Norfolk shopkeepers back ‘real books’ campaign

Independent bookshop owners across Norfolk have backed a new movement that has waged war on electronic books and aims to preserve nostalgic second-hand stores.

Dozens of bookshops across the county have closed over the last decade as a result of the impact of online sales.

Now a new national pressure group has been formed to do battle with the latest threat to the second-hand bookshop - the growing popularity of the e-book.

Officials behind the newly formed Campaign for Real Books (Cambo) hope to do similar work for the printed word as Camra have done for real ale and the pub industry.

The number of second-hand bookshops in Britain has halved over the last ten years and fears have been raised that the trend will continue if sales of electronic books outstrip sales of the printed word and schools, colleges, universities, and public libraries rely more on the new technology.

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Andy Vidion, of Church Street Books in Diss, who has become one of the first 100 members of Cambo, said it was difficult to compete with the charity shops, which benefited from reduced rents and business rates and donations that could sell books for 75p.

'We not only have to compete with the unfair advantages given to charity shops, now we have to contend with the e-book. If schools start getting these e-books, the next generation will not see the point of carrying paper around with them.'

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'I just about survive and my lifelong ambition is to achieve the national minimum wage. I think most book stores would not survive without internet sales,' he said.

Cambo says that the e-book is costly, impractical, and can not be shared between family and friends.

John Freeman, of the Tombland Bookshop in Norwich, who has been in the trade for 35 years, said he feared the day when e-books made the printed word redundant. He praised the formation of Cambo, but said it would not make much difference.

'I am delighted it is happening, but I am sad that it has got to the stage that we need to campaign for real books. A lot people come in to browse because it gives them more pleasure than going on Amazon's website. We are quite confident that we will survive as a museum or nostalgia trip,' he said.

Cambo says that more than 100,000 people in Britain make a living through the book industry and will campaign against library closures and fight to ensure paper books to not play second fiddle to e-books.

Peter Cox, of Peter's Bookshop in Sheringham, said anything to promote real books should be praised, but people still liked to browse in second-hand stores and he was not concerned about the e-book 'fad'.

'When television came in 60 years ago, they said it was the end of reading. New technology does have an affect to a certain extent, but if you are fortunate to be in a certain location like north Norfolk, you can manage to survive,' he said.

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