Books are my Bag

Orla Hodnett looks at the decline of the book industry.

With book sales dropping in Ireland by 18% in Ireland in the last twelve months and a significant global decline in book sales, things are not looking so good for bookshops in Ireland.  It’s also reported there’s a drop of 33% in the number of bookshops compared with 10 years ago and the earnings of the book industry in the first six months of this year is down €7 million on 2012. With a much broader drop in the retail sector coupled with inexpensive, readily available e-books, what can be done to save the humble bookshop?

In reaction to this troubling blow to the book industry in the UK and Ireland, independent retailers, authors, publishers and agents, with the assistance of advertising firm M&C Saatchi, have launched the Books are my Bag campaign, encouraging readers to return to the local bookshop, and asking them to “vote with their feet” to save the bookshop. Initially launched on the 14th of September, with events in bookshops across Ireland and the UK, the event is to run initially until Christmas, with hopes to continue the campaign thereafter.

The campaign has received the support of a number of high-profile authors, among them Marian Keyes, Neil Gaiman, Irvine Welsh, Cecilia Ahern as well as various other media figures such as Caitlin Moran, Dawn O’ Porter and her husband, our very own Chris O’ Dowd. Bloggers have also enthusiastically backed the campaign, with the promotional Books are my Bag tote bag- which will prove to be a genius marketing move by M&C Saatchi, quickly becoming the ‘it’-bag for bookworms.

So, how effective has the campaign been thus far? Just three weeks after the initial launch of the promotion, publishing industry magazine, ‘The Bookseller’ reports that there has been an average 18% sales rise year-on-year. While they do note that academic book-sales resulting from the start of the new university semester have influenced these figures, it’s still a significant rise.

While as students, buying books for pleasure can be an extravagance, especially in this current economic climate, do consider spending at your local bookshop when you can. The Books are my Bag campaign is set to continue for the foreseeable future, so keep an eye out for the ‘BAMB’ tote bags and do consider getting involved by patronising the bookshops of Cork. Now I shall leave you with the words of Neil Gaiman, from his novel, American Gods: ‘What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul.’