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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Bennett urges book chain boycott
Alan Bennett
Bennett is one of Britain's best-loved authors and playwrights
Author Alan Bennett has urged readers to boycott major booksellers such as Waterstone's and Amazon to keep their local independent bookshops alive.

The veteran writer said discounting by big chains would "drive independent booksellers out of business".

He said his local bookshop in Camden, north London, had recently closed and it made the street "much duller".

A Waterstone's spokesperson said the company was a fan of Bennett but where people shopped was "their own choice".

Amazon success

Amazon was unavailable to comment - but at 1200 BST on Thursday, Bennett's new book Untold Stories was second only to Jamie Oliver in the online retailer's UK sales chart.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the author said: "I hope if you buy a copy of this book you buy it if you can from an independent bookseller.

"I'm not trying to do Waterstone's down, but all the big chains heavily discount the book, the worst being Amazon. This will drive independent booksellers out of business.

Alan Bennett is a national treasure
Waterstone's spokesperson
"In my local bookshop in Camden Town, that happened about three weeks ago. It makes the whole street much duller. So if you can afford it, go to an independent bookseller."

Bennett has been one of Britain's most prolific and successful authors, scriptwriters and humorists of the last 45 years.

A Waterstone's spokesperson described Bennett as "a national treasure".

'Nimble' shops

"Huge amounts of our booksellers and customers are fans of his and we're a great fan of his and his new book," she said.

"Where customers choose to buy their books is very much their own choice."

Anything that makes bookshops varied and responsive to local interests and demands is much to be welcomed
Mark Le Fanu
Society of Authors
"Nimble" independent local bookshops are more able to cater for local customers and authors, according to Mark Le Fanu, general secretary of the Society of Authors.

The society has opposed the takeover of high street chain Ottakar's by Waterstone's, saying it would make Waterstone's too powerful.

"Anything that makes bookshops varied and responsive to local interests and demands is much to be welcomed," Mr Le Fanu said.

'Supported by communities'

"Those independents that survive do so because they are loved and supported by their communities."

The bookshop chains are not having the easiest of times either
Tim Godfray
Booksellers Association
At least 20 independent bookshops have closed in the past year, according to Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, which represents retailers of all sizes.

"Each sector has its strengths - whether it be location, range, knowledge of books, an understanding of the bookseller's customers and, of course, price," he said.

"It is very sad when any bookshop closes. Independents are facing competition from the bigger businesses, but the bookshop chains are not having the easiest of times either."


SEE ALSO:
Alan Bennett reveals cancer fight
24 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
Alan Bennett's winning words
09 May 04 |  Entertainment
Bennett play takes theatre prizes
02 Feb 05 |  Entertainment


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