Wednesday, September 21, 2005
# Posted 11:47 AM by Patrick Belton
A SAD DAY FOR IRISH LETTERS: A literary landmark and a book showroom I personally frequent, Kennys Bookshop is closing down its famed store on Galway High Street.
Kennys books move from office space to cyberspace
Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent
Brendan Behan, Alan Ginsberg and Roald Dahl have crossed its threshold, along with hundreds of artists and writers from all over the world.
However, one of the west's best-known bookshops is to close its doors in Galway's city centre early in the new year as part of a radical relocation.
"You have got to move with the times," Maureen Kenny, founder of Kennys Bookshop and Gallery, said yesterday as the family confirmed the move to cyberspace and Galway's docks respectively.
The High Street and Middle Street premises owned by the company is to be leased out and all books will now be sold online, while the gallery is re-opening at Galway's dock gate.
As her son Tom Kenny explains, the family has strong emotional ties to the High Street building, dating back some 65 years, but was also "passionate about the business".
The company now sells more books online than through the retail unit, with much lower overheads.
Increasing competition in sales of new books means that there are many more outlets and the trend towards bulk-buying by supermarket chains means that independent booksellers are being undercut all the time, Mr Kenny says.
The company has noted that regular customers in Galway are buying books from it through amazon.com on the internet.
Kennys moved into cyberspace very early on, being only the second bookshop in the world to do so in 1994, and it now works with other major players such as amazon.com, abe.com and alibris.
Kennys is regarded as one of the best online resources in the world for material of Irish interest. It has developed customer bases with libraries and universities in north America, Japan and China since it began producing book catalogues in the 1950s and 1960s.
The bookshop was first opened by Maureen and Des Kenny in 1940, and the couple lived behind the shop in High Street for the first four years of their marriage.
Mrs Kenny retired earlier this year after 65 years behind the counter. She noted that some of her most memorable moments included watching her children and grandchildren going into the business, opening the first art gallery in the west with an exhibition by Seán Keating, receiving visits from the likes of Brendan Behan and launching Breandán Ó hEithir's classic, Over the Bar, live on radio.
It was in Kennys bookshop that the best-seller by John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, was launched, and John McGahern opened the renovated premises which won an RIAI architectural award in 1996.
The gallery was first opened in the couple's home in Salthill. The new 2,200 sq ft premises will stage a series of exhibitions by Irish and international artists.
Kennys has more than 200,000 books on amazon.com and other portals. Its own site - www.kennys.ie - is one of the best online resources for material of Irish interest in the world.
Kennys will combine all bookselling operations at its Liosbán export centre in Galway.
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