What is a book worth?

Reading all the news stories today it looks likely that Borders is not going to make it to the new year and that’s a shame. Not just because a lot of people will lose their jobs but also that book buyers will lose a book shop. Did Borders offer something unique to their customers I can’t say, I always knew I was in a Borders rather than a Waterstones but that was possibly because I always found that there were many more lines than just books; stationery items, magazines, computer games. I never saw this as a bad thing.

What I was less impressed with was that the books were generally always the same ones. I miss Ottakas, their branch managers used to have a huge input into stock selection which made each branch unique, browseable and interesting. When Waterstones took over, the offers went up and the choice went down. The same manager told me that their percentage of stock selection was slashed to a miniscule figure, enough to cover local interest titles only.

Of course uniformity isn’t what has killed or is killing Borders, it’s simple economics. How does a business survive when it’s forever selling off its best lines at 70% off. What on earth is going on? Shift the stock you can’t sell at 70% off but your dead cert titles? Really? Why? And the silly, cyclical answer is competition, Amazon, Waterstones and Asda all insist that the publishers give them a better discount and suddenly the “bestseller” is a loss leader. Their profit margins shrink and soon it will be last man standing. Asda will only stock the top 10. Amazon will stride on and Waterstones and Smiths can slug it out for the high street.
I like online bookshops, I like the fact that if there is a book in print then I can get hold on it. I prefer bookshops though because I can browse, I can look at the paper and print quality. Knowledgeable staff can recommend similar titles or suggest something for a friend.

We will soon be selling Churchyard and Hawke by EV Thompson for its full RRP of £18.99, I know you can buy it cheaper elsewhere but it won’t be as good. EV Thompson will be signing his books in the shop on the 5th December 4-6pm. You can have a mince pie, a glass of sherry, a chat with the author, a chance to pick up other gifts for christams. Discover new authors – maybe Kate Tremayne? It so happens that Mevagissey, where we are based, is switiching on the lights that day, so you can also visit Santa in his grotto in the historic fish well, listen to the choirs on the harbour, follow the lantern parade and then watch EV Thompson switch on the lights. Not bad for £18.99

I know we all love cheap books but I wonder if they are worth the loss of bookshops?
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4 thoughts on “What is a book worth?

  1. Good post. I have been saying the same about clothes shops for years. I go out in the summer to buy a summer dress, and they have all been sold off in the sale, nothing left, but cheap tat. But you can buy a summer dress in February/March, when I am still buying my winter clothes, well if they were not all sold off on Boxing day in the sales. To be honest, it saves me a fortune. I barely buy anything, there is rarely anything relevant in the shops to buy.

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  2. I can never understand how Amazon can sell at such a cheap price, but i do buy from them as it is so convenient. Maybe Books need a fairtrade type mark or something so i can buy without guilt! Your book shop sounds lovely, i shall come and visit one day when we venture over the border into Cornwall and you can recomend some good books for me! (and the kids can play with your trainset!)

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  3. I love the idea of Fairtrade Books! I've nothing against Amazon, I don't consider them a threat so long as I never try to compete with them on price and they don't start setting up train sets 🙂

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