Archives for category: Bookstores

The Passive Voice comments on a Guardian piece on the difficulties of maintaining a bookstore in New York City. The headline is a bit misleading (The Guardian‘s fault not his). “Why are New York’s Bookstores Disappearing?” doesn’t quite represent current reality, where we are in fact experiencing a little bounce from what we all hope is a bottom. So, in 1950 we had 386 bookshops, while now we have 80? This has absolutely no relevance for the demand for books: in 1950 there was only one way to get a book. Not quite true today: yet more books are sold now than then.

The Passive Guy surprised and delighted me by launching in on a riff about rent control: “Following World War II, concerned about rising residential rents during the post-war boom, New York politicians established Rent Control on apartments, a complex set of laws and regulations limiting the maximum rent a landlord could charge a tenant while the tenant continued to live in the apartment. Rent control continues to this day, over 70 years following the emergency it was established to address. Another set of complex regulations, Rent Stabilization, governs the amount by which monthly rent can increase in almost a million rental properties. When an apartment is finally free from rent control, it becomes a rent-stabilized apartment. Among other things, these rent regulations can prevent landlords from tearing down an old apartment building to provide room for new residential or commercial space.”

But just as I was getting ready to cheer he comes up with this out-of-left-field assertion: “This type of regulation alone increases the costs of doing business in New York City, including the costs of operating a bookstore, by a huge margin.” Forcing landlords to charge lower rents increases the cost of doing business in New York? I guess the thought is that if they can’t rip off their residential tenants, landlords will naturally turn to ripping off their commercial ones? I’m no economist, but increasing the cost of doing business for landlords in New York seems to me to be a great idea. Do we really have to stick to rigid capitalist orthodoxy that the most benefit for everyone is to be found in allowing business to extract the most profit from our wallets which will allow unfettered competition to bring prices crashing back down again? In macro terms I dare say an almost convincing argument can be constructed, but if the best way forward for bookstores is extermination because of an inability to afford ever-increasing rents, enabling by their disappearance the eventual evolution of something different (better?), I say stop talking rubbish. My immediate concern is not the benefit of the U.S. population of 2119 or 2219 — I see today, and know that rising rents, while good for landlords, are bad for bookstores (and many other small businesses and individuals). I’d like to see rent control extended to small businesses too.

In a paragraph which The Passive Voice chose to omit The Guardian says “One of the causes of skyrocketing business rents is speculation: owners are forcing out tenants because buildings are sometimes more valuable empty. The goal is ‘to empty these buildings of rent-regulated residents and small businesses’, Moss says, so that they can be sold for profit or used as collateral with which to borrow money that is then invested elsewhere.” I’m not sure what it is about this process that can be held to be good for us.

The Passive Voice makes much of the fact that bookselling is a low profit business, which nobody will deny. As he informs us though, so too is Walmart. I imagine that buried in his piece but not expressed is the notion that it is those wicked publishers who are really the ones killing bookstores, by our stubborn refusal to give the booksellers bigger discounts. The commentariat alternates their excoriation of profit-seeking publishers by bashing them today for cheating bookstores, then next week for cheating authors. No doubt if they knew enough, they’d bash us for cheating suppliers too. Amazing to reflect how it happens that a low-paying industry staffed by and large by idealists, can have grown into such a rapacious monster.

Of course the fact of the matter is that this mature industry is ticking over just fine. Most sales are made through Amazon, and that’s just fine (Mike Shatzkin argues in his latest post that Amazon is in fact each big publisher’s most profitable outlet). The book chain era is over, or almost over: the dinosaurs have been superseded by Amazon, but lots of people have noticed that they rather like going into bookstores and looking at the books before they buy them. There is, to be sure, a show-rooming problem, and there will always be people who think it’s OK to stand in an independent bookstore and take out their phone to order from Amazon a book they’ve just discovered. There are unfortunately more of these jackasses than of people who will follow The Passive Guy’s suggestion of just slipping a bookseller a $20 bill every now and then, but they have to be outnumbered by folks who think supporting their local bookstore is a really good idea. Despite the fact that the point was passed long ago that it was impossible to fit another book in our apartment, we cannot visit an independent bookstore without walking out with yet another book. Almost reached this point with Barnes & Noble too, now they are in such trouble. Maybe we should just start handing out folding money.

