A tale of two bookshops

Sam_read Sam_read_2 Sam Read of Grasmere in the Lake District (north-west England) is the Times readers’  favourite independent bookshop. A feature in the 26 January Bookseller describes the business as 90 per cent tourists with a small core of loyal local customers. The shop has been in Grasmere since 1887. Books on building dry stone walls, books by or on Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth and other lake poets, as well as maps and mountain books all have a high and regular turnover.  The article concludes "Other than a 5 % discount for locals, Nelson [the bookseller] doesn’t compete on price, and sees no reason to. ‘When I see paperbacks in Asda for £3.73 I wonder how I’ll sell any — but I do’ ", Elaine Nelson is quoted as stating.

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Bookseller is a column about Wicked Wendi Store Ltd, which started life on Amazon in 2005 when Wendy Allman was ill and couldn’t work.  Wendy had a lot of books at the time and thought she would "get rid of a few". Before long she was visiting charity shops to find titles and was regularly selling 25 books a day on the Amazone marketplace. The store now has 1.5 million listings on Amazon (UK site) and sells an average of 1,000 to 1,500 a day, across all genres — almost all sales through Amazon. Although the recent postal price increases have decreased the profit margin, Wendy is quoted as saying that the well-organised Amazon system beats selling on eBay, where posting is said to be a "really messy business" and where the customers can be "weird". Wicked Wendi Store aims eventually to sell commission-free through its own website, "but we will always sell through Amazon" says Wendy.

So, there are two more jobs for which I’m going to apply in my alternative universe (the first two are librarian and bus driver).

Nuts in May

A look forward to some paperbacks due for May publication in the UK. Squirrel them away in your Amazon basket if you want an insurance policy against future reading drought.  Source, quotes and grammar are from the Bookseller.

Relentless by Simon Kernick. "No longer ‘one to watch’ as he has now risen and produced this ‘breakthrough’ thriller. Terrific."

Bad Debts by Peter Temple. "Brilliant….Introducing a complex Don Quixote-style character with a love of horses and carpentry. Great fun." (First of the Jack Irish series.)

Borkmann’s Point by Hakan Nesser. "A really different, thoroughly enjoyable Swedish first UK novel but written in 1994 so presumably there are lots more to come. My reader was most impressed, a "thinking" whodunit, not action-led, but a slow moving yet totally gripping tale."

The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters. Introducing Inspector Nergui of the Mongolian Serious Crime Squad — fascinating background to a very male, race-against-time thriller."

A Thousand Suns by Alex Scarrow. "A dual-time, present day/Second World War, first novel of wartime secrets and the attempt to protect America from exposure. Dramatic and different. Good one."

The Second Horseman by Kyle Mills. "…a career thief, framed and imprisoned, turns FBI pawn to steal $250 million to buy warheads (fake?) from the Ukraine. My reader loves him."

Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno. "In only 35 years’ time America will be an Islamic republic" A frightening, Orwellian notion."

Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman. "It’s fast-paced, drug-related, edge-of-the-seat stuff, apparently."

Made in Heaven by Adele Geras. "A novel that revolves around the preparations for a perfect wedding with the inevitable infighting. She is very good on family conflict."

The Year of Henry James by David Lodge. "…his musings on discovering others were writing about his subject, and then winning the Booker! A comic, yet ultimately sad, work."

Shame by Karin Altvegen. "A psychological thriller in Ruth Rendell vein from an acclaimed Scandinavian author."

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory.  "One of her best, enhanced by being in three narratives;  Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and the dreadful Jane Boleyn."

Digging to America by Anne Tyler. "A story of two very different families adopting Korean babies. Superb."

The Broken Souls by Jack Kerley. "…another Carson Ryder psychological serial killer thriller."

The Missing by Chris Mooney. "Penguin’s commercial lead crime blockbuster for 2007, I’m told. Based in Boston."

There are lots of others, including titles by major sellers James Herbert, Martina Cole, Chris Ryan, Alexander McCall Smith, Monica Ali, Michael Dobbs and Alan Titchmarsh. But the ones I have highlighted are the ones I’d read, in an ideal world. What is one to do?