The dominant factor in the last year has been the economic recession and for many of us coming to the end of it with job and home in tact has been something of a lottery, with local and national government having very limited options when it comes to cushioning the effects of the global downturn.
In the small shopkeeping and book business things have generally been pretty bleak with many bookshops and other small shops closing, I think this is a case of the recession accelerating what was happening anyway.
I have always seen a bookshop as being essential to a town, one of the rules of thumb that makes the difference between a lot of houses grouped together and a proper town.
Now I am wondering if this litmus test needs revising, now Margate and Broadstairs have lost their bookshops are they still towns? Does the effect of new technology alter the criteria by which township is judged? Are towns of the future going to be called so because they have a free wireless internet connection or some other yet unexpected technological advantage?
Locally and nationally this is about our human environment, in its most simple form, living in a town, what do you expect within walking distance as the minimum requirements that differentiate this from living on a housing estate, in a village or just in the middle of nowhere?
Now most of the arts cultural lumps that we bought in our towns (books, records, CDs, videos) are on the road to redundancy as physical items and are becoming something that is either bought or stolen as digital downloads, the social interaction that went with these purchases or thefts, part of our human environment either goes or changes.
Personally I have a sort of Luddite approach to this sort of media, as an example of what I mean it is my day off today so I am writing this post in our living room and although have much technology for producing recorded music, I used conventional vinyl records to provide background music. Cream’s “Wheels of Fire” was on the turntable and I swapped this for Ashkenazy playing Chopin with the London Symphony Orchestra.
The way I discovered Ashkenazy and indeed Cream was due to face to face human interaction but technology is now changing this, the internet provides friends and acquaintances who one has never met face to face, does this make these relationships any less valid?
Looking back and forward as one is inclined to do at this time of year I face the question, am I part of a redundant species both as small shopkeeper and bookseller?
Looking forward to 2010 I am conscious that if my bookshop is going to survive in the medium to long term I am going to have to redefine what a bookshop is, and look to incorporating the new technologies somehow more extensively than just using them to sell books on the internet.
In a fairly tentative sort of way I think customer access to coffee and internet will probably be involved, possibly cheap printing and copying services too, I am open to ideas on this one, indeed one is probably going to have to be both fast and flexible to survive in any business during the next decade.
Still with technology changing our lives among the presents that Father Christmas gave to my children this year was headphones with microphones incorporated, remarkably similar to those sold in the pound shop in Ramsgate.
Having plugged them into their PCs I downloaded the free software and opened them skype accounts which effectively turns their PCs into free telephones, that they can use to talk to any of their friends, even those abroad, with the same technology for free.
One aspect of the advance of technology in our household during the 2000's has been the way we view television, we definitely passed the point where the majority of programs watched now comes via the internet and not by the more conventional forms of satellite dish and aerial.
We are into the new year celebrations with more visitors staying, both young and old, so another series of Christmas dinners, something like 50 roast turkey dinners over the next three days will come out of our kitchen.
One of our visitors over the new year break is something of a singer songwriter, this video (some blue language) is an example of his work.
Some pictures from this mornings, mostly rough sea, walk and at the bottom of them the food shopping for the 50 or so meals a turkey breast roast and vegetables just over £30.
Follow the link http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop4/id6.htm for them.