Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Is A Bookshop Worth? Fine Examples of their Genre

I visited a new bookshop last weekend.

It was lovely - well laid out, with some magazines and gifts but not too much. There was a coffee bar, a seating area and the obligatory minor celebrity chef in the corner doing things with some noodles (which sadly prevented me from checking out all of the books that were trapped behind his workstation thing).

Anyhoo, while I was there, something caught my eye. Instead of the usual massively discounted table covered with pink-tinged bestsellers and a couple of Orange Prize nominees, they had several small tables, each with a display of a single book - Book of the Month, Non-Fiction Book of the Month, etc.

But there was also a 'Minority Book Recommendation' table. This month's minority recommendation was a history of Paris.

The idea of the minority recommendation was simple - if you like this type of book, the selection is an especially good example of its genre. If you're not interested in this kind of thing, well, never mind. Better luck next month. They also offered a full refund on the minority recommendation if it wasn't to your taste.

(Effectively it was the Miss Jean Brodie table - 'for those who like this sort of thing, this will be the sort of thing they will like.')

I thought it was a fantastic idea. The subject area wasn't quite mainstream enough for a blanket 'this is fab!' recommendation, but the book was good enough to merit highlighting. I wish more bookshops would do this!

Many people claim that readers make perfectly good 'gatekeepers' for quality writing - that we don't necessarily need agents and publishers and bookshop buyers to make the decisions for us. A fair point. And yes, I can choose novels with reasonable confidence, because I read them a lot.

When it comes to a history of Paris, though, I might need a little help, and that is where a good bookshop comes into its own.

It was great to see a bookshop that was doing an excellent job with the resources it had, and that reminded me of all the best things about bookshops. When bookselling is done well, there is definitely a place for it that nothing else can fill.

11 comments:

  1. And now I must know - whose history of Paris was it?

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  2. I'm just so happy to read that there is a NEW bookshop OPENING somewhere in this world!!! Yay!!!! Take care
    x

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  3. Claire, it's Graham Robb's Parisians (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/11/parisians-adventure-history-graham-robb). Looks pretty good!

    Kitty, I don't know how new this one is, it was just new to me, but I have heard of two or three new indie bookshops opening in Dublin in the last year or so. It's a mini growth-industry here! I hope we see all or most of them survive.

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  4. We've just lost hundreds of bookshops with the closure of two big chains in Oz.
    The only silver lining I can see is there might be a little more space for independents

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  5. They don't have their Dublin address on their website. Where is it? I'd love to take a look.

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  6. Would be a nice silver lining Al. Opening an indie bookshop is the new home cupcake making business over here, it seems. . .

    Paul, they don't have a Dublin branch, I was in the Wexford one.

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  7. How lovely in these sombre times to hear of new bookshops opening up. Even if this isn't one of the new ones it's always good to find one that's 'new' to you.

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  8. That sounds like a great bookshop and I love the Minority Book Recommendation!

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  9. Was just going to ask where this book shop is when i say the link... I have been into that shop in Kilkenny and its fab. We lost ourselves for ages in their - kids included. Great shop

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  10. I love bookshops. It sounds like the staff love their work andf the books and are full of great ideas. Great post :O)

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  11. The bookshop sounds great. I love the idea of the minority table - I may well have bought the Paris book had I been there!

    Thank you so much for dropping by today.

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