Thursday, 16 October 2014

Books Are My Bag

High street bookshops can be a place of wonder. Books Are My Bag is a nationwide campaign to celebrate and support them, with its own Official Book.
Last Saturday, the Society of Authors’ Authors North group got involved with a glittering, glamour-filled gathering at the Imperial War Museum, Salford Quay, Manchester. Silverdell Bookshop gave a special launch for the 2014 campaign during which we were asked to pose with a campaign bag and tell the world what was our favourite book and bookshop.
It gave me a slight problem.
My favourite bookshop ever is Gullivers, in Wimborne Minster. I spent many happy hours in there as a kid. It wasn’t the world’s largest bookshop but it’s where I first discovered the magic of HergĂ© and the excitement of John Wyndham. Situated just around the corner from Wimborne’s famous chained library, it was my first, real bookshop experience.
Sadly, it is no longer local to me. I moved away and now my favourite bookshops are scattered across the country. One of my favourite bookshops these days isn't a real bookshop at all. It's Amazon.
That’s not a popular thing to say if you’re an author. We’re supposed to castigate this monolith for accelerating the closure of the high street bookshop. But much as I love browsing in a real bookshop, here’s the thing - Amazon stock my books
Local bookshops have limited space, lots of demands to stock the latest, the biggest seller and it can make it difficult to stock a local author's books. 
My cartoons appear on the front of the local newspaper every week. I’ve drawn a display for this weekend’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival. So with a bit of wheedling, Waterstones in Kendal are supporting my book. It's on their shelves. They have signed copies. Go buy it now.
And I'll push people in their direction because of it. Local authors talk to local people (I give a lot of talks and workshops). 

But Amazon has changed things. Authors are free to experiment, self-publish, work for smaller publishers who find it hard to get onto the shelves of busy local bookshops. That's exciting, disruptive, new and interesting.

So high street bookshops are great. Long may they continue. But that doesn't automatically make the online giants a bad thing. I prefer my books to be in both.


  1. A controversial view indeed Colin! Though one I admit to sharing as an indie publisher. You may have heard of us?

  2. As an indie publisher myself, even though we have accounts set up with the traditional bookshop wholesalers, the vast majority of our sales are via Amazon as we don't have the budget and presence to compete with larger publishers to get the attention of the wholesalers and bookshops. I rely upon Amazon to give my authors the opportunity of having their books bought. In my opinion Amazon levels the playing field for small publishers and authors.