A cultural institution that has persisted for centuries, yet bookshops in Leeds are seemingly hard to come by.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library” – Jorge Louis Borges
So said one of the literary giants of the 20th century. Borges refers to the eternal satisfaction that can be derived from words printed on paper – when brought into its simplest form, it seems remarkable that such is an endless source of entertainment.
However, as the world continues its technological spin into the 21st century, books are seemingly becoming the entertainment of choice for a smaller market of people – particularly when you witness the lack of bookshops around Leeds.
Who needs physical books when technology permits you to carry around hundreds of books at any one time? Well herein lays the point. No matter how many books you load up your Kindle, or any other e-reader for that matter, with, you can only read one at any one point.
Bookshops are places were people choose their next journey into the unknown; into a world only a writer’s and reader’s imagination combined could take you. Bookshops in Leeds are becoming harder and harder to find. In a city which takes great pride in its cultural and artistic influence, Leeds’ literary authority is becoming close to extinction.
Waterstones on Albion Street, alongside WH Smiths to a certain extent, for a long time has been the primary source of books in Leeds city centre, providing those with a penchant for getting lost in a writers scribed world or those who prefer the more factual sort, an array of mainstream and not so mainstream literature to delve into.
The reason for this is a combination of factors that can be contributed to the development of the modern, technological world. Amazon has monopolised the market in terms of e-books and cheap printed books to an extent that most can now be picked up for pennies rather than pounds, and all without venturing out of the house and into a Leeds book store.
And the Humble Leeds Bookstores?
Here comes the juxtaposition of print and technology for Leeds’ book stores. In a society that finds itself considerably further away from the influence of the printed word – across the spectrum – for the first time in decades the demand for such shops seems at an all time low, to the not-so-all-seeing eye. In 2012 alone, 73 bookshops closed compared to just 39 opening.
This doesn’t mean that such a trend is here for permanence however. The Village Bookstore in Leeds’ Corn Exchange is a welcomed newcomer to the city which offers a specialist offering – perhaps signalling the way forward for purveyors of books in Leeds by having a significant niche that they target.
Leeds’ mainstream bookshops can continue to retail by offering a vast offering, particularly when they have the brand name and show a willingness to adapt and move with the times – something Waterstones seems to be finally getting on to.
The Village offers a range of art-focused publications, with everything from self-published zines to high quality art, design, fashion and photography publications. By combining its bookstore with its publishing arm, The Village breathes new life into Leeds’ books offering, and perhaps leading the way when it comes to preserving its future.
Of two of the stores that opened across the UK last year, two specialised in children’s books showing how it does seem to feasible to progress in the industry, even in 2013. Leeds has an enviable arts culture that is constantly and consistently shifting and progressing – by coupling it with outlets such as The Village – as well as the many second-hand stores the region possesses – Leeds’ bookshops can find new a lease of life and open up the imaginations of those willing to let the printed word take over.