Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | March 5, 2010

Watkins Books May be Saved!

From an article in ‘The Bookseller’ by Victoria Gallagher:

Watkins Books could live again, after an offer for the Cecil Court ‘institution’ was put in by a local businessman. The Bookseller broke the news last week that Watkins Books had closed, following the appointment of administrator Harris Lipman on 23rd February.

American entrepreneur Etan Ilfeld told The Bookseller that he had made an offer for the London bookshop, which had been accepted by Harris Lipman. A spokesperson from the administrator spoken to by The Bookseller said it could not officially confirm the deal.

But Ilfeld said: “I believe the spirituality of London isn’t dead and I believe a place like Watkins should be preserved.” He added that he would try and give the 11 staff their jobs back once the shop reopens. “I’ll try to make sure it is as sustainable as possible – it’s a big undertaking,” said Ilfeld. “I just want to get the doors open, every day that it is closed is just a tragedy.”

Ilfeld owns art gallery Tenderpixel, which is also situated in the London side-street Cecil Court. He said that there were “major challenges” in the market but he would keep the shop as it is and use the Watkins name to build a strong website.


Responses

  1. Steven Gawtry writes:
    Now that Watkins has been saved from going the way of many independent bookshops, I think it is important to reflect on the wider issues raised. The main issue for me is the plight of the book trade in general and how it is at the mercy of the supermarkets and large online retailers. Publishers are being squeezed for ever-higher discounts, authors are being denied their rightful royalties, distributors are being edged out of the market, and bookshops are being driven out of business. Control of the entire publishing industry now lies in the hands of people who have no respect for books and nothing to contribute to this glorious tradition. Their only concern is to sell the largest quantity at the lowest price – whether it’s books, baked beans or balaclavas. Consequently, the book-buying public have been led to believe that books are a cheap commodity. But if something isn’t done soon, there won’t be any bookshops left for people to browse in, find what they want – and then order from Amazon at half price. The trouble is we’re all guilty of it. Who wouldn’t order from Amazon when you can get the latest book, CD, DVD or whatever at a fraction of the price with free postage? It’s all very well saying we should support local businesses, but if they’re not allowed to be competitive how can we? That’s what the Net Book Agreement upheld, making it fair for everyone. If Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook was £20 in W. H. Smith, it would also be the same price in your local bookshop, department store, or anywhere else. It maybe too late to bring back the NBA, but some kind of similar legislation needs to be brought in before it’s too late. Books are not a cheap commodity. This erroneous perceived value can be – and must be – changed. The Bookseller Association has just announced that 102 bookshops closed in 2009 alone – that’s an average of two a week! If this is allowed to continue, it will not just mean the collapse of the book trade, but the collapse of the High Street. Already, on the high streets near me, every third or fourth shop is closed or closing. Our high streets are the heart of our communities. Without them, we will be reduced to living in a sprawling, suburban neighbourhood, devoid of character, soul, and that special something that is quintessentially British.


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