Saturday, December 01, 2007
No Books for Sale
I was at Leeds station on Thursday coming back to Manchester after a conference and hadn't got a thing to read. I'd read the Guardian on the way over, so thought, I may as well pick up a book from W.H. Smiths. Not something I'd usually do given that my house is papered with unread books. Its all buy one, get one half price, trying to sell you two of something when you only want one, of course, which seems a bit strange since surely most railway station purchases will be "impulse buys" for the train etc - and yet the standalone price of paperbacks, £8.99 or whatever, is getting a little steep. (Digression: I bumped into a production manager from Harper Collins last night and bemoaned the quality of paper of most contemporary paperbacks. There was a reason for it, he said, but the answer, alas, is lost in the alcoholic haze...) Anyway, I hadn't long, so I looked through the bestsellers etc. Amongst the identikit covers of the top ten (all pastel, with flowing script, like "get well" or "sympathy" cards) there were only 2 books that weren't explicitly aimed at women readers, "Brick Lane" at number one, and "Atonement" at number three. And of course, I've long ago read both of these books. So there I am, looking for a book, in a bookshop and there's nothing for sale. Yes, there are shelves and shelves of other titles, but again, with Christmas coming, its more humour, gifts etc. than anything real. And thinking about it, I couldn't think of any writers I'd just pick up there and then had they been for sale. Meeting a bookseller friend last night, he said that they sell books mostly by samizdat methods now, getting them into the shops almost under the cover of darkness, putting them on the shelves out of season, pointing out good titles to prospective customers. In short, what the job used to be, before it was reduced to piling them high and selling them cheap.
Posted by Adrian Slatcher at 3:17 AM