07 January, 2006

Faded pages

Sad news that Sportspages, the specialist sports book store, is in the hands of the administrator. Unless, a rescue package can be put together, the London shop will close.

My sports' book library owes a lot to Sportspages. And, I guess in turn Sportspages' fortunes owe a small amount to my regular purchases over the years.

Sportspages is also partly responsible for keeping my baseball (and hockey) fix going during the 1990s. In those pre-internet days, it was the only source in the UK for sports books, magazines, videos and games from the US. Short of flying to the States and loading up a suitcase (er, which I did on a couple of occasions), you went to Charing Cross Road for Sporting News guides, USA Today Baseball Weekly, Hockey News, books by Boz and, for a short time, Statis Pro games.

I became unfaithful later on when it became possible to get hold of books direct from Stats Inc. For several years, I even had a subscription with Baseball Weekly - and the hefty credit card bill to go along with it.

But, Sportspages was more than just a source for American sports. The shop burgeoned at the same time as the soccer fanzine explosion in the early 1990s. Self-publication was the thing. Every fan was suddenly a journalist/publisher. Much like the blog explosion, fanzines became an instant source of an alternative view.

Most fanzines were sold from cardboard boxes outside soccer grounds around the country. But, in addition, Sportspages stocked hundreds of titles and rode the boom.

Teh internets help kill Sportspages. Amazon is now a cheaper and more convenient source for books on all manner of sports. And, you can even order US titles not available in chain stores and much cheaper than Sportspages. Many fanzines are now web based - a cheaper option.

I last visited the Charing Cross Road store over the summer. Hardly a soul was there. Most of the shelves were dusty. The baseball section was thin. The staff looked bored.

I doubt the store can turn it around. It served a great purpose; helped many like me follow what are on these shores minority interests. Times change.

Thanks, Sportspages.


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