I haven’t written this week, nor really read very much, because I have been mulling things over. I was going to write a huge angry rant on Monday but then I thought the better of it, people like the look of anger as much as they do the look of drunk – not very much, unless everyone is angry or drunk with you then it seems you can get away with it. You see this weekend I seriously felt like the book world had gone bonkers and imploded on itself. Bloggers vs bloggers (which is so sad I don’t want to do any more than acknowledge how sad it is) but mainly bookshop vs bloggers. Well, one bookshop against two bloggers.
On Sunday night, and again in the hours of Monday morning, a bookshop (which will remain nameless, as despite what they and some bloggers might think I don’t want to close them down earlier) for some reason really took against the lovely Gav of Gav Reads for tweeting a link to a books Amazon page. This was, apparently, not only a decided attempt to shut down that bookshop (and every other in the world) but was also declaring a war with Independent Bookshops throughout the land – I know, bonkers. Having met the shop owner myself and thinking they seemed a nice decent person I stepped in with an aim to calm it down and also defend Gavin who I think is a ‘book pusher’/book promoter extraordinaire. It was at this point that I received a tongue lashing of my own about how I promote AmaCON and I am also killing the bookshop – from bonkers to (excuse my French now) utter fucking madness.
Now to defend the bookseller before I defend myself (as I can’t speak for Gavin, though I have spoken to him about the craziness) their bookshop is closing down and they feel it is because of “AmaCon”, as they put it and supermarket bought books. It must be beyond horrendous if your livelihood and passion is thwarted like that, and I don’t think (well I hope not) the bookseller talks to their customers like they did us as I have been at events with them and their passion was boundless, so it must be crushing for them. Attacking book lovers is not the answer but it did raise some points I thought we could discuss.
I myself find it very hard to believe that anyone who had read this blog, followed my tweets, listened to podcasts or even scarier still having actually met me in person would think that I wished death on the independent bookshop, it is ridiculous. I BLOODY WELL LOVE THE BOOKS OFF A BOOKSHOP! If I walk past a bookshop I fall into it! I have promoted bookshops on this blog (some Dutch ones coming soon) since the early days. I have been mulling a Good Bookshop Guide for quite some time. I even want to have my own for goodness sake! I mean really.
That said (and a blogger did state they didn’t see me ‘buy brand new books’ very often which is fair enough and I take on board) I have been known to shop for books in charity shops, in supermarkets and on that dreaded certain website. Given the choice, it would always be a bookshop but sometimes it simply can’t be the case. Here are the reasons why, being completely honest, I don’t always buy books from a bookshop as much as I would like.
- I am really lucky in that through writing this blog for six years (for free, for the love) and working on a books page for a magazine/doing book reviews here and there (because I need to eat/have a roof over my head) and bookish podcasts (for free, for the love) I get quite a lot of free books because I then push them onto all of you/readers/listeners who might buy copies or indeed I go off and buy copies for my friends and family if I love it.
- I love my local library and so should we all, so I use that a lot.
- My local Indie bookshop is quite a way away, we have a Waterstones nearby but I am talking Indie-Indie, if I am ever going past it in I pop and invariably walk away with something if not several things.
- Sometimes I want to support my very local second hand bookshop thank you very much, and I am unashamed about that, we need new and old – where else would I get out of print books?
- Sometimes I want a book that isn’t out in the UK as yet.
- If it is a book for book group or one I am not sure about I tend to use my library – invariably I buy the physical new book after.
- Sometimes I buy books on a whim, be this in a charity shop or the supermarket – I love books I can’t help it. It is an addiction.
- If I am on a deadline for a personal reading challenge/book group/wanting to read all the Not The Booker Prize shortlist and I either a) can’t get it at the library b) don’t know if I will like the book c) can’t get to a bookshop in time c) the bookshop I do manage to get to doesn’t have it or won’t for a while, then yes I admit I might buy the e-book version instead. This is really, really rare as a) I don’t really like reading on my Kindle – more on that soon and b) I have issues with e-readers which are well documented.
- I can’t always afford new books; do you know how much a middling freelancer earns? Do you know I have been paid wrong/not at all for several freelance jobs recently? No course not, we don’t know each other’s financial situations and shouldn’t judge them because it is no one else’s sodding business.
- Buying myself/other people a new book is a real treat for me and has been since I was a child. I wish I could do it everyday but I can’t.
- Sometimes people by me vouchers for certain websites.
- Finally, and this one might make me really unpopular, it’s the elephant in the fiction section… a few Indie bookshops are really crap (the tweeting bookshop isn’t crap, I have been, I wouldn’t say it was the best I have ever been to if I am being 100% honest which I feel this post needs, but it’s not the worst though it’s location could be an issue). I feel like I have just said ‘bloody Mary’ too many times and now some bookish demons might come and get me. It is true though, like any indie shops, there are some good ones and there are some piss poor ones. I am not going to shop at the latter.
The penultimate thing I want to say though is that I have never told anyone – in the flesh, on this blog, on podcasts, via work, anywhere – that they should buy a book from anywhere. I leave it up to you to make that decision because it is your choice. I don’t link to a local bookshop/Waterstones/Amazon/Library catalogue. I hope the subtext is always there in this blog overall that hints at my library leanings and bookshop (new and old) tendencies. At the end of the day we all know if we don’t buy from bookshops then it is goodbye to them, simple as that.
The very final thing I want to say is what I said when I ended my Sunday evening of tweeting, only I am making it a bit longer… Bookshops around the world, you have one thing over a certain website that it can never have. You have faces; personalities and voices… use them wisely and make yourself individual.
People will come. I know when I find bookshops like that it is very difficult to get me out of them again, as I am sure it is for all of you reading this. What are your thoughts on the plight of the bookshop?