Foyles is still the acceptable face of bookselling, probably because it is still unlike the predators that are now quietly consuming the book trade throughout the world. Conquering giants now want commissions of 60 per cent or more from publishers and then they ask a sum again to display the titles prominently. They strike bargains that enable them to sell three books for the price of two, like lavatory cleaners in a discount store, and much as they draw crowds to their jangling tills, the trail that they leave behind is of closed shops and hand-to-mouth publishers and unknown but probably good writers that do not have the pull of Dan Brown or Harry Potter.Following the closure of Borders in Charing Cross Road, Wan Hulaimi (our Awang Goneng) writes a passionate piece about the demise of bookshops thanks to ruthless and ultimately short-sighted business practices.
This is the damaging irony of big time bookselling; that it consumes the very trade it is meant to be promoting, and many, many books from small publishers never get to be read by the wider book-reading people. So who stands to gain, who stands to lose in this dog-eat-book world? Remainder books are big business now, big enough to have their own book fairs. Testimony surely to the growing value of shelf space in the bookshops that have to be cleared as quickly as books are being churned up by the big boy publishers.
I love his description of the eccentric way Foyles used to operate. It brings back memories of when I used to make a pilgrimage down to London as a teenager, to visit what was felt by many to be the best bookshop in the world.
(Pic on right - Charing Cross Road)