10 JANUARY 1964, Page 18


SIR,—The Boulting Brothers' stimulating article on the trials and tribulations of the film industry led me to thinking about the book trade, where one has just been informed that a record number of books has been published last year. It would seem, there- fore, that 'all's well' where publishing is concerned. Is it? It was touch and go whether Bumpus, one of the few remaining first-class bookshops in the whole of London, would manage to remain an independent unit, while another admirable shop in the West End is up for sale. In short, the retail side of publishing- bookselling is coming nearer and nearer to the film industry in relying on monopoly concerns for the sale of books in the United Kingdom.

This Christmas, as far as I was concerned, was even more frustrating than usual. I ordered two books from a bookseller's catalogue in November, but have not received them yet, while an expensive musical book that I required is presumably still on its way from the publishers. But these are small matters.

The publishing trade has had an enormous amount of capital poured into it within the past decades, and behind many well-known imprints are bankers and financiers, yet not one of these great combina- tions has, as far as I am aware, done anything to

develop the crying need for a Chain or chains of small efficient bookshops up and down the country.

One has only to cross the Channel to Dieppe to find a number of well-stocked booksellers. In Biarritz, for instance, roughly the size of Folkestone, there are some seven or eight well-stocked book- shops. In Folkestone two shops stock some books. Anybody living in Sussex knows there is but one first-class bookshop.

We know best-sellers sell, but what of all the admirable lesser fry? They are not displayed, they are not seen, and even a moderately well-read person is unaware of them because they have no chance of seeing these books save by reading a review.

The few independent booksellers left do a big business, but is this enough? Is it not time we all spent thought and money on devising new bookshop, in this constipated trade of ours? God knows, been preaching this long enough; soon it will be fa( too late.

London Authors, 8 Upper Brook Street, London, W1