Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Sad Death of Langton's Bookshop.

Sad to see, on a walk over to Twickenham, that Langton's bookshop on Church Street has been forced to close down. It's a real shame and quite a blow to the character of the town. For many years Drama St Mary's students rented rooms above. A stone's throw from the river, it was one of the smartest digs available.

The bookshop has been struggling for as long as I've lived in the area, and a flood last year wiped out a lot of its stock. Ultimately the various initiatives, an leather sofa furnished eco-friendly coffee shop, weekly reading groups, children's story hours and above all, knowledgeable and approachable staff have failed in the face of increasingly cheap supermarket book deals, Amazon and the rise of down loadable books, to save it. For quite a while now many local patrons have been paying £1 extra on each book to try and prolong the inevitable.

It's the third bookshop that we've lost locally in the last six years. Our campus shop disappeared within a year of me joining St Marys, swiftly followed by Borders in Kingston. For now we're still well served by three Waterstones in Richmond, Kingston and Twickenham, as well as the magical Lion and Unicorn children's bookshop and The Open Book on Richmond Green - but it's a great sadness that another independent seller has bitten the dust, particularly one that had been in operation for nearly sixty years and provided such a relaxed and friendly service.

I hope the future includes bookshops. For all the convenience and user friendliness of the Kindle and the One Click Buy there are very few pleasures as distracting as half an hour spent browsing for books, flicking through a contents page or an index, and finally selecting a potential jewel to take away. There is nothing quite as wonderful as returning to a book twenty or thirty years after a first reading, holding the battered spine, reading the faded annotations and remembering that a poem or quote propelled your understanding of the world forward. Books bury treasure and the joy of them is in the excavation. The bookshop is where it all starts.

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