Ottakars – or maybe I should say Waterstones now – is the only chain bookshop in Greenwich (unless you count the bargain bookshops which, all having the same bargain books in as each other, at the same prices, leads me to cunningly fathom out that they are in some way connected…) and as such it is never going to be a ‘local’ shop in the way that, say, Warwick Leadlay or Theatre of Wine are. However, within its corporate remit, it does its best. There are frequent book signings, often of local authors’ work and Greenwich-related events – the last Harry Potter release was marked by a midnight party on the Cutty Sark. As with many chain bookstores these days, the staff are allowed to leave little notes around the shop recommending their faves – and unlike certain chains these are not always printed by head office to look like they’re home-made…

Despite its diminutive (for a chain bookstore) size, it manages to cram a lot of books into the two floors and helpful, friendly staff will assist with any problematic searches.

It remains to be seen what will happen to Ottakars now it’s been taken over – I really hope the Waterstones corporate identity doesn’t obliterate the hitherto understated quality Ottakars always had. I confess I don’t often shop there – though I do have the odd coffee in the little cafe upstairs and have found several impulse purchases over the years. It is one chain I grudgingly admit is sometimes quite a useful resource – as long as we are not hit over the head with Waterstones brand image.

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