What makes a good bookshop?

I spent a chunk of Saturday in sunny Brighton a week ago (actually it was raining when I arrived, but let's not be picky). I was giving a talk at the Brighton Science Festival, but then had an excellent chat with one of the owners of an independent bookshop in Brighton, City Books.

I have to say I was very impressed. Their stand at the festival had an excellent collection of popular science books, and there was such obvious enthusiasm for the product, without the preciousness of some independent bookshops, where the people working there don't seem to even realize they have a product to sell.

I guess that's the downside to the kind of location I live in. With Borders closed, Swindon's only bookshop is Waterstones (I'm afraid I can't count W H Smiths). Our Waterstones is very nice and friendly, but in the end, even under the new regime, they are limited in how much flexibility they can have in what they do. The nearest independent I'm aware of is the White Horse bookshop in Marlborough. It's a lovely little shop, but it's a very local-books-and-stone-circle-lovers (not entirely surprising in Wiltshire), so not really the natural home of a popular science writer.

Running a bookshop is a brave venture in the economic climate booksellers face - I really just wanted to celebrate the fact that those who do it well are true national treasures.