If you enjoyed The Diary of a Bookseller, then the second volume of Shaun Bythell’s account of running a large second-hand bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland will definitely appeal. It is very much more of the same in terms of content, format and sense of humour with bizarre customer queries and the trials and tribulations of book dealing providing the main focus of his diary entries from 2015. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Bookshops
‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ is Shaun Bythell’s account of running Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop which he bought in 2001 in Wigtown, Scotland’s national book town. While many book lovers may dream about spending all day every day working in a rambling Georgian townhouse stuffed with over 100,000 books, Bythell’s diaries from 2014 to early 2015 dispel a lot of the romanticised myths about running a bookshop, particularly when it comes to the realities of competing against a certain online retailer. Continue reading
Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature (the very first in the world to receive the accolade in 2004) and in between going to events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week, I visited a few of the literary attractions and bookshops that the city has to offer.
The National Library of Scotland has its main base in Edinburgh’s Old Town on George IV Bridge and is home to some 24 million printed items including one of the world’s largest collections of maps. As it is a research library, the reading rooms can only be accessed if you are a member but there are temporary exhibitions for visitors including displays of flyers and programmes from the Edinburgh Festival which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The main exhibition running at the moment is ‘Enduring Eye: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley’ which documents the Endurance expedition and rescue in 1914-16 and includes diaries, photographs, letters and other items from various archives. Admission is free and it’s well worth a look if you’re passing by. Continue reading
As well as hosting one of the biggest literary festivals in the country, Hay-on-Wye is the official book town of Wales and home to over twenty bookshops. It was somewhat inevitable that I would end up visiting a few and making some purchases during my time at the festival last month…
One of the first bookshops I visited was the Hay Cinema Bookshop with Francis Edwards Antiquarian Books on the top floor. I made three more visits during the week and still feel like I barely scratched the surface of this enormous shop which has been based in a converted cinema since 1965. It’s a bit like Baggins Book Bazaar – another very large second-hand bookshop in Rochester, Kent – but with a much wider range of fiction including a large amount of brand new remainder stock. I bought seven books from the shop which has an excellent range of translated fiction and literary biographies. Continue reading
This week is Independent Booksellers Week. An interesting article in The Guardian yesterday outlined five reasons to support your local indie bookshop. In order from worst to best, they are:
5) To maintain property prices in your area: Maybe this is because I am neither a Daily Mail reader nor a property owner, but this seems like a very strange reason to support an indie bookshop. I suppose there is a tenuous link in that independent shops are generally found in nice places to live. However, it isn’t really at the top of my list of priorities…
Yes, those three words always grab my attention too. Books for Free is an initiative set up by Healthy Planet which redistributes unwanted books which would otherwise have ended up in landfill. Centres have been popping up all over the UK since it was launched in 2010 and it has been a big success. It is primarily an environmental cause aimed at promoting recycling but also plays an important role in bringing communities together and encouraging more people to read and share books.
I read an interesting article in The Guardian today in which Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories series, claims that libraries ‘have had their day’ and that the concept behind them, namely offering the impoverished access to books, no longer applies in an era of compulsory education. I have a feeling his views are only shared by a tiny minority of people. Continue reading
In spite of the difficulties facing the publishing industry, there are still a lot of bookshops in London which are managing to survive. Here are five I deem to be among the Most Awesome.
The flagship store on Charing Cross Road is a haven for book-lovers everywhere. It is vast yet not at all intimidating. Its specialisms include the Grant & Cutler foreign language department and the sheet music section on the top floor. Ray’s Jazz Cafe is also very cool. Continue reading
Here’s one way of preventing Amazon’s hegemony over book sales: in France, book prices are fixed by law so they cost the same amount whether you buy them online, in a chain shop like Fnac or in a small independent bookshop. When I was living in Paris during my year abroad, the stingy student side of me was a bit miffed that it was impossible to get new books at a discount. On the other hand, it means that there are still a lot of independent bookshops which are managing to stay open (about 400 in Paris) and that can only be a good thing. Continue reading
The eBook debate continues to rage incessantly and provoke some very important questions. Is the controversy less about the value of books and more about the development of modern technology? Who are the winners and the losers in this supposed eBook revolution? Does it really matter what format books are available in? For many people, it certainly does.
Although I don’t actually own an e-reader yet, I do plan to get a Kindle soon (hopefully for Christmas this year) after borrowing my sister’s one earlier this summer. I will be using it almost exclusively for when I’m commuting by train as it is the practical side of e-readers which appeals to me the most.
The Politics section in most bookshops is often an odd one. I think there are two explanations for this. Firstly, it is because books about current affairs usually go out of date very quickly – politics changes pretty much everyday and a lot of books about ongoing events can end up in a bargain bin faster than you can say ‘Yes, we can’. Secondly, I think it is because politics tends to overlap with so many other subjects like history, sociology, economics and biographies. In your average Waterstone’s shop, the Politics section will typically consist of a slew of memoirs and biographies of New Labour era politicians, a couple of AS Level Government and Politics textbooks, some books which claim to explain the origins of the credit crunch/globalisation/some other trendy political buzzword in layman’s terms and maybe a few George W. Bush-bashing books. Overall, it isn’t particularly inspiring and doesn’t really reflect the diversity of the subject especially when there is so much quality political journalism out there. It also demonstrates how books have become sidelined, as far as politics is concerned, in favour of more modern media which can be updated instantly. A 140 character tweet is likely to reach and influence millions more people than an exhaustively researched tome about the state of the nation today. Overall, the cycle of the publishing industry is incompatible with the fickle 24 hour news cycle that we have today.