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Readers losing their ‘favourite bookstore’

Monday, July 29, 2013
Book lovers pass through the soon to be closed Reader's Bookshop. Proprietor Chris Mendes said he has very interesting customers who have been turning up to express their regret at the closing of his store. PHOTO: KEARRA GOPEE

The “best” bookstore in T&T, Reader’s Bookshop, 1 Middle Street, St James, will be closed by the end of August. Reader’s proprietor Christopher Mendes said on Friday, that due to the growing popularity of electronic readers, it’s no longer financially feasible for him to run the store. In fact, Mendes said that soon after electronic readers became available outside of the US in late 2009, he noticed a decrease in sales. 


Reader’s, which opened in December 2006, was Mendes’ attempt to build a “proper” bookstore in T&T. After returning from studying literature at the University of St Francis in Chicago, Mendes was disappointed by the local bookstore scene. 


The store hosted book launches and events for authors such as Monique Roffey and Amanda Smyth and was the home to what Mendes described as some “extraordinary” titles. 


At Reader’s one could find the latest in fiction, poetry, children’s books and niche books on science, philosophy, history and politics. 


Media consultant, Raymond Ramcharitar, who has launched books at Reader’s and was a regular customer, said the closing is a loss to the reading public. 


“I liked the fact that it was independently owned, and the owner was a personable, sensible man who liked books, and who had good taste in books, so you could always go in for a chat and be sure to find something interesting,” said Ramcharitar via e-mail. 


He added: “It was nice to go into a bookshop and talk to someone who knows and cares about books, rather than a minimum wage earning clerk who is clearly not interested in doing anything but collecting your money. Also, his events were interesting and enjoyable.” 


Mendes is now selling his stock at discounted prices of 40 to 50 per cent off. Friday afternoon, many of his regular customers were coming in and out to pick up books they already ordered and to express their regret at the closing of the store. 


One such customer, Jamsheed Ali, a retired secondary school teacher and English lecturer said he was saddened by the store’s closing since he comes to Reader’s especially for unique titles. 


“You can’t get this kind of shopping online. I did a lot of research and reviews when I was looking for titles and you find things here that most people wouldn’t come across in their suggested reading from places like,” said Mendes. 


Mendes said that he was not alone, however. “There are independent bookstores closing almost everyday in the US and sales of physical books have gone down all over the world. A lot of people find it more convenient to use a Kindle. It’s also cheaper and it’s trendy.” 


Although Mendes loves to read, he does not own a Kindle. He’s currently reading a book on the history of football tactics, Inventing the Pyramid. 


“I don’t think books are gonna die. What I think is gonna happen, is because a lot of people are reading electronically now, certain books will be read more on the electronic format than others. 


“Nobody is gonna download and read a 600-page book about a Chinese famine on their Kindle because it’s not the kind of book that lends itself well to electronic reading,” he said. 


Mendes has a theory that books easy reads like romance novels and mysteries will stop being printed while books such as Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine by Yang Jisheng (which he has in store) will be produced and designed differently to distinguish their physical presence. 


The greatest loss due to Reader’s closing may not be the physical books, as much as the relationships Mendes has built with customers. 


“This store has like the best customers you could possibly imagine. All of my customers are so well read and intelligent and they do all these interesting things professionally. And that’s worth some special mention because those are the ones who kept it going for as long as they did.”



Christopher’s top 10


Here’s a list of Christopher Mendes’ 10 favourite novels published since Reader’s Bookshop opened in December 2006. 

The Confessions of Edward Day Valerie Martin


A Gate at the Stairs Lorrie Moore


Then We Came to the End Joshua Ferris


Black Flies James Burke


How the Dead Dream Lydia Millett


Big Machine Victor La Valle


Kockroach Tyler Knox


The Collector of Worlds Iliya Troyanov


The Accordionist’s Son Bernardo Atxaga


Spilt Milk Chico Buarque


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