In the paper a journalist states that an independent bookshop (X) is a successful example of a good bookshop, and goes on to complain that a chain book store (Y) will be dumbing down and culling its already limited stock further to make way for more chick lit and sleb biogs. She says
“When a bookshop works, there is really nothing quite like it – and X works. As an independent, it cannot compete with the big chains on advertising or discounts. So it has come up with other, more subtle strategies to bring in customers. Its staff, for instance, are passionate and knowledgeable.”
And of course that implies that Y’s staff are not. Yeah, yeah, I’m biased, but truly the booksellers I work with are all kinds of ace. Seriously, you have to care about books to sell them right, it’s not a get rich kinda job, it’s a choice made by full timer’s because they heart books. I am lucky that the branch I work in is full of quirky, non-mainstream delicious books, as well as the usual offers and current best sellers. Well it’d be pretty shit if we didn’t stock the popular stuff too eh? I am sure that the journalist can’t possibly be referring to a shop like ours when she bemoans
“If you’re the kind of person who walks into a bookshop hoping to stumble on as yet unknown treasures that you just won’t be able to resist buying, you’d better forget it.”
because that is exactly the kind of store that we are. It’s a pleasure to browse the store even as a bookseller. I only go in at the week end and there are always fab new titles, intriguing older books and so on. In addition to the stock we have we will order any book that is available for you, or you can order it on-line from our www address. No, all the books in the world do not fit under one roof. Whoo, surprise.
I did work in another shop a few years back that was originally staffed by cool individuals who had a mix of passion and knowledge that the manager was happy to reflect in the stock. Then the manager went to a bigger store, and the new manager was someone for whom books were just a commodity, and the job a stepping stone. The book loving staff left for other branches or new things, and the manager employed people she could easily manage. She didn’t have the confidence in her own abilities to employ sassy intelligent people who could challenge her. She employed drones who would memorise those best sellers, and yet not read any of the books and therefore not be able to comment on, or recommend. That’s an issue of mis-management, not a problem where I now am where the manager is an awesome woman.
I don’t know why I am even bothering to comment on this at all. There is no need for me to do so, nothing to gain from me sitting here on my little blog blathering about it, but I guess that really, it pisses me off that a journalist I like, with a huge readership, makes such a crappy statement in my favourite Sunday paper. And having passionate knowledgeable staff isn’t a subtle strategy for fucks sake, it’s the basic rule in book shops all over.
EDIT. I removed the journalist and books shop names, purely to stop someone at work from finding my blog by googling those words after having had a discussion with them today. It’s just a colleague, who I do like, but who I don’t wish to share my blog revelations with.