enjoyable and also a lot of fun.

Thanks to all

tim,alice and bill wallace

For Morpeth, it is truly the end of an era. Established in 1886, Appleby’s bookshop has served generations of Morpethians and has been a much loved institution in the town. Appleby’s prided themselves on having an enviable reputation for tracking down titles regardless of the obscurity of the title. Their customer service was next to none and the staff were always friendly and willing to offer advice.

Many of the books that I now consider old friends came from Appleby’s. It was there that I met the Famous Five, Martin the Warrior, and the badger lords of Salamandastron to name just a few. As I grew older, it is where many of my drawing books came from and it is a place that one day I had hoped to take my own children.

To say that its closure is devastating would be to under-estimate how much that shop meant to Morpeth as a whole. It is absolutely heartbreaking to read the emails currently issuing from their mailing list. I’m still in shock. It doesn’t really feel real yet, but the chances are the next time I return to Morpeth, it won’t be there. I never imagined Morpeth without the shop and I’m still not sure how to take the news. I never thought I would ever shed tears over the closure of the shop but the closure of Appleby’s has reduced me to tears. It is yet another independent bookshop that has had to give up the fight in the face of the juggernaut that is Amazon. The opening of a branch of Waterstones in the new Sanderson Arcade development did nothing to help the cause.

Farewell Appleby’s Bookshop – you served us well.

The closure of independent bookshops is sadly an increasing trend. An article published on The Bookseller’s website in 2010 led with the scary headline ‘High street loses two independent bookshops a week’. It is increasingly difficult for traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ bookshops to compete effectively against online book buying and the buying power that big stores like Tesco and Asda can wield when it comes to offering discounts to their customers. In these cash-strapped times, can we really blame consumers for seeking out the best deal for the newest bestseller?

The crucial question at the moment is what, if anything, can be done to support independent bookshops?

In his blog post reporting from the Symposium of European Publishers, Peter Ayrton (founder of  independent publisher Serpent’s Tail) suggested that:

“We need to find initiatives to support independent bookshops—for even with the growth of social media, they remain the crucial arena for people to discover and fall in love with books—you cannot browse on Amazon! In the UK, we have the absurd situation where independent booksellers can get books cheaper from Amazon and supermarkets than directly from the publishers—and they do this at Christmas. But it is not enough for publishers to declare love for independent booksellers. We need to find a way of offering them discounts no less (or only slightly less) that what we give the big boys. This will not be easy in a situation where the discounts publishers give booksellers is a secret.”

This is not an issue that can be solved over night given how many factors are involved. I only hope that it can be solved before all the independent bookshops are forced to close. I do not wish to believe that this is the beginning of the end. It might be naiive but I encourage you to go out and support your local independent. If they don’t have the book you want in stock, order it through them. Above all please don’t wander in to get their advice and then go home and buy the book on Amazon. Yes you might have to wait a day or two longer to receive the book than you would ordering off Amazon but you would be supporting your local high street and keeping your community going.

This year will see the fifth year of Independent Booksellers Week which is a national celebration of independent bookshops in the UK. It is organised by a group called IndieBound UK and aims to promote ‘independent bookshops, great books, strong reading communities, and the idea of shopping locally and sustainably’. The dates for Independent Booksellers Week this year are set for 30th June – 7th July 2012 and I really encourage you to get involved and go support your local independent shop as sadly you never know when that wonderful local resource may cease to exist.


Morpeth Herald Article: Last chapter for one of town’s landmark stores