In December I got “The Diary of a Bookseller” on my Audible account and listened to it whenever I had the opportunity. Little did I know how my choice of format would be frowned upon, though perhaps I should have been wise to that, given the name of the book!
The author runs a bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. I had never heard of Wigtown and had to google it. It’s just in the South West Corner. Wigtown has become a book town. It has a few book shops and runs an annual book festival. Shaun Bythell bought the book shops in his early 30’s and this book documents a year in the shop for him, giving little details like how much money the shop took each day and how many books they sold on line. I was initially intrigued by it as I sell a few books in my life as a vintage dealer and I’ve always dreamed of owning a book shop. Having worked in an antiques shop and seen days where we took barely £20 I know how difficult life on the High Street is for independent traders but Shaun’s account of life at The Book Shop (the largest second hand book shop in Scotland!) shows just how incredibly difficult it is for him and others, he meets up with other bookshop owners during the year all competing in a world of on-line volume traders and Kindles (apparently the most photographed thing in Shaun’s shop is the kindle he took a shot gun to).
Shaun’s frankness about how Amazon is taking over the world, how he has had to suck it up and sell on there and how difficult it is to compete in a world where people are quite prepared to get their smart phone out in front of him and search for the cheapest deal on line made me realise I wanted to do something to push back. Now don’t get me wrong I use Amazon, I rave about Amazon, I have Amazon Prime. But I love a book shop. I really love a book shop. And unless we do push back these book shops will have to close. Bookshops are magical places run by special people. Unlikely to ever be rich financially they have to make enough to pay their bills and they tend to do it because they want to. Booksellers have a passion for books, stories and information. They can’t keep these shops open in the vein hope we might pop in one day. It needs to be routine for us. I have a brother in law in Edinburgh who I encourage my husband to visit so that we can stop off at Barter Books in Alnwick. In my Berlin blog published blooming ages ago I talk about how I’ve realised that when we go on a break I know we are looking for history and second hand book shops! So I don’t want to be part of the problem. I need to have a book shop to visit.
I have decided that this year I will not buy books on Amazon. Or any of the other big retailers on line, like World of Books (who I hate anyway and already refuse to buy from!) I will attempt to track down second hand bookshops in a bid to find the books I want to read. I have started a list of books I want to buy and would have bought on Amazon otherwise. I will only add to that list! And I’ll blog about my quest. I’ll let you know where the book shops I find are and I’ll share my book haul with you. On top of this I will share book reviews about some of the books I have read. But, let me tell you something. I have started my quest in the last week and I’ve been to a few bookshops where I have found none of the books I am looking for! I have realised it is going to be hard work but I’ve also realised how easy Amazon makes it! You just type in the name of the book and, voila. But lost in this process is the hour or so browsing the shelves, the smell of the books, the chat with the owner and finding the book you didn’t know you were looking for. It’s the walk back to the car and the inevitable stop in a coffee shop to start reading one of them. Because you’re still in the moment of wanting to read that book. Do we want to lose this magic merely because the book on line is a little cheaper and has free postage? (Independent sellers don’t get the fabulous postage cost discounts the volume sellers benefit from due to economies of scale. Independent sellers can’t compete with that. Don’t expect them to!)
When I shared my plans to do this blog on Instagram yesterday I asked for suggestions of bookshops to visit. Please continue to share. I hope to travel to find all the special places you recommend and though I am based in Kent the world is my oyster. At least I am well placed for the much loved Shakespeare’s Book Company in Paris!!!!!
Join me on my mission. Let’s ensure we let the beleaguered second hand bookshop owners and the indie book shops know that we value them. We need them and we are prepared to push back.
I’ll be using the #avoidamazon and #bookshopchallenge2018 on my posts. Let’s see where the adventure takes us.
Rebecca at Wish Vintage