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Sad end for old literary friend

THE loss of an iconic shop is a little like the death of a friend. No retail establishment, not the most glorious of fashion houses, compares with a great bookshop, and Dublin over the years has suffered the loss of too many.

Probably the one that struck home most piercingly was Greene's, because of its remarkable age and unmistakable atmosphere. Poky and dusty, yes, but customers would have had it no other way. A place to find bargains. And a place to introduce young people to literature when they bought their second-hand schoolbooks.

Waterstones was different: relatively new, architecturally remarkable, an institution in its own way, famed for its much-admired staff and its readers' cafe, the ultimate location for browsing.

When it closed yesterday, customers could scarcely bring themselves to accept the shop's fate. "Such a lovely space. . . It feels like a little piece of Dublin is going missing."

Sadly, it is unlikely to be the last casualty. Bookshops have suffered severely from the recession, with a 10pc decrease in sales. In the longer term, they will suffer from the growth in electronic reading.

But there will always be a space in our society for the flying of this brave flag of enlightenment. Books have been synonymous with civilisation for millennia; printed books for centuries. Waterstones is no more. But the world will go on turning, and the readers of Dublin will go on turning the pages.