George Orwell’s 1936 essay Bookshop Memories (the text of which which may be found here) recounts his reactions to a short career in bookselling. He wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. A few years ago we might have kept our fingers crossed when reading his confident forecast “The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence as they have squeezed the grocer and the milkman.”  — Now it’s the combines which are in trouble, and I think we are all feeling a good deal more confident about the future of the small independent bookseller — almost as confident as George Orwell did.

Shaun Bythell, owner of The Book Shop in Wigtown, Scotland, a used book store, starts each month of his The Diary of a Bookseller (Melville House, 2018) with an extract from Orwell’s essay and a brief comment about it.  The Book Shop is surprisingly large as you can see from this video, the making of which is described in the book.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post and view it in your browser.

The Diary of a Bookseller is predictably in day-by-day format and covers one year (2014-15). Mr Bythell writes an accessible, friendly prose commenting wryly on the frequent emergencies of bookshop life. He tracks the daily number of customers, amount of money in the till, and online orders. What surprised me most perhaps is how much money was involved, and at the same time paradoxically how little of it there was. He also recounts many purchasing forays: one feels that by the end of the year he must have had a lot more stock than at the beginning. As he says in the video “I’ve got more stock than an Oxo cube”.

Customers, as Orwell suggested, inevitably present problems, though discretion perhaps prevents too much open rudeness about them. My queasiness about the entire book is probably the result of a suspicion that the tone of his account of the book world is pretty much the same as mine would be. He often says things of the sort which I am quietly reminded are not as funny as I like to think they are. He even touches on one or two oddities of the book world which I’ve chosen to write about here in the past. Much fun is poked at Nicky, a surprisingly knowledgeable if somewhat erratic assistant, who leads off the rap performance in the video above (the third performer being Anna, Mr Bythell’s American girlfriend).

But despite any reservations I did like the book, and since, with this format, you can’t really have one without the other, I liked the author too, including the books he told us he was reading at the time he was writing his diary. I’m definitely not visiting Wigtown. I might decide to stay.

The Melville House webpage (linked to above) has a nice video featuring Mr Bythell’s helpful advice on Kindle repair. Making videos is one of his sidelines.

Well Amazon’s plan to build a second headquarters in New York City (and in Crystal City, VA) was never of course a book story. The fact that they claimed there would be 25,000 jobs paying on average $150,000 a  year proves that. I wonder if there are that many people in the whole of book publishing making such money. I posted three months ago welcoming the decision to come to New York.

There was a lot of adverse reaction in New York to the fact that the deal had been negotiated in secret (as if negotiations like this can be conducted in public) and that a company as rich as Amazon should be given such large tax breaks. But no special deals were cut: all the tax incentives granted are laid out in state law, and are available to any company which wants to try for them and has an argument to support their case. It’s no doubt true that Amazon doesn’t really need the money, but the fact of the matter is that all cities and states play this game and if we hadn’t done it we would not even have been considered. Sure NYC’s a great place: but Amazon was trolling for tax breaks, and in order to play you needed to pay. I trust the calculations made by our governor and mayor were correct and that we’d have made much more back from taxes and spending over the years than it’d cost.

Amazon have now suddenly cancelled the deal overnight: the mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, tells us on the radio this morning that just the day before the cancellation he was on the phone negotiating with a senior Amazon person the details of infrastructure spending the company was committed to making. Now of course a big company (a small company too) has an absolute right to change their corporate mind, but surely at the end of a year-long, publicly self-promoted campaign to provoke cities around the country to knock themselves out attracting the great and good Amazon, the company owed everyone a bit of notice and debate before just walking away from the deal. They can’t really have been surprised at the sort of objections that the original announcement provoked. People in Long Island City were bound to be worried that their rents would go up, and to suspect that they’d not be getting too many of those $100,000+ jobs. Their elected representatives could be relied on to voice these concerns, and while none of us has the inside story, the hassle cannot possibly have seemed too injurious to a company notoriously customer-oriented, and relentless in the pursuit of its objectives.

Is it possibly the case that Amazon’s anti-union position was a major factor? The unions were in negotiation with them and seemed to think they were making progress just a day before the pull-out.

I think Amazon’s sudden withdrawal from their New York deal teaches us two things. Firstly I think it suggests that Amazon probably doesn’t really need a second headquarters. They have said that they won’t be looking to replace the Long Island City establishment in any of the other cities that submitted bids. So it looks like they may have decided they didn’t really need to spend the money building up a new large establishment: they can just cope with things by beefing up staffing in this or that of their current offices around the country.

