Category Archives: Bookshops

Not much left now

Aaand there goes the Edinburgh International Book Festival, along with its Edinburgh festival peers.

Not unexpected, except I’d done the ostrich thing and not considered it at all, yet. But it’s better and easier to cancel with more notice to everyone.

Except, today there are a lot of disappointed authors, who will now not appear in Charlotte Square. It’s such a special time, for so many.

It’s early enough that I didn’t even know who was meant to be appearing, as that stays a secret until June. But now people feel they can share the news, so it’s possible to be disappointed on their behalf and on my own behalf.

The bookfest had been the one thing to propel me forward when I wondered for the umpteenth time whether to close up shop. ‘I’ll keep going until August and Edinburgh,’ I told myself. It even looked like I might have the services of my photographer for more of it, too.

That will teach me to think. Even to wonder in advance if I could work out who ‘ought to’ be coming, based on new books and other things.

Cancelled all over

The London Book Fair cancelled really rather late. But better late than not, maybe? Probably. Not sure, though.

Looking at it from the point of view of Son, and not some London based employee in a big publishing house, it’s hard to know what to do for the best. Obviously money already spent is lost if you don’t travel. Your own money.

But it’s also the disappointment, if you have planned the trip, looking forward to seeing people you don’t otherwise see much of, because of where you spend most days of your working life.

Yes, you can Skype. But I believe it’s the personal touch that makes book fairs so useful. It’s how you decide to work with someone, and you do it over coffee, or wine, or if in a Nordic country, over a prawn sandwich.

London based staff can spend all this week seeing other book world people, in other venues, and they are probably a lot more relaxed about the loss of the fair.

To go anyway, or not to go? That is the question.

A book for World Book Day?

Not being blessed with school age children, I tend to overlook the advent of World Book Day (UK version). Some time later this week, I understand?

We always used to take part, because you don’t want to disappoint your child, and – even more – you don’t want to be told off by school staff for not entering into the spirit of the thing. But you can [try to] make do with clothes you already own, and go more for dressing up as a book character that you can find the right stuff for, than your child’s most favourite character, unless they are the same.

So, Son as the Mad Hatter wore the same jacket Daughter as Hermione Granger did some years later.

A few days ago my Hermione Granger pointed me in the direction of a picture on social media, which suggested that with so many children owning no books at all, then surely it would be better to spend any money you have on a book for your child, rather than a ready-made literary outfit?

Yes, surely???

Hubble bubble

Not until my fourth visit to Berlin in as many months did I manage to get to the Hugendubel bookshop in Tauentzienstrasse. There are two, actually. The one I visited was the one not in KaDeWe, but next door to the electronics shop five minutes away from Daughter’s flat, where they sell everything from kettles to televisions. Now that is a shop we’ve seen a lot of!

The two-storey Hugendubel shop front made me expect a veritable treasure trove of books. The reality was rather more modest. (And let’s face it, your average Waterstones is bigger than that, and the density of books much greater.)

So, two floors of not very tightly packed shelves. Mostly gift books or bestselling novels, I think. There was a play area for small children next to the picture books. (But it was right opposite the mall’s water-feature café, with no wall between them, so…)

And then I spotted Harry Potter’s old bedroom from across the shop, and walked over to where they had built a pretty credible English staircase with carpet and everything, and a sleeping space – filled with books – underneath it. No walking on the stairs, but an invitation to crawl into the under-stairs bit, and customers were encouraged to take photos. Which I did, but no crawling.

The many Harry Potter books on display suggest that the Germans, like the Swedes, go for sumptuous book covers (most likely with sumptuous prices as well), where in the UK we are more used to plainer paperbacks. Lovely, except for when it comes to paying.

Speaking of which, they overcharged me, by forgetting to take the promised 50% off my purchase. Being a witch, I’d sort of been half prepared, so noticed and made sure they didn’t fleece me more than I was prepared to be fleeced.

