The Next Big London

Home of culture, red buses and the UK’s publishing industry… or is it?

We’re all feeling the pinch, and aren’t splashing out on our hobbies as much as we’d like. As a country, the English are famous for several things. The tea and bad teeth might be stereotypes, but one thing is true- the British love to read. There is a vibrant literary culture in the UK, with theatres, cinemas and bookshops to suit our entertainment needs.

But with publishing moving online, you don’t have to be in London to be a part of it. How many freelances are holding excited conversations in coffee shops? Hundreds. Maybe even at the next table. My point is, that mobile devices are changing the way we live. We don’t want to go to a specific place to buy a book, not when we can do it from a café (thanks to free wi-fi.)

Bookshops are suffering. Fact. I’ve been hearing whisperings about Waterstones for a while now. They dropped their apostrophe, closed stores and changed tactics. Yet still I heard that dreaded question ‘are they going bust?’ Well, it’s possible.

Waterstones are famous for having plenty of varied stock for their readers, but can they sell it. It looks like the major book retailer is now the website Amazon. I have to wonder if the Kindle e-readers are such a good thing after all.

But I’m not writing to bring you doom and gloom. Far from it. For those small presses who have taken advantage of online opportunities, business is booming. It’s no longer enough to wait for books to be posted to you (and you’re never sure when – and begin to doubt if – the package with arrive.) E-books arrive at the speed of your internet, and don’t take up any physical space- great (or not) for the hoarders. E-books don’t cost anything to share – just a little time to create.

What on earth are you going on about, Emily? Get to the point! Okay, okay, I will. But with all of that in mind, I just want you to imagine this possibility…

Imagine a place, a place with a legacy of famous authors, universities and its own literary festival. Imagine that there are several small presses and independent book shops, red brick houses, and a free culture magazine. Imagine that this place is alive and kicking with new poets, writing groups, a company supporting writers and promoting events.

Have you guessed where I’m talking about yet? It’s not Avalon, it’s real, and it’s all happening in Nottingham. On the same streets Lord Byron and Alan Sillitoe once roamed, small presses such as Five Leaves and Angry Robot have made their homes. Both sell books and e-books, but as most of their distribution happens online, they are unlikely to fall into the same trap as Waterstones; too many books, few paying customers. They’ve taken the internet by the reigns and are making it work for them.

The people of Nottingham haven’t stopped there. Members of Writing East Midlands and Nottingham Writer’s Studio have banded together to create Nottingham’s first ever literary festival. You don’t need to be in London to know what’s happening in publishing. You don’t even need to be in the same country. However, I’m thrilled that I came to Nottingham for my degree, so that I could be a part of everything that’s going on. And maybe Nottingham won’t be the ‘next London’, but I think it has a pretty big chance.


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First published on Heart Of Glass online


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