This Tweet refers to this article from the Guardian:
I find it ironic that these bookshops are treated as ‘unbranded’, in that they don’t have ‘Waterstones’ on the outside. Instead of being branded with a corporate name tag, they are locally branded: ‘Southwold Books’, and so forth. Rather than branded by source, they’re branded by site. And cosy, bookish, middle-class sites at that. (Would Waterstones soon come up with, say, ‘Toxteth Books’? Less likely.)
This appears to be clearly a new guise for market expansion by Waterstones. Perhaps it will feed local economies (the article mentions it boosting house prices: the now-standard UK marker of communal value?) and, as such forms another manifestation of civic boosterism.
What it is unlikely to be, however, is a site for “combatting tyranny, frustrating censorship, sustaining hope, providing meeting places for dissidents, and keeping minority languages alive”, to quote from one review of Jorge Carrion’s ‘Bookshops‘ (2016, trans. Peter Bush; London: Maclehose/Quercus), a tour-de-force of the world’s bookshops. I could be wrong, but I fear ‘unbranded’ shops will be surface rather than deep, corporate rather than conviction-driven, looking more like Borders than a border-and-crossing point between cultures, perspectives and exploratory learning.
High-street bookshops within the UK have suffered variously under digital cultures. I’d love to be wrong about these shops. And I hope our learning spaces more generally can be a little more edgy, diverse and genuinely open. A few weeks ago, apparently, the fight-back began for bookshops: the bookseller from hell. And is there, also, a word from the Other Place?
[A late addition: on 9 March, with an unrelated focus, Southwold’s shops returned to the news in this piece. Having said it’s unrelated, the Waterstones shop provides a fascinating angle on the pressures of and on the High Street of Southwold.]