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What The UK Riots Mean For Bookstores

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Stores of all kinds were looted during the riots in London and elsewhere in the UK during the past few days. Why did most bookstores survive? (Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images) | Getty Images

British bookstores seemed largely unaffected by the rioting that took place last night across the UK, according to a report on The Bookseller website. High-street chains such as Waterstone's and WH Smith, as well as smaller independent bookstores, were reportedly spared during the violence, which mostly targeted electronics and high-street fashion stores.

The only bookstore so far to report serious damage was Gay's the Word, an independent gay and lesbian bookstore in West London. Their assistant manager, Uli Lenart, told that he believed that some people were "using the excuse of chaos to cause anti-gay damage."

That's not to say that bookstores weren't affected at all. The Big Green Bookshop in north London said on its blog that it had cancelled last night's book club, as customers did not want to be walking around the area after dark, while The Bookseller reports that some London bookstores closed early on Tuesday evening, on the advice of the police.

Elsewhere, the Financial Times reported that small businesses in south London were mostly untouched during last night's events. In their article, Barnaby Stutter of independent bicycle store Brixton Cycles described the actions of the rioters as "quite intelligent looting."

All of which leads to an interesting question: did the bookstores survive because the rioters respect reading - or because they simply don't care about books? Is this a positive or a negative sign for the future of the industry? Writer Patrick French tweeted his own hopeful theory: perhaps last night's rioters only do their reading on Kindles.

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