The bookshop challenge I set myself as a New Years Resolution is ongoing as we enter the second month of the year so I thought a quick review was in order. Over Christmas I read The Diary of a Bookseller and realised that I spent far too much money buying books on Amazon despite being a bookshop fan. Shaun Blythell, the author of The Diary of a Bookseller, shares how hard the bookshop trade is in the face of cheap online sellers. I appreciate online sellers for the harder books to find but I had really fallen into lethergy with buying all my books on line and realised from reading Shaun’s book that my attitude would only ever lead to the demise of the bookshop. I’m very much a fan of the premise that you should be the change you see in the world. It only takes one pebble to cause a ripple. So I promised myself that I would not buy any books from Amazon for 2018. I also promised I wouldn’t buy books from World of Rare Books but that goes without saying, I’d sworn off them already! But, don’t get me wrong. I’m a big Amazon fan. I pay for Amazon Prime and think it is good value. I’d just like to show support for those people that have taken the time to open a shop and stock it and stand in there day after day.
So, how’s it going? It’s been a really interesting month and I’ve enjoyed visiting bookshops as well as writing about them. I’ve bought no books at all from Amazon although I have found a new online site that I have supported, Hive, who sell new books for reasonable prices and donate an amount of the profits to local bookshops. As a result of one of the books I bought from Hive I discovered Unbound which is a website that gives aspiring authors the chance to get crowd-funding for publication. You chose your commitment and get an appropriate award from an e-copy of the book through to getting characters names after you or attending launch parties. It’s quite interesting to have a browse. I’ve bought books online from Waterstones and WH Smith, the Waterstones purchase allowed me to use the loyalty points I had on my card for a discount which was a bonus!
I’ve been particularly excited to have followed Jen Campbell on line. She is an author and one time bookshop employee. She does regular posts on social media and has her own channel on Youtube. For someone far away from the Youtube generation I find her videos quite interesting, when I remember to watch them. I’ve got Jen’s fabulous book about bookshops and I’m doing one of her writing courses this month which should prove interesting.
But obviously the main joy of the month has been visiting bookshops and I’ve not only found some great shops but I’ve found some great books. I’ve really enjoyed exploring this month. I’m really excited that I have 11 more months of it!
This week I went to Margate. Despite being in Kent the town is pretty far away, about an hours drive, so I rarely go there. I had researched that there was a bookshop to visit down there, Hooked on Books, so I made Margate my destination of the week. Well, it was blowing a hooley when I arrived and I nearly lost my hat and it’s not a hat you would generally be concerned about losing, it’s tightly fitted rather than hideous! The rain and wind were driving inland from the sea which looked black and angry. As I braced myself through the streets, head down and holding my hat, I virtually tripped over another bookshop. Situated in an old bank building the local charity, Pilgrims Hospice, has set up home. I wasn’t aware of this when I went into the shop as I had been unable to look up! I explored and picked up a few books of interest and guessed it must be a charity shop when I noted prices of £1. There are two floors of books divided into genre and then alphabetically arranged. I found several bookshelves of classic literature as well as a crime section, a sci-fi section and some books on cycling which hubby would love. As I wandered round I over-heard the volunteers inviting another customer to explore the basement which contained the stock waiting to come upstairs. I interrupted and asked if that invitation extended to me and was waved down. In the depths I found racks of shelving arranged in genre and alphabetically! It was heaven for those that loved organised spaces. I bought several books in the shop including Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, which I’ve been looking for, and a book about the Tour de France for hubby and I spent the grand total of £10 on 6 books. The two charming gentlemen at the till tried to entice me to volunteer at the shop which, if closer, I would love to do and I explained I was a little too far away to manage. I told them that I was here to find the other bookshop in the town and had found them quite by accident. They said that they weren’t that well known yet and I assured the that I would let people know about them through my blog! So visit… The shop is in the town and right opposite the sea. The Old Bank – put them on your to do list! Margate is a great vintage town anyway with plenty of shops to visit filled with MCM goodness. Just don’t visit on a Tuesday morning as they’re all shut!
The driving rain continued as I pursued my initial quest to find Hooked on Books. Based in the actual High Street the shop is only a short walk away from The Old Bank. This bookshop is effectively one large room divided up into sections which are clearly marked. There are the usual non-fiction sections but I headed straight for the literature and found it well organised with a reasonable selection. I have to say I didn’t like the smell and the lighting seemed dull in the shop. The owner and his friend had a loud conversation about things I’d rather not have had to listen to. One of my autism traits, that I refer to as a superpower, is super-sonic hearing. Whilst this can be useful at times it is also a burden when you are wanting to concentrate on books. I ended up leaving empty handed despite my best efforts. I was disappointed and I am seldom disappointed in a book shop.
This week I reflected on the rise of the charity book shop and wondered if that is ok? I feel a little dis-loyal thinking it is! Charity shops get books donated by the bagful, what do they do with them otherwise? I know one of our local charity shops deals directly with World of Books who buy by the tonne from them. And that’s why World of Books get to sell so cheaply because they make profit very easily on that. Added to the discount they get on the volume of postage they use. So I would much rather that the charity shops opened their own bookshop than deal like this. And often I find the bookshops run by charity’s are more pleasant, well set out, well lit and very welcoming. I think this must have a lot to do with the amount of people that are involved. Each volunteer brings in new ideas and fresh enthusiasm. Often private bookshops feel tired. Not all of them and I am thinking by the end of the year I will have a definitive top ten of bookshops and I have no doubt at all that they will all be private. Because whilst volunteers bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm they won’t bring a cohesive personality, a passion for how the shop should look and the experience that the owner wants the customer to have.
Please let me know what your favourite bookshop is so that I can consider visiting it.
Have a great week, read something x