The second thing we learn relates to the complacency of politicians. They tend to assume that what looks to them to be self-evidently a good thing, will therefore look to be a good thing to the entire population. But the benefits of any deal need to be spelled out. Just because you, who spend your life immersed in politics, know this is the right thing to do, you cannot assume that all the people find it equally obvious. We saw this problem potentially take down a whole country when Britain’s elites blithely assumed that the economic and historical benefits of membership in the EU, which may indeed be obvious to anyone who has thought about the issue (and who remembers World War II) were obvious to people who’d never really thought about it because all their time is spent making a living and getting by, or watching television, responding to their friends’ posts on Instagram, or even God knows reading books. Just because you’re a politician doesn’t mean everyone is. Politicians surely know that emotion plays a larger role in people’s decision-making than reason. Yet Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio spent more time celebrating a big win, than in explaining the reasons why such a win was important.

Oh well, we’ll get by without an Amazon HQ.

 

Shelf Awareness of 2 January reads:

Hold everything! The flagship McNally Jackson Books location in SoHo in New York City won’t be moving after all, according to Bowery Boogie, which broke the news last October that the store would move this year because of a rent increase.

Bowery Boogie’s report this morning reads in part: “Word on the street is now that the bookstore is to remain at 52 Prince Street. Its home of fourteen years. Several readers relayed word last week that McNally Jackson won’t be moving after all. An employee we spoke to at the store later confirmed.”

Last fall, owner Sarah McNally confirmed that the landlord of the 5,700-square-foot Prince Street store planned to raise the rent to $850,000 from $360,000. She indicated that she was close to signing a lease on a comparable space nearby that the store would move to this year.

McNally opened the Prince Street store in 2004 as McNally Robinson, part of the Canadian chain that her parents founded. In 2008, the store became independent and was renamed McNally Jackson.

McNally Jackson has several other stores. Last year, a second McNally Jackson bookstore opened in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. McNally Jackson also has two Goods for the Study stores, one near the SoHo bookstore and the other in Greenwich Village. And last August, Hudson Group announced that it will open a bookstore with McNally Jackson in LaGuardia Airport’s new Terminal B.

Photo: Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

Obviously welcome news; McNally Jackson is a great bookstore. They were the first NYC bookstore to have an Espresso Book Machine,* which may be less of a plus than we all once hoped it would be. But the bit of the announcement that gets me is that reference to the rent. $850,000! An increase of 236%. On a building that’s there, relatively modern, not by all appearances requiring any extra special maintenance. Just owned by someone who thinks they are entitled to more money. Presumably the new rent has been negotiated to some level between these two numbers: Sarah McNally herself described $360,000 as below market rate. But what a market: just because some clothing chain will pay more, why does that have to mean landlords should get as much as they want? As I have argued before we need to extend rent control from private apartments to essential business premises.

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* Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but the main use of the Espresso seems to have become self-publishers printing out copies of their own books. I haven’t asked, but I suspect the function I foresaw in my 2011 post, — printing up a copy of a book that was out of stock at McNally Jackson — is less common than I’d hoped.

Well, I’m not sure this is a battle they can win, but, as Shelf Awareness of 20 December tells us:

“The Golden Notebook, Woodstock, N.Y.*, has an answer for ‘showrooming,’ the habit of some bookstore customers to learn about books at bookstores and then order them online on their phones, sometimes in front of booksellers who just made the recommendation. Last weekend’s experience at the Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., was a timely reminder of this.

At the Golden Notebook, a sign on the front door reads, ‘Please inquire at counter regarding in-store photography. Thank you!’ As a result, wrote co-owner James Conrad, ‘we have no issue approaching a customer photographing and saying “excuse me, we do not allow in-store photography.” We then attempt a teaching conversation about how we struggle against the internet and how hard we work to find the unique and sometimes extremely hard to find types of titles that reflect our unique community and customers. Usually people are extremely apologetic and sometimes they just say nothing because we basically told them we know exactly what they were doing.

‘The sign also gives people the chance to just ask at the counter first and when they say they have a blog and want to promote us or live far away and can’t carry the hardcover home we say go ahead and photograph! (Just make sure to use an independent bookstore when you get home!)’

Conrad added: ‘Without the sign, you seem rude to mention it, but with it you can have a more polite moment to tell people the importance of small businesses and the struggles we face.'”

