Another independent bookshop comes to The End —

— and the cups will run dry.

In 2009, a young girl named Kerry returned to Amanzimtoti from Cape Town, where she had first been employed, filled with experiences of boutique bookshops found in that area and determined to start one of her own. With the help of her parents and her own entrepreneurial skills the dream was realised as ‘The Book Boutique’, which became a thriving business combining excellent selections of books with fine coffee and cakes.

Book launches and Saturday readings of books to children became regular features.  At one of the former, some five years ago, I met ‘Spud’ author John van de Ruit. He was fresh from the success of the movie made from the first book, and with great tales to tell about interactions with John Cleese. I bought his latest Spud book ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’, which he autographed for me.

Anyway, this month came the shock announcement that on 24th July The Book Boutique will close down. Kerry is bitterly disappointed at needing to move on, but as she says, ‘… also a business decision in terms of the financial feasibility of an independently owned bookstore in the current economic and technology driven environment.’ (By the same token, it is becoming increasingly difficult for authors such as myself, published by small ‘indies’, to find outlets. The chains are generally serviced by agents who are notoriously inaccessible.)

It is sad indeed that, as with the era of the family grocer, baker, butcher and clothing stores, one finds that the age of neighbourhood bookshops is also gone, replaced by impersonal warehouses run by chains in shopping malls. I remain unconvinced that the economies of scale widely accepted as reasons for this revolution are truly justified on macroeconomic and cultural analyses. So many inefficiencies come about in time and travel and expenses involved in the construction and running of the mall monstrosities, and the personal touch is all but lost. Not to mention their ecological impact.

The charm of bookshops like this one was again brought home to us when we recently attended another book launch, when I took the pictures and about which another post is forthcoming.

© June 2017 Colonialist

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Africa, Books, Colonialist, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Another independent bookshop comes to The End —

  1. d1nx says:

    It’s so very sad.. all I’m doing though is re-echoing everyone else’s sentiments.. but at least you know I’m still ‘reading’ YOU! :)>. Just got back from the USA and in the ‘downtown’ area where Tania lives, Amazon are opening a ‘paper’/hardcopy book store. I was thrilled, although it seems a bit ‘oxymoronic’ LOL. And a problem here is that it’s again a large organisation/corporation going back to basics. This will leave no room for the personal and small bookshopping of the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kvennarad says:

    Looking round the towns of the UK, all I see is Waterstones.


  3. gipsika says:

    Reblogged this on the red ant and commented:
    Another beautiful bookshop has closed its doors… Durban, South Africa.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gipsika says:

    Col, after seeing Ebooks Etc close down (who were basically a “boutique bookshop” with 5 branches), and branch after branch of Exclusive Books, seeing Facts and Fiction disappear and several other book chains, I can only feel despair. It isn’t only the essential small, private bookshops that are hit, it’s the chains too – making decisions based on the cashflow (or lack of).

    The reason the agents of large chains limit themselves to such few books is because they are only “gambling on certainties”. As one bookshop owner once told me, nobody knows what makes one book popular and another of the same quality, die unknown. Once the bases are covered (good original story, great cover, well-edited clean language), nobody knows. So the South African book chains only want to invest in books they have already seen succeed overseas. Except, I guess, for the Afrikaans market which spots a concentrated core of dedicated moms buying for their kids to uphold the language.

    I’m reblogging this if you don’t mind…


  5. libraschild says:

    that is a LOVELY little bookshop. so sad.
    There is a great second hand bookstore that seems to just about hang in there in the northern suburbs of jhb with a good selection in it. I’m going to be very sad the day it goes


  6. So many things disappear these days either in the name of progress or economic necessity,,, and when we regret them we are often made to feel like old fogies for not wanting to embrace the new… I find nothing wrong with the old, including bookshops like the one you describe and loved… I feel for you


  7. Pingback: No time to stand and stare | More than a Cat

  8. “The chains are generally serviced by agents who are notoriously inaccessible.)”
    Surely you meant GREEDY!
    If they can’t see a quid in it tough titty, try your luck somewhere else


  9. Calmgrove says:

    My heart sinks when I hear news like this. And when it affects you personally — I can’t begin to express how sorry I am for you and for the community the bookshop has been serving.


