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).