Now of course I don’t approve of selecting your books in your local bookstore and then buying them at a discount from Amazon, but while I’m sure a “no photography” sign helps, it can’t ever cure the problem. Once upon a time we didn’t all carry a camera around with us all the time, yet we were able, using that subversive technique called memory, or its lame-brained cousin hand-writing, to achieve a similar result. It’s not the cell phones which cause the problem, it’s the fact that on-line retailers can afford to (need to) use discounts to attract custom. Either we have to accept the fact that a proportion of the customers moving through will end up buying elsewhere at the lowest on-line price, or take up arms against the pathology, and offer discounts too. The discount doesn’t have to match Amazon’s, just something, so that people can feel they’ve negotiated a deal. Better to have more traffic than to miss sales surely. Some kind of straight-forward appeal on the subject next to the check-out counter might encourage many buyers to pay the full price: after all, people do buy books from bookstores at full price, and they must by now all be people who are fully aware of the fact that they could get the thing for less elsewhere.

Here comes a story from Vox (via BookRiot) suggesting that social media have in some cases been good for bookstores. Just reinforces the point that it’s people not technology that make the issue (and can overcome it).

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* An employee at The Golden Notebook is one of 333 individual booksellers to receive a Christmas bonus of $750 from 2018’s top-earning author James Patterson.

Mike Shatzkin wants us to remember that the growth in the number of independent bookstores which we see today is in fact stage two of a longer process. His piece at The Shazkin Files tells us of Ingram’s involvement in the 60s and 70s in creating an efficient, numbers-driven book market, which enabled bookstores to get stock a bit more smoothly. Would this have been enough to cause a renaissance? I wasn’t there, so I just leave that as a question.

All this comparative stuff seems a little pointless without recourse to numbers, and numbers are hard to come by. Open Education Database was telling us in 2011 that there were then more bookstores in America than in 1931, when there were apparently about 4,000. But what constitutes a bookshop rather than a place selling books is rarely defined. Department stores used to sell lots of books. Macy’s opened their first book department 1902. The final one shut down in 1994. Would they be included in the 4,000? Membership of the American Booksellers Association might give some comparative guidance but the earliest year for which Wikipedia tells us their membership numbers is 1991 when there were 5,200 members. Publishers Weekly told us in 2016 that there were then “1,775 ABA members with 2,311 outlets”. In any case membership numbers for the ABA include only stores that have decided to pay membership dues: we constantly run up against the same problem with publishers and the Association of American Publishers. Heck, it’s almost impossible to discover how many bookshops there are in New York City. I wonder if that man who’s just made a film about walking every block in the city could tell?  (There’s a trailer at that Gothamist link.) The answer’s almost certainly, No, even if he had walked with this burning question in the front of his mind. After all is a drugstore selling a few puzzle books a bookstore?

Selling books to people who want to read them is really what we all want. Once upon a time you had to harness up the horse and go into town. Cars brought about malls. Now we have other options. While we all value bookshops as a browsing spot and serendipity stimulant, we can’t really claim that they are, as they used to be, the only way to obtain reading material. Counting bookstores now seems like a pretty pointless exercise when almost half of all printed books are sold by Amazon, and around 80% of ebooks. The Shatzkin Files provide some recent numbers.* With a dominant competitor taking up all the sunlight, obviously independent bookstores have to flourish on specialization, local loyalty, personal connection, knowledgeable selection. All the indications thus far are that this is a gratifyingly viable strategy.

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* As so often the tone of the discussion is armageddon-flavored. For example “Legacy publishing below the Big Five is suffering more, seeing their market share increase at Amazon even faster than the major houses are.” How is it such a bad thing that Amazon is selling a higher proportion of the books published by these houses? They are selling them, aren’t they? A sale is a good thing. Bad would be a situation where Amazon wasn’t willing to sell books from smaller publishers and as a result the books didn’t get sold at all. Sure there’s a discount issue, but while publishers can bitch about that we can of course manage it. Somehow Amazon represents such a fundamental change to some people that they cannot resist the Pavlovian response which makes them witter on about the end of the world as they know (and love) it. Relax: it’s just another way to sell books. Ever bought music, shoes, jeans, electric lights, even a television, a car! on-line?

