I have sometimes been less than wholehearted in my enthusiasm for independent shops. Oh, of course I will always try to avoid giving my money to chain stores if I can help it; it's just that sometimes, if you're looking for an obscure American import album, or an arcane book of nonfiction, you'll have a much higher strike rate if you go to the biggest fuck-off branch of Tower or Borders that you can find. This is regrettable, but forgivable, because a lot of small stores can't afford to take a punt on something that will sit ignored on their shelves and in their browser racks for months and months.
But what we will miss, when our entire culture is sold through one big chain-store shopping mall called Borderstones, is the stuff that floats to the surface on a bubble of personal enthusiasm. It's fine if you have some prior knowledge of your obscure American album. But what if you didn't even know that you wanted to hear it? How will you notice it then, among the piles of Jennifer Lopez albums? The most depressing thing about chains is being confronted by the same books and DVDs and albums everywhere you go, the same bestseller lists, the same three-for-two offers (And yes, before any smart-arse points it out, I, too, am sick of seeing my books everywhere I go shopping.) I would like to continue to discover new things; that isn't going to happen anywhere that's floated on the Stock Exchange. Please shop at Wood, or your nearest equivalent, or you'll be sorry.
Tags: Nick Hornby, Songbook