New Northern Quarter ‘cool’ book shop aims to challenge ‘soulless, big bully’ stores

A new bookstore is aiming to inspire future generations of readers when it opens in Manchester’s Northern Quarter next month.

Started by sisters Christine Cafun, 31, and Lyndsy Kirkman, 35, Chapter One Books will combine a bookstore, café and performance space, and is aiming to be the city’s biggest independent bookshop.

Christine explained that independent bookshops were ‘incredibly important’ and needed preserving in a climate where only certain authors are exposed to the public.  

“If we don’t have independent bookstores, then we only have the main commercial book giants and will only be exposed to the authors they put in stock,” she told MM.  

“It would be essentially being told what to read and would be like having only one radio station. That wouldn’t inspire future generations to take any interest in reading.”  

Independent bookstores are struggling in general – 67 closed in the UK over the past two years, leaving only 987 in business.

Tim Waterstone, founder of Waterstones, even told aspiring independent bookshops ‘not to bother’ opening as it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

But Christine felt Chapter One Books, which has a preliminary opening date of April 1, could thrive in the Northern Quarter, due to its famed stance against ‘soulless, big bully mega-corps’.

“We’ve been well received by the Northern Quarter community on Twitter ahead of our open day, so we hope to do it justice and add to all the quality businesses going on around us.

“We want to be different and try a new approach of a ‘boutique bookshop’ – something with the old traditions of personal services such as recommendations, but done in a new way.

“There is a decided lack of cool bookshops for teens to hang out in and we’re hoping we can change that.”

The 31-year-old revealed that she had wanted to open an independent bookstore ever since the day of her uncle’s funeral last year.

She was inspired after staying over in her sister’s guest room that contained books stacked from the floor to the ceiling, which revived her passion for literature that she said she had ‘forgotten’.

“We all hear the saying ‘life is short’, but something about his passing really made me sit up and think about my own life,” she said.

“I literally sat bolt upright when the idea came to me to open a bookshop. It was the morning we buried him and it really was a cheesy eureka moment.

“In the years since I moved to Manchester, books and reading time took a backseat to work and finances and I’d almost forgotten my original passion.”

Christine, who counts Game of Thrones as her favourite piece of literature, explained that it was important that physical books remained as a ‘consumer staple’ as opposed to digital books.

“When you read a real book you’re not distracted by text messages, or the glare from a backlight or pop ups to say your crops are ready for harvesting,” she said.

“You can feel the weight of it, the effort that has gone into its production, you can appreciate the cover art, the quality and even the smell of the paper. 

“You can’t share e-books with friends, you won’t ever cherish an e-book, you can’t put them on a shelf to be admired and you can’t open one to the middle page and take a big whiff.  

“E-books are like throw away fashion whilst real books are like a well-tailored suit.”

The Westminster University graduate explained that the business venture was a ‘massive’ risk financially, but insisted that her and her sister were determined to make it a success.

“We are facing the same issues as other more experienced booksellers such as the Amazon undercutting, e-book onslaught, extortionate shop rent, and low profit margins on book sales,” she said.

“This is one of those life dreams that I never thought would ever materialise, so hopefully it will be a success.”

Image courtesy of Tom Belte, with thanks.

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