By Marcus Leach

Figures released today (Tuesday) paint a gloomy picture for Britain's independent booksellers.

The Booksellers Association's (BA) data shows a decline of over 25% in independent booksellers since 2006, prompting a call for urgent action to stop the slide.

1,483 independent bookseller were members of the BA in June 2006, with the number falling by 26% to 1,099 by June 2011. Further to that only 23 new stores have joined the Association this year, against 50 in 2010.

"Plenty can be done but it needs to be done now if we are to maintain bookshops on our high streets and protect the significant impact they have on the wellbeing of local society the UK," Booksellers Association chief executive Tim Godfray said.

Jane Streeter, president of the BA, was in agreement.

"Booksellers are already at the heart of their communities, key parts of their local high streets, and are undertaking positive and innovative work across the country to make their shops the best places to browse and discover new books," she said.

An earlier survey by the BA revealed that the biggest problem independent booksellers face is increasing rates.

"This is not just an issue for our members; it's also about preserving the retail diversity of our town centres. We know that maintaining bookshops on our high street is vital to literacy, the future economic prosperity of UK plc and the cultural health of our nation," said Godfray. "What is clear from surveying our members is the considerable influence local and national government and our competition authorities have on the high street retailer … We will be making representations in the next few months to the appropriate bodies, and are also providing our members with posters for shop windows."

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