Book Busking

Where possible, I buy local. We have organic meat and eggs, for welfare reasons rather than concerns about pesticides or whatever. Chocolate, coffee and bananas are fairtrade. And yet, for a long time, I bought an awful lot of books through Amazon. I really shouldn’t have needed the recent revelation that Amazon are evading tax to encourage me to do my buying elsewhere. After all, it was in WeAreWhatWeDo’s great Save the World For a Fiver book years ago (and is still online).
Now I have a local bookshop. And it’s on a boat. Unfortunately right now I can’t see the review I added to the Guardian, as the map doesn’t seem to work very well, but maybe you can. I was very complimentary, and it was well-deserved. Sarah’s found books for me with only the vaguest idea of the title, refused to let me pay full price far too often, made tea while we chatted and said nice things about my baking. We’ve swapped recommendations and so far have both been delighted by the other’s suggested titles. She’s patient with the kids, and enthusiastically stocks the books they’ve enjoyed. She’s even promised to look over my book proposal and sample chapter, when I finally get around to writing it.
I now browse for books online or in Waterstones, then buy them through the Book Barge. As a business, she’s having trouble – and apologies for the pun – staying afloat. Not enough people buy books through ‘real’ bookshops, especially places that can’t afford to subsidize bestsellers with ‘3 for 2’ offers, or where you have to wait a day or so before they get in what you’re after.
So why should you care?
Well, if you’re local (South Staffordshire-ish), you could visit. I recommend it. If you’re not local, you could visit your own local independant bookshop, while it’s still there. If there’s not one handy, you can use The Hive Network, which means an independent gets a percentage (small, I suspect). In each of these cases, the difference to the Amazon price is likely to be noticeably less than a coffee out, which most of us wouldn’t hesitate to have.
Finally, you could support Sarah’s newest idea, which I would describe as ‘book busking’. She explains it better than I could here, but in summary it will mean a weekly chapter of a book explaining the volumes that have inspired her. These will be online for free, but with the electronic equivalent to an ‘honesty box’ – a PayPal button. I’m already subscribed via RSS, and look forward to the first installment. My aim is to either buy the book she recommends each time, or contribute a small amount in the hope that others are doing the same. To pay for this I’m giving up buying cakes, which is probably good for me too.
Thank you for taking the time to read a non-teaching post – especially one that is so selfish on my part. Not financially, I hasten to add – I just like having such a great shop nearby. Call it ‘enlightened self-interest’. Please let me know in the comments what you think of the idea. (And to make it slightly relevant, this would be a fantastic case study for both English and Business teachers…)

2 thoughts on “Book Busking”

  1. I’ve just written a long response and lost it.

    I don’t have an independent bookshop within several miles, with closest bookshops in several directions being Waterstones. I did look at the Hive last time you recommended it but it serves me no purpose (maybe allowing non bookshops to deliver books may help).

    The only credible alternative for me is to use which started off just selling secondhand books and was brilliant for out of print but now sells new books as well.

    Although it says it is owned by Amazon it is registered in Germany so I assume is paying them taxes which is preferable to not paying any.

    I find the future of books worrying and can only say that I have bought an e-reader which I solely use to read all the out of print and copyright books that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to read and doubt that I will ever pay for an e-book. On the other hand with 2-3000 books at home it’s good to have books that take up no space. I do divide the books I buy into those I want a good quality publication of and those I don’t mind a tatty second-hand version. It much depends on whether I intend to read it more than once. I also don’t think the pricing of hardback fiction is right given the lack of quality of the hardback. Old hardbacks last years longer than the modern cheap ones.

    I love my books and wish it was easier to support independent booksellers.


    1. Sorry wordpress messed you around with the reply, first of all!

      I completely appreciate your situation – independent book shops are currently few and far between. I think a lot of us have effectively sleep-walked into this state of affairs. The problem is that often (mostly?) buying online, based on favourite authors and recommendations from friends, is faster and cheaper. Unfortunately, ‘real’ bookshops are suffering because of this, and so are less likely to be there when we need the extra services they provide.

      I don’t know what the solution is, longterm. But as a temporary approach supporting places like the book barge can’t be a bad thing…

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