One consequence of my reading this book is that I now follow the bookshop Facebook page.
Another is that I’ve thought long and hard about my love affair with Amazon, and how it is helping to kill off small independent bookshops. It’s a difficult quandary because Amazon is so darned cheap and also so easy, with delivery to the door. They also tend to have books in stock, not needing to rely on orders. One thing I dislike about bookshops now is that they sell all manner of other stuff, but then I very much enjoyed The Mainstreet Trading Company bookshop and cafe in St Boswells, in the Scottish Borders.
Once upon a time, I used to co-own a bookshop, so there was some nostalgia herein for me. Luckily, I’m not a big Kindle fan, another change that has impacted small independent bookshops. I used to go to many second-hand book fairs but one rarely sees those now. Book buying has changed.
There’s no browsing in cold bookshops like Shaun Bythell’s, incurring the wrath of the bookseller or feeling compelled to buy something if you choose to buy online. Yet, his grumpy honesty is compelling, though actually the character I’d really love to meet is his assistant, Nicky, who finds old food in the Morrison’s skip. There is also an obligatory bookshop cat. What is interesting is the seasonality of the bookshop but also the cost of purchases. Also, I never knew that AbeBooks was bought by Amazon. Listing the daily takings and the online orders is informative. Days when he takes £40 must be disheartening.
Second-hand booksellers have a grumpy reputation, rather like me with a dental abscess, which is reinforced by Bythell’s sometimes taciturn manner. The customer is certainly not always right, but in these days of superficial social contact, it strikes me as a pleasant change when someone is up front and honest, even if that candidness is sometimes offensive. I enjoyed the epilogue, too, where we find out what happened to the main characters, though some of the days dragged as much for the reader as the bookshop owner.
I enjoy reading, books and browsing in bookshops. I can also walk out of them empty-handed. I do love the fact that Wigtown has a book festival which reminds me of places like Appledore or Fowey, trying to extend the season or indeed rather more isolated Endellion.
For me, that’s where rural bookshops work, where they are not just shops but are an integral part of the community with postcard competitions, writers visiting, talks, and so on. The nearest I have come to that near where I live is Walter Henry’s Bookshop in Bideford, which I have now decided to use more often! Another consequence.