That booksellers Eason recorded a 31% rise in ecommerce revenue over Christmas shows again how online shopping has changed consumer habits. This evolution seems unstoppable and there will inevitably be casualties.
Sadly, one is Liam Ruiséal’s of Cork, one of Ireland’s oldest independent bookshops, which is to close. That sad event leaves just one independent bookshop in a city area of nearly 300,000 people.
Liam Ruiséal’s was more than a bookshop, it was a well of cultural confidence. The shop, and a few others like it, offered an outlet for books of Irish interest, some so specialised or political that larger retailers shied away from them.
Without booksellers with that kind of commitment to place, to recording and celebrating the growth of this society, we would be very much the poorer.
Technology is straining the mutually-sustaining link between local retailers and local consumers and in this instance raises an important question — where can small, often semi-professional authors, especially local historians, go to share hard copies of their work?
In the early decades of this State’s existence, English-language classics were published in Irish by the Government to try to revive the language.
It may be time to return to that idea but focus on Irish cultural matters rather than the language, because the closure of outlets like Ruiséal’s creates a void that challenges the idea of an informed population and worthwhile public discourse.