Market Watch reveals that Barnes & Noble’s list of suggested gifts for this Christmas includes only one book. Odd for what we think of as a large chain bookseller, but perhaps not altogether out of line with the preferences of the general public. The list is:

Gifts of “Comfort”:

  •  Black and White Houndstooth Long Reading Socks.
  •  Grey Heather Long Reading Socks.
  •  Black Heather Short Reading Socks.
  •  Grey and White Houndstooth Short Reading Socks.
  •  Flannel Seattle Puff Floppy Hat with Pom Pom.
  •  Flannel Seattle Puff Mittens.
  •  LapGear Designer Tablet Pillow – Plaid.
  •  Lilac Ash Seattle Puff Mittens.
  •  Lilac Ash Seattle Puff Snood.

Gifts of a “Magnolia Home”:

  •  “Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave,” by Joanna Gaines.
  •  Magnolia Home Gather Mini Tin.
  •  Magnolia Home Love Diffuser.

Gifts of “Creativity”:

  •  Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Camera Holiday Bundle.
  •  Original Buddha Board.

Gifts of “Festivity”:

  •  Blue Tote with Book Tree.
  •  Green Tote with Metallic Birch Trees.
  •  White Tote with Cardinals.
  •  White Tote with Snowman.

Gifts of “Tech”:

  •  Google Home Mini.
  •  Google Mini Mickey Mouse Speaker Mount.

Before we get too scandalized we should reflect on the fact that this single book represents an increase in book content over last year’s list.

I am aghast to note that though I count myself as a big reader I don’t own a single pair of reading socks, of any color! How have I been managing? NYRB’s Reader’s Catalog also offers socks, somewhat more literary in fact, but not pushed as reading socks. Are they missing a marketing opportunity?

On the other hand, let it also be said in fairness to Barnes & Noble that a few minutes of dedicated noodling around their website has failed to discover this list. There are just too many gift lists, chock full of boring old books, getting in the way. Here’s a page of 108 gift lists to ease your holiday gift giving choices. Those reading socks may be located in “Cozy Gifts” if any of you think that reading socks will up your literary throughput. Furthermore B&N’s commitment to books can be shown by their discounting 100 of them by 50% as reported by BookRiot, who pick up on Publishers Weekly.

Also, let it be said, we commentators constantly urge bookstores to widen their offerings to include items with wider margins and it really doesn’t behoove us to turn around and mock them about the results. Sorry B&N.

And let it further be said that it does seem B&N’s stock has rallied a bit recently, partly it’s true as a consequence of sale rumors. (That possible purchaser cold-shouldered by Mr Parneros, is said to have been in fact British chain W. H. Smith.)

Shelf Awareness reports on possible consolidation in the book wholesaling world. Apparently the FTC is mulling over the possibility of the purchase of Baker & Taylor by Ingram.

Reaction from the world of independent bookselling is predictably nervous. And rich in wishful thinking. “It is also intriguing to see how Barnes & Noble will find their future in relation to this topic”, Hiroshi Sogo, director of Books Kinokuniya, quoted at Shelf Awareness on 5 December, speculates. “As commonly known, the Barnes and the Folletts families were originally working together in Chicago before William Barnes moved to New York and tied up with G. C. Noble to set up the B&N business. In a way, it may be seen as a reunion of the parties after a hundred years or so.” (I for one didn’t know that.)

I’d imagine B&N has enough on its plate right now without worrying about preserving diversity in the wholesale business. Still, vertical integration is often an attractive option, and they do already publish books, so why not wholesale them too? They already have a network of warehouses around the country which would be an asset for a wholesaler. We’ve become so used to agonizing about Barnes & Noble’s future that a surprise like this might be seized upon as really good news.

Via Book Business Magazine we receive this tale of woe originating at The Bookseller.

Peter Donaldson, managing director of Red Lion Books in Colchester, relates

“A few days ago, a customer approached our counter. She had in her hand the just published, new edition of that wonderful reference work Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Endlessly fascinating, it is an idiosyncratic treasure trove of word history, culture, folk lore and legend—and one of my favourite books. At £45, the price was more than our customer was expecting. I encouraged her saying that running to 1,600 pages it’s a monster of a book and one that will be used time and time again. For the right person it will become a loved friend in the bookshelf for a lifetime. Looked at in those terms, the £45 seems less daunting; more an investment and lifetime resource.

However, it seems a less worthwhile investment when The Book People and Amazon are selling it for £12.99.

I am well aware that since the demise of the Net Book Agreement every retailer can set their own prices for all books. I also recognise that, like supermarkets, some retailers of books might sometimes choose to sell at an unrealistic price as a “loss leader”. However, we also all know that there is some relationship between the discount a publisher gives and the price that a company can realistically sell at.