  10. Arkenaten says:

    It’s the way of the world, Col. I believe books as we know them will become rare and little more than treasured antiques.
    The thing itself … the book … is less important than the words within.
    ”To have and to hold” …. a phenomenon we are slowly but ever more quickly being divorced from.
    I consider the special LPs I have in the lounge that never get played anymore, even though I have a player, and are now only kept for their sentimental value as I Iove the covers. I think of the many, many LPs I have in boxes that never even get looked at much these days. And I look up at the stacks of CDs above my work station and remember when they too were the ”latest thing”.
    And now, if I want to listen to one of the CDs, I simply Google the title and listen to it on Youtube as I do most of the time.
    Practically everything I listen to I own or have owned at one time in one format or another, so I am spared the guilt of not owing the musicians royalties.

    As writers, I guess we must embrace the new and work with it.

    I wonder what the next chapter in the electronic sage will be?

    Fortunately, for us, at this stage there is no electronic substitute for cake. 🙂


  11. MoreThanACat says:

    My heart goes out to Kerry and to all the people who enjoyed the experience/service she provided. The world of books and everything that goes with them is poorer as a result.
    Words cannot express the depth of my sadness

    Liked by 1 person

  12. cupitonians says:

    The store looks amazing. The kind you could spend hours and hours in. What a pity!


  13. Lynn Thaler says:

    That is so sad. I enjoy visiting the independent bookstores in my area, but they are not that many.


  14. newsferret says:

    Sad to the least.


  15. Tokeloshe says:

    What a pity, it looks like a delightful store.


  16. equinoxio21 says:

    My deepest sympathy to Kerry. The death of a bookstore is such a sad event. An image just came to my eyes, it is as if, all the lives of all the people in all the books inside had suddenly been wiped away. Ana Karenina, and the Count of Monte-Cristo, and Ivanhoe have just been killed. It’s not a business closing down, it is a holocaust. 🙂


  17. disperser says:

    In the US, at least from what I’ve read, independent shops are making a comeback of sorts. I have to admit that my preference these days is digital, especially since we don’t have a permanent living place. And, honestly, I wish I’d had all my books — books I’ve had to give away or donate — in electronic form.

    It’s a tough question especially since it sounded as if she was doing all the right things (involving the community, selling other stuff, holding events). At some point, I have to stop blaming the big stores and start looking at a population that is changing in both their habits and focus. It’s also difficult asking people to support a business when their primary focus is making ends meet.

    Economic conditions will always impact small businesses harder than larger outfits specifically because they can’t leverage a large customer base. A physical location is constrained and limited in the number of customers it can draw in from a given population. That won’t matter in a booming economy when people feel they can “splurge” on the ambiance. It matters when the economy is suffering and one is forced to choose between cheap and convenient versus a bit more expensive and with ambiance and quaintness. Quaintness then becomes like any other commodity whose price fluctuates with market conditions.


    • colonialist says:

      Perhaps the future is, indeed, a comeback of small targeted shops, a massive emergence of internet buying, and the death of shopping malls? Given deliveries on the scale of the milk runs of the past or of newspaper runs to this day, they will be far cheaper than individual trips to a shop.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gipsika says:

        There is that, and I’d like you all to take heart. I’ve so far counted 5 bookshops in Cork, only 1 of which is a large chain as far as I can discover, the rest are either small chains or boutique bookshops. Cork has about 100 000 people… if you compare this to the 23 million people in the greater Johannesburg metropolitan area, 5 bookshops (so far) are a pretty good yield!

        I also recall Lizmar Books, a second-hand book chain and small publisher in Pretoria. When I left they were still doing fine.


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