Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Independent Bookshops

The best bookshops don't have to be the biggest. Here's a lovely article from The Guardian about an independent bookshop in Much Wenlock (Where?? Precisely!) in Britain and why it's such a hit with customers.

Small bookshops are so good at giving customers the personal touch that the larger stores often lack. How nice when you walk into a bookshops and someone knows who you are and can recommend books you'll like. How great when a bookshop acts not just as a place to hawk merchandise, but as a social centre where like-minded people can gather and talk books in a cosy setting.

13 comments:

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Sharon,
As a rule of thumb, small bookshops everywhere need the business so it would be in their best interests to fall backwards for the customer.
I don't know about Malaysia but at this VERY moment in time here in London, big bookstores offer an excellent personalised service for any kind of book you're looking. They too will remember your name, keep your reserved orders, flash their precious smile and all that...That's how competitive it is.
And I have felt that intimate setting even in big places like Foyles that works so hard to provide highly-personalised poetry events and readings just so that us writing enthusiasts can meet up and make friends. London today in 2005, is simply super like that. Cheers!

bibliobibuli said...

I certainly think that if the larger bookshops are to continue to do well - and bookshops here in KL need to learn this too - they must find ways of emulating what the best independent bookshops do best. Obvious examples are - the staff must be friendly and know the stock, they should be on hand to make recommendations, there should be (as you point out) events in-store, there should be informal meeting places, there should be cosy areas to relax.

In some of these things the larger guys do well in others not.

BTW my favourite London bookshop is an independent one - although fairly large - Daunts on Marylebone High Street. Do you know it?

bibliobibuli said...

Further thoughts - Foyles is an independent bookshop despite being huge! It's a lovely eccentric place and I miss it.

Taking book orders, flashing smiles. Any bookshop will do that. The bookshops here are fine at taking orders and getting back to you. Found Kinokuniya for e.g. v. helpful recently when I was tracking down Toby Litt's books. But it's only in smaller shops perhaps that someone will care enough about you to know what you like and make recommendations.

Actually big megastores, little independents, dusty second-hand ones, haughty antiquarian ones, one type specialist ones ... I love 'em all!!

Oh and btw the rack of books in Cold Storage came up trumps again today - I actually found a copy of
Corpsing by Toby Litt beside the till. The big bookshops hadn't been able to produce a copy and I searched all over for it.

Susan Abraham said...

Yes, I agree absolutely with you Sharon. |Still, where the big bookstores are concerned, from what I remember of Malaysia, London is made up of a completely different ball game altogether and not the slightest bit of exaggeration. I remember one major bookstore chain in KL employs staff that sadly, can't even string a proper line in English, let alone understand what you're looking for. And yet they do claim to be at the forefront of promoting books and reading. That's why I always wait till I get to Europe or Australia. I understand what you mean by intimate settings but you'd surprised at how intimate even Borders has become over here, The one in Charing Cross has been recreated on its first floor to project the ambience of a tiny shop - its' quite exciting and Waterstones, that provides lovely quiet lounges for you to relax in. The staff of these chains will make recommendations as well. And they have all kinds of events happening especially now that its spring. They will recognise you and remember your name, if you come regularly. If you do want tiny shops with all those musty smells of grandeur, (the real thing, well, they're all over London as well.
I don't buy my books from supermarkets, (just my personal preference) preferring instead, the hedonistic ambience of bookstores proper, never mind, small or big.
No, I've never been to Marylebone High Street. Will let you know if i go. Thanks very much for these interestng thoughts all round, Sharon. I've found this tiny conversation enjoyable.
warmest wishes

bibliobibuli said...

I remember one major bookstore chain in KL employs staff that sadly, can't even string a proper line in English, let alone understand what you're looking for.

Very true. And here lies one of the biggest problems when it comes to larger bookshops here promoting books: the staff themselves do not read, have no idea about the stock unless they can do a simple search on a computer. Trouble is, I suppose, that folks with better English and a love of reading will have found themselves a better job than working in a bookshop!

Dizzy said...

Saron, Susan,Hi.
You forget one important factor.That English is not their Mother Tongue.So you must give them benifit of doubt there.For those who master the language, its a feat accomplished, for those who have not been able to, it is quite forgiveable, for the same reason. After all sharon, ppl in Malaysia must not be mindinding the way you speak Malay, for the very same reason. So they allow you to commit mistakes because they understand that it has not been your mother tongue.The same goes the other way round too.
Susan,The smiling, the remembering of names, is more a marketing gimmick than genuine warmth.Ppl abroad[UK & US] excel in that.After all the same books come with different price tags in different places...for just the way you market them.Why, In India,the latestHarry Potter have been sold for less than three pounds each!!!

Dizzy said...

Ps.
Excuse my atrocious spellings...have misplaced my glasses & am bad at typing too
Cheers

bibliobibuli said...

Dizzy - It isn't really a problem with the English in this case as in not knowing the stock and not knowing about books. But bookshops vary some have more helpful staff than others. Kinokuniya wins hands down.

Susan Abraham said...

Well, Dizzy the marketing gimmick sure works for me because I appreciates good manners and loveliness that comes from warmth. And I have ended up making good friends in these places' people who miss me when I'm away.
And also in Malaysia, we're taught english in schools and in bookstores a fluent command of the English Language is compulsory and necessary. Especially if you're selling English books. Just a bit of common sense, don't you think.
cheers!
Sharon, Let me know if you can't get the Harmony Silk Factory as yet & I'll just post you a copy from over here. rgds

Dizzy said...

you misunderstand me Susan.What I actually mean is that the quality of services rendered by the staff is so much dependent upon their salary figure.In UK they sell books at atrocious prices because they have to get quality service from their staff. It is competition there so they strive to offer best.There are a dime a dozen bookshops in UK...
But in south Asian countries, its a different scene altogether."genuine' bookshops are few. Even the publishers offer them at subsidised rates because they know that ppl here can barely afford them at original prices.Also there is so much pirated stuff in the market...
A bookshop salesperson's job does not pay well here.

Dizzy said...

Also, Marketing gimmicks sure do work. That what business is all about.& I'm sure you agree with me about this.Like you were surmising about the articles of sex on someone's blog once in disgust...That is a marketing gimmick too...to attract eyeballs...for sex sure does sell.
I am a business person myself...I know the scene out there. If it did'nt work for you, they wud'nt be doing it. They wud be trying something else

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Dizzy,
I have no idea what goes in India.
I was talking about Malaysia and London.
Also, I actually have marketing staff as friends who keep in touch with me, personally, when I'm in different countries. Lucky, lucky me!!
By the way, I see that you've resurrected again!

Dizzy said...

As for fluent command over english...Language learning takes place at two levels. One as mother tongue & one as a secondary language.In Infancy, you can learn upt five languasges at a time & master fluency. But when you do so as a second language at a later stage,its a different process altogether. that is because you tend to think first in your own language, translate it mentally, & then speak.That is where one finds it difficult to be fluent later on.To be fluent in a language, you have to start THINKING in that language first, to be able to master the technique.
Anyway, some children, do pick up fast. Yet fluency also depends on hoiw much you use a particular language