I think it is clear that selling a new book at over 70% discount (plus free postage on a heavy book) is way beyond normal discounting of new titles and one can only presume that the publisher, Hachette’s John Murray, has given a discount which enables this. If so, then surely it is short-sighted. It undermines sales through high street shops, which are under enough pressure anyway. Shops that support and sell across the range of John Murray’s books.

If you consider the publisher’s earned income from a title across different market sectors, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that, in reality, high street bookshops are subsidising the discounts given to online and direct-to-consumer operations like The Book People.

We and our customers are treated as mugs.

Brewer’s might be a relatively recent addition to the list, but I believe at least six generations of John Murrays will be turning in their graves!”

Now of course he’s right, isn’t he? Not necessarily I fear. The whole tale seems a little odd. As far as I can see, John Murray doesn’t in fact publish an edition of Brewer — though several other publishers do. It’s one of these popular reference books which has largely migrated to the special markets/promotional/remainder-table market, and all sorts of publishers compete for the lowest denominator buck. No doubt Mr Donaldson is referring to the Chambers 20th Edition of the book which was published on 1 November this year at £45 in hardback. (Chambers is also part of Hodder & Stoughton, which in turn is part of Hachette — acquisitions make for messy structures, so who knows whether Red Lion Books may not be ordering their Chambers books from the Murray rep?)

The Book People do indeed have a Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable for £18 but it’s a paperback of the 19th Edition, also listed as coming from Hodder & Stoughton. Amazon UK offers this edition at £13.93, while they do indeed show an offering of Mr Donaldson’s £45 hardback for £12.99. However if you drill down to the next level you’ll find that all the copies Amazon UK is offering are from partner sites, book dealers, and while there is indeed one copy offered at £12.99 most of them are over £30. Indeed one intrepid seller in Germany is trying to tempt you with a price of £51.09 (these odd looking prices on Amazon are usually translations from a different currency). It almost looks like Amazon hasn’t ordered this edition at all. Chambers published it a month ago, so it can’t be a matter of the books not having arrived yet. Maybe Amazon have decided that the market for Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is just too capricious to play in, and have decided just to leave it to the remainder-table market.*

One can sympathize with Mr Donaldson, clearly a fan of the book. A well-stocked bookstore should no doubt represent this book.  Maybe in addition to his £45 copy he might buy for 1 penny a “good” used copy of the 1981 edition as a discounted alternative.

The problem appears not to be with Chambers’ or Hodder & Stoughton’s discounting policies, and certainly not with John Murray’s. The problem is the modernization of the book market, enabling people to access books “slightly used” or allegedly “new” at all sorts of prices. Sure things were simpler with the Net Book Agreement. I used to like it when the telephone was tied to the wall, and you didn’t have to remember to take it with you, but now we just have to play along.

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* This explanation becomes rather less probable when one finds Amazon US offering the £45 book, as a regular Amazon-stocked item. They show their discounted price of $37.39 as being reduced from a published price of $59.95, consistent with a £45 UK price. This entry is just what one would expect from any regular book stocked by Amazon. It is a bit odd too though. Amazon lists publication date as 5 March 2019. The ISBN they show is the same ISBN as Chambers is using in the USA. The publisher who they say will be supplying this book in March next year is Teach Yourself, yet another imprint of Hodder & Stoughton.

However, as of today, you can buy a new copy of this book from Amazon US but you can’t get one from Amazon UK, where you can only get it from a partner dealer. Can it just be that Amazon UK is out of stock temporarily? If they cannot supply a book, Amazon will take down the publisher’s information leaving only any partner offerings there may be. If this is the correct explanation, it’ll be interesting to see what price they ask when/if it comes back into stock. However the book is currently available for instance from Waterstones at £45, and from W. H. Smith at (sorry Mr Donaldson) £29.25. Brave new world that has such discounts in it!

Websites with cultural aspirations (must include Making Book I suppose) love to reproduce photos of nice-looking book places.

Here’s a showing of bookshops and libraries in Scotland, followed by a library photo gallery from The Atlantic. Fascinatingly they both feature a phone box converted into a library from different ends of the UK. One wonders how people are meant to access the shelves in this Seoul library.

Photo: Aaron Choi/ Shutterstock

Even just to dust the books, if as I suspect, they’re only there for display.