Thursday, January 9, 2014

When your local bookstore is 3000 miles away

My first memory of going to the bookstore was at school.  One of the teachers ran a weekly book club for which you could buy tokens to save up to buy books.  Now that same teacher may have been infamous for throwing a desk across the classroom - I kid you not - but I wasn't going to let a small thing like reputation stand in my way.  I bought my tokens every week, and every few weeks happily handed them over in exchange for a new book.  After this, and perhaps because of the teachers reputation, my mum got me into the local library, a place I went routinely right up until leaving my home town.  This was the time when I exchanged my residency in the fiction section for the biochemistry section at university.  It was definitely a lot less enticing. 

After moving to Cyprus my local book store became a lot less personal, too.  Whilst there is a great section for foreign literature, knowing that 95% of the books are not for me.......well that's just depressing.  I don't mind reading in Greek, and do so when I find something that doesn't look too difficult.  But reading fiction in Greek is only any good if I want to read a book every couple of months, or every three to four if I am being honest.  But also, other than being slow, it dramatically increases the changes of me speaking and writing in Greeklish rather than English, and as far as I heard, they were not looking for scriptwriters for Shirley Valentine take two.  Therefore when it came to books, Amazon, and the post office became my best friends. 

I love Amazon, I really do.  If it wasn't for Amazon I would most likely have five manuscripts sat in a cupboard rather than be published, and have way less access to the books I want to read.   But there is one element with which it just cannot compete.  The local bookstore.

There is something magical about that small shop on the corner full of books where you can go and browse.  I miss the idea that there is an independent bookstore just down the road where I can pop in and get them to order me a book that I can't find elsewhere.  Every shopper can benefit from an assistant who genuinely loves books, and who can make recommendations based on something other than your previous purchases or Kindle content.  I regularly do interviews on line and on other blogs, but I remember meeting an author in the flesh as a child and being amazed that the person who actually-wrote-the-book was standing in front of me and was signing my copy.  Such experiences brought me closer to my love of reading and the world of books.  But yet independent bookstores are suffering, and in 2012 The Booksellers Association reported a fall in the number of independent bookstores for the sixth year running, whereas Amazon reported a record number of sales.  Independent bookstores and independent authors seem to me to have something in common, and yet we barely have a relationship.

I still consider my local bookstore as the one that is over 3000 miles away.  Not exactly somewhere I can pop in on a day to day basis.  But I am on my way back to the UK for a few days in the next few weeks, and right after booking my plane ticket, I have sent a message to my 'local' store asking them if I can call in and give them a few free copies of Identity X.  It would be a real treat to see them on the shelf.  And whilst I am there, I might just stock up on a little bit of that magic that has been lost from the major sellers.


  1. Wow! Well that certainly goes from one extreme to the other! Desks, book tokens, Cyprus and childhood reflection! At last I can see the purpose of having a kindle!

  2. It's an expensive trip to the bookstore without one!