State of Independents

opinions free from chains

Sometimes the personal is the political

Posted on May 4, 2010 by

A common refrain I’ve heard during the current election campaign is that none of the main parties really inspire voters – we haven’t had a “Yes We Can” moment from any of the leaders in their TV debates and with public borrowing etc at the current levels, everyone seems resigned to the fact that life’s going to be a bit grim whoever wins.

So maybe we should look to our own lives and the decisions we make and the fact that the choices we make can have a huge cumulative impact on society and especially our local communities.  This ties in with the new Indiebound initiative from the Booksellers Assocation.  Imported from the American Booksellers Association (all members are independent booksellers unlike the BA where my fellow members include Tesco and Waterstone’s) where Indiebound has been running for a couple of years as a grass-roots movement inspiring people to use their local independent businesses.  Our Indiebound pack arrived on Friday and both our shops now have the ‘Eat, Sleep, Read’ posters up.

And the Indiebound movement exemplifies what I was saying about how our personal choices can have a political impact, in some ways far more than waving a placard on a anti-globalisation march.  How many people  have ever ordered a book or CD from Amazon or bought a cheap t-shirt from one of the bargain-basement fashion retailers (who could sell it that cheaply because it was quite probably made in a sweatshop)?  We are seduced by cheapness into buying more than we need, often at the price of exploiting poorer communities.  Sometimes we are seduced by global branding and advertising into paying more than we need for products – Starbucks became fashionable in the UK at least partly because we were lured by the ‘Friends’ image – as though sipping an over-priced macchiato in a cafe with sofas would suddenly make us beautiful and interesting and surrounded by similarly hip friends.  We all do it – I’m as guilty of falling prey to the lures of imported out-of-season veg as anyone else.

Meanwhile, independent businesses – cafes, greengrocers, fishmongers, hardware shops, and – of course – bookshops are disappearing from our communities.  In terms of bookshops, when you shop with us you might not benefit from the loss-leader discounting seen on-line and in supermarkets (which is why you won’t see the new Jamie O or Nigella on our shelves – it isn’t worth wasting the space on them and we’d rather find you original and reliable alternatives) but you will benefit from our expertise; our knowledge of local titles and those most likely to be of interest to our customers, the quirky titles and lesser known authors that we search out and the events we run from bookgroups to author events.  You contributed to your community indirectly because local businesses donate to local causes in a way that major retailers don’t and you enabled us to create local jobs and pay local taxes.

In brief, shopping local and shopping independent whenever you can shows that you care about your community and that you don’t want to live in a homogeneous world where everything is bland and the decisions about what you wear, drink, eat and read are made by national or even international companies.

Voting is important but sometimes we send out a political message as much by the choices we make on a day to day basis just as much as we do at the ballot box every four or five years.  Sometimes it’s our personal decisions which are the most significant political statements.


3 Responses to “Sometimes the personal is the political”

  1. Cat
    May 4th, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

    Could not agree more….

  2. Christine Coleman
    May 9th, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    This is something where I try to make small shift in readers’ attitudes to the issue of supporting small presses and Indie Book shops. I’ve produced a bookmark that I insert in every one of my books that I sell. I’ve removed the title of book and name of publisher as I don’t want to be thought to be trying to advertise my own wares.
    I thought you might be interested in this as an idea you could maybe adapt for yourselves.

    Without the existence of the small, independent publishers, some of the
    books you have read and enjoyed, (including XX XXX) might never have been published. It is the sales and marketing team at the mainstream publishing houses who decide, often basing their judgement on whether or not a novel will appeal to the book-buyers at Tesco and other supermarkets.

    You can support small publishers like XXXXX by writing reviews and spreading the word about the book, and by encouraging your friends to consider buying their own copy from the author’s website or independent book shops, to keep these books in print

  3. The Fidra Blog » Blog Archive » Okay, this isn’t the news I promised – I’m digressing…
    August 2nd, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

    […] But if you want your high street to have a future that includes businesses other than huge conglomerates, that keeps jobs and investment and profits in your community then that’s in your own hands.  Because voting in the election for the party you think might keep the country afloat is only part of it.  We have another (sadly neglected at the moment) blog where we write about the trade side of bookselling and you can read about the latest shop local campaign being imported from the USA by the Booksellers Association here. […]

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Welcome to State of Independents. I'm Vanessa Robertson. I live in Edinburgh and my husband and I run a tiny publishing house. We also used to own the award-winning Edinburgh Bookshop. This is where I write about the book trade as I see it and I'm not always as diplomatic as I should be...

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