Thursday, May 28, 2009

So what about a solution?

Come on, Andrew, this is weak. In a piece in last Sunday's Observer entitled 'How intolerable life would be without books and bookshops', Andrew Marr wrote: 'The internet (and this recession) is destroying fine old local papers. Higher booze prices and the smoking ban are destroying pubs. Similarly, we all know how hard the world of Amazon and Google has hit the small bookshop. Life without papers and pubs is an intolerable prospect. Would there be any point in leaving home at all if bookshops went too?'

This is weak because it does not go far enough. What we want is a piece from Marr saying how bookshops are to be protected. There's no point in 300 middle class words on the smell of books and aren't they wonderful mmmm dusty bookshops I love them blah blah blah. We all know that and we all agree. What would be far more interesting would be to read Marr's ideas on what should be done. But of course, that is much, much harder and throws up all sorts of interesting questions concerning the free market and intevention.

But why didn't he have a shot? Why no speculation on lower rents for bookshops because they are educational? Why no discussion of the NBA? Why no discussion on what the situation is like in other European countries? Why no discussion of the Robinson Patman Act?

He might argue that he isn't qualified and that he'll leave that to the experts. But is he necessarily any more qualified to present a TV series on Charles Darwin? This might sound like I am launching an attack on Marr. I'm not. I agree with what he said - I just think it's easy to state the problem without any attempt at suggesting how it might be addressed. And I'm afraid pieces like his do sneak rather closely to bufferdom territory.


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