|Bag artwork by Rebecca Crow|
Originally part of a small chain of bookshops called Wordsworth, the shop was reopened in its current guise by partners Justine Crow and Jonathan Main, back in 1997, and has since become a pillar of the triangle. In that time, small bookshops have been under siege on all fronts. First there was the demise of the net book agreement, which had set prices and prevented book discounting. Supermarkets and the larger chains were suddenly free to undercut each other, leaving independent shops unable to compete. However, according to Jonathan, this has turned out to be a boon. No longer able to compete in the 'blockbusters' market, there is now the space to sell a wider and perhaps more interesting range of titles, including plenty by local and less well known authors.
The rise of Amazon and more recently ebooks, have provided further challenges, and no doubt some bookshops have fallen by the wayside as a result. But again, The Bookseller Crow has found ways to adapt. By hunting out the more unusual and stocking particular specialisms, the shop encourages people to return and browse, building a dedicated following. For example, the graphic novel, is a particular niche that by his own admission, Jonathan knew little about until recently. It has an avid fanbase, and appears to be less prone to the onslaught of online shopping, presumably as its connoisseurs invariably want to thumb through a few pages before buying. Likewise, children's books are bucking the online trend, and younger readers are well catered for here.
The result is a shop that feels as though you are likely to discover the unexpected, and its far from corporate style makes it feel like something of a community centre; one that even has its own notice board in the form of an entertaining blog, The Bedside Crow. Like all good community centres, the shop holds regular events, from a monthly book club, to performances, both musical and poetic. For the next happening, this coming thursday (26th May), they have lined up writer and broadcaster, Isabel Iosada.
Finally, I would also recommend Jonathan's pithy tweets. If you are not already following him, he's @booksellercrow.
50 Westow Street
020 8771 8831