Review: Miller, Reluctant Capitalists
The rise and dominance of superstore chains in the book retail industry is as much a fact of life in the UK as it is here in the States. In the UK, the 140-store Ottakar’s chain is a takeover target currently in the sights of the two largest players in the UK market, Waterstones and WH Smith.
In his review in the New Statesman of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller, Nicholas Cree writes, “Waterstone’s, it seems, is scarcely more popular among the bien-pensants than are giant supermarket chains. Why people might feel this antipathy, and how the rise of chain booksellers has affected consumers, are the subjects of Laura J Miller’s study.”
Miller’s book charts the evolution of bookselling from independent bookstores through the era of shopping mall stores to the current dominance by superstore chains and online retailing. More than in most industries this transition has generated consumer antipathy, as Cree notes, as well as passionate debate among booksellers, publishers, and the public. Miller uses interviews with bookstore customers and members of the book industry to explain why books evoke such distinct and heated reactions.
Read an excerpt from the book.