Perform

From what I understand it’s something that takes most [new] authors by surprise. They thought it was enough to write the book, enough to get enough professions interested in the book, and enough for it to be published and enough for people to buy the book. And then we start the whole process all over again for the next book.

Well, after a few years of stalking authors.., I mean going to lots of author events, I knew I didn’t want to be one of them. I did not want to get the call from the Edinburgh International Book Festival to come and talk about my new book. It’s enough to make me not even consider writing, other than this drivel, in case it turned out better than expected.

And I have looked at them. Many are extroverts. Quite a few are [ex]-teachers, and I have assumed standing in front of rooms full of people is fine if that’s what you’re like. I gather some make use of the wine in the green room, just to feel braver. But I’d like to think that a good number simply say ‘no thanks.’

I saw this article in The Bookseller a while back. Couldn’t actually read it, as I seem to have clicked on too many articles recently. But it sort of says what it’s about. Benjamin Myers, whom I don’t know at all, and the Society of Authors are critical of the pressure to be[come] a ‘personality’ in order to sell your book, when writing it in the first place ought to be enough.

And then we have the personalities who take to writing. One assumes they at least relish the performing. Maybe that’s why we have so many? Publishers get fed up with authors hiding in garrets, so go in search of new ones from the stage and the screen?

Prime fool

‘I seem to have accidentally got Amazon Prime,’ said the Resident IT Consultant some weeks before Christmas.

I tutted and offered to help him get out of it. I even thought I’d do a sample purchase to see where he ‘went wrong.’ But then he managed to extricate himself without assistance and all he had to suffer through was another 29 days of Prime membership.

Knowing how easy they make it to make the mistake, I still felt it was up to my savvy shopper to see the pit before he fell into it.

Then as I was tidying up my inbox at the weekend, I ‘dealt with’ the email from an author, telling me about his new books (because I’d asked), and decided to buy them. It felt too unlikely that I’d be able to ask for a review copy of even one of them at this late point.

And before I knew what hit me, I was also the lucky recipient of Amazon Prime.

Actually, I saw exactly what hit me. And as I thought ‘so that’s where he went wrong!’ I went wrong too. Well, I didn’t, because I had a choice of two buttons, the most tempting of which took me to Prime country, and the one below it was the get out free button. Which I selected. And it took me straight to the congratulations for having joined them page.

Going back a page or two didn’t undo the damage, so I bought my two books, which already had free postage, for free. And then I went to the help page and clicked on the ‘get me out of here’ button, and I was out again.

As the Resident IT Consultant had said, escape was really easy. But so was the trap. I’d say, it was unavoidable, as I can’t see how choosing the right button should get me the result of the wrong button.

The whole thing is even more ridiculous, because I had for some time pondered joining. I’d been seduced by the films and television shows Daughter was enjoying with hers. The main thing preventing me was that a year ago I was stupid enough to buy a television that doesn’t do Prime…

But, had I not been tricked, it’s not inconceivable I’d have given them my money. Willingly.

Vouching for that token

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. I know I am, and sitting here intending to say something bad about what should be a good bookshop is not very nice at all.

I ought to say kind things about purveyors of books, because books are what we are both interested in, right?

National Book Tokens are a Good Thing. They are accepted everywhere, and the [more recent] gift cards are valid for a long time, and if one becomes too old, National Book Tokens will issue a new card if you ask. You should never lose the value of the token.

National Book Tokens

As for the old style paper tokens, they never grow old. Well, the paper obviously does, but it remains valid.

Topping and Company Booksellers are a good kind of bookshop; attractive and well thought of. They recently opened a large, new shop in Edinburgh. That shop is on the National Book Tokens map of bookshops where you can take your voucher.

Topping's

Except when someone close to me went there, intending to turn a paper book token into a book, they were refused. No amount of discussion could make the bookseller budge.

As luck will have it there are other bookshops in town.