Summer is always the busiest time in the bookshop. Between summer reading lists for school, the increasing number of young people reading for pleasure when relieved of the September to June requirements, the parents with a little extra time as they are freed from chauffeuring the young to activities, and the general sense that it’s the season to enjoy life, the bookshop staff has little leisure to enjoy the riches we are providing to others.
I had some reading to catch up on; with two large events in the last two weeks, an inexplicable but welcome increase in business requiring constantly being in “ordering mode,” and the usual summer increase in used books generated by patrons’ housecleaning and needing to be priced and shelved, I hadn’t even looked at what my fellow Dead Guys had written for two weeks. This morning I caught up, both to be sure I didn’t duplicate someone else’s post, and in hope of finding an inspiration for my own. First I saw Josh’s post “What Summer Slowdown?” and recognized a fellow sufferer. Then I discovered that I am living at least part of the fantasies of two of my colleagues.
In her July 1 post, “In my dreams,” Lynne imagines creating a publishing house that only produces “real” books, the kind you can touch, feel, smell. Then she pictures setting up a small bookstore chain. In her fantasy, she also has 50 million pounds to dispose of, so I assume each shop would have a manager to deal with the daily drudge of running a business. The real objective is to have a place to sell all those lovely paperbound books. I don’t know if Lynne will ever get a chance to do this, but I do hope that the trend in the UK is the same as in the US. More independent shops are opening. Those of us who have survived the electronic infatuation and the on-line price slashing are seeing an upswing in business. I haven’t studied industry statistics, but my own experience is that many readers are turning away from the e-readers. “I read in bed and it keeps me awake.” “I can’t easily go back to reread an earlier scene.” “I feel disoriented, like I don’t know where I am in the book.” “I don’t remember what I’ve read.” (There are numerous studies backing up all these grumblings.) The online price differential is still painful, but the closing of so many shops in past years has awakened those who love browsing to the fact that they will have to also buy at the shop if they want to have a place where they can hold and sample the book before owning it.
Terri also would open a publishing house and a bookstore. Her dream shop in “What if…” sounds a bit like mine, half mystery and half everything else. Mine didn’t start that way; it’s been fifteen years of hard work to grow what was once a small paperback book-swap into the two side-by-side full service shops, one all mystery, that exist today. (Twice Told Tales and The Moonstone Mystery Bookstore) The used book shop grew into one that sold new books also. Then the adjoining shop became available, and I saw my chance to live my fantasy of a mystery bookstore. I knew in this location mysteries alone wouldn’t pay the bills, and I, too, read and enjoy more than crime fiction, so I have it both ways.
For me, the bookshop is enough. I have no fantasies of getting into the publishing end of things. The shop at times seem more than I can handle. I was fortunate that at a time in my life when I was searching for my next step, an existing shop where I was a customer became available. And I didn’t start with lottery winnings, just a little I’d saved up. It’s been a constant learning experience, because I’d never run a business and because the world is changing quickly. I know Terri and Lynne have enough experience in the world of books and business to know why what some of my patrons who fantasize about owning a shop like mine say is a good laugh line: “I would love to do this; when it’s quiet, you can have tea and read.” Despite the long hours and hard work (book cartons are heavy!) I realize I am one of the lucky ones, living my dream. I spend my days with books, or talking to people about books. And, Lynne and Terri, if you ever have a little time to come share it, I’d love to have you.
Now, how do I fulfill my next fantasy, actually being able to have that tea and read all these luscious books I’m surrounded with, especially in these lazy summer days? I guess you can’t have everything.