Saturday, August 12, 2006

Saturday Superstore

David Byrne

Ex Talking Head David Byrne has a great website. He compiles a monthly playlist that you can listen to on his site or at iTunes. And it just gets better and better every month. This month is a list of artists from his old record label. Last month was Standards and before that Electronica, country music, Cuban oldies and many more. Perfect saturday afternoon listening.

Prizes and Lists

A commenter invited us a few posts back to compile what we thought would be a 15 title Booker Long list. There are a few reasons why we're not.

a) Personally, I'm not much of a list-maker. I must be one of the few men I know who have never alphabetised their record collection or library and I'm not much of a one for top 10's, 50 greatest, 100 countdown either. I've never really liked shelving too as I'm sure Matthew and Marie will have noticed - I kind of like 'ordered randomness', whatever that means.

b) I'm just not sure how you can turn literature into a hierarchy. Of course I believe in good and bad but every good book is so different from the next you can only discuss them on their own merits. You can compare and contrast but to place them in order seems somehow Romantic as opposed to Enlightened. I'm the latter, mostly.

c) At places like Waterstones it is imperative for them to have the same books front of house at every store. It doesn't make commercial sense for us to have the same 15 titles at the front of our shop as you see in Waterstones and the others. We'll look at the list, see what we like and stock what we think will be complimentary to our selection.

And d) We could run a C&P alternative Booker prize. It might be a bit of a laugh but I just don't think our customers would really care. Also see a) and b) above. The longlist is primarily a sales boost for Publishers much in the same way Valentine's Day is for card people. That's fine, everyone wants to make a bit of money but I think our punters expect a little more from us by now.

I might get into trouble for this

I read on Susan Hill's blog that she would never want to run a second hand bookshop. I too am having increasing difficulties with this part of the trade. Primarily any book sold from a secondhand shop or from the Amazon market place or Ebay that is still In Print means the author doesn't receive a royalty from that sale. That seems unfair. Considering authors make so little money anyway it seems really unfair. Maybe if 2nd hand dealers paid a kind of Author Tax so funds could be distributed to authors then maybe...

So, maybe secondhand places are good for Out of Print stuff. Unfortunately, for me this just points out the paucity of our libraries. If, when you are finished with a book and you don't want to keep it and it is out of print shouldn't there be a national network of libraries where that book can find a home and live on being borrowed? And shouldn't Out of Print stuff just be put on the Internet? Sorry, dodgy ground here.

Antiquarian? Again libraries. Oh dear, I don't really want to put second hand book dealers out of business. Honest.

But also, we get quite a few customers who are dedicated 2nd hand buyers. They ask us if we only sell new books and then leave in a cloud of contempt when we say yes. Sorry people but for a book to be second-hand someone has to have bought it new at sometime! You need us!

Last two books sold

Both to young twenty-something regulars. Madame Bovary to the very attractive woman and Philosophy Principles and Problems by Roger Scruton to the scruffy student bloke. Neither seemed to quibble at paying the cover price. Makes me come over all elitist and snobby. This is a good thing.

A message for Jonathan

We got the Banksy book in. Put it in the window. Of course it sold immediately. Mea Culpa Jon. Mea Culpa Matthew


  1. I actually quite like the Booker. I tend to disagree massively with its choices but for me that's part of the fun. Getting into a big old barney about the idiocy of the judges and how they could have picked so much better. I'm still having arguments with people over last year's, and now I've got a whole new list to get into a tizz about. Yes it's money in the publishers' pockets, but it's also a way to get people talking about books, and that has to be a good thing. So if you want to discuss the Booker longlist with someone at C&P, give the boys a wide berth and come chat to me.

  2. Ok, if you want to run your own Booker Section and Marie's alternative prize for the next 3 months it's over to you. We'll even give you a budget and everything.

  3. I am a sage.

    In that case you may want to keep a pencil and a piece of paper handy when you're reading the Independent tomorrow.

  4. Sorry Jonathan I don't take the Independent on Sunday. Tell us, how big is your article?

  5. Probably just as well, I'm not sure your blood pressure could take it.

    It's a list.

  6. Re booker We (actually I)are specialists secondhand booksellers (sorry ...they do still exist) Our speciality is modern fiction in general and Booker Prize 9and OK Man Booker prize if we must)I started this business in 1994 and still going the comment is that there are booksellers and customers who will buy winners ,shortlist and even longlist since it started being made available to us. Whatever the negative cooments may be each year it istill is the list that gives the widest overview of modern literary fiction.(Discuss)

  7. Adam - regarding your comment about an "Author Tax" on second hand sales I am in complete agreement with you. You will be interested to know that Elaine Petrocelli the proprietor of BookPassage a wonderful bookshop in Corte Madera, California (just north of SanFran) did just that (about ten years ago) when she opened a 2nd hand shop adjacent to her "new" books books shop. Author's receive a slice of her action, which is not inconsiderable. (Tobias)

  8. I am a retired university lecturer. I would be very pleased if I got a small royalty every time one of my students used something they had learned from me. I am sure that your plumber would like a royalty every time you use his handiwork.

    No, I don't think authors deserve a cut of second-hand book sales. I think the whole royalty/copyright system should be overhauled, but not in the direction of locking up more information for longer.

  9. As with most "Young Turk" soundbites Adam fails to understand the "used" bookmarket.

    The largest sellers of secondhand books in the UK are the charity shops. Since charity shops already have mandatory 80% business rate relief which is paid by central government funds (i.e. the taxpayer) does he imagine that the charities will be willing and or able to accept into any scheme imposing royalties on their book stock ?

    As for Amazon Marketplace and eBay listings of "used" books ; many of these are in fact new copies being sold by both mega-listers and small traders. Author royalties would be paid on such sales, albeit probably at a lower rate which is determined by the average nett wholesale price. True there are people selling review copies on Amazon, but there the problem lays with the distribution of review copies and the failure to clearly stamp them as review copies not for sale.

    It is the revenue which Amazon gets from its third party sellers on Marketplace which gives AZ liquidity : a monthly listing fee, 15% commission and a cut of the shipping charge.

    Perhaps it is unethical to sell new as used, but there are price-listing requirements which impose this avenue on the Marketplace listers. I would add at this point that despite trading books internationally I have never listed on Amazon.

    Any idea that bookshops which deal in secondhand books are anything less than an important service to the booktrade is a serious error of judgement. It is the secondhand bookshops which keep author's names and works in front of the public at a time when publishers no longer have the demand from the new bookshops to keep such titles on their backlist. Over the years many publishers have directed customers for OOP copies to "secondhand" bookshops

    Many secondhand bookshops would not have the slightest interest in shelving most titles which have been published in the last fifteen years : in many instances bookshops nowadays just trade books (new, secondhand, or publishers "ends") - and the operative word is trade.

  10. Isn't the whole idea of "used" books just that, they are used and have therefore been sold already and authors have been paid royalties.

    Why should authors be paid again? This defies the whole object of being paid an advance surely?

  11. Your customers are not interested in The Booker Prize?

    Interesting target market there in Waterloo, perhaps you should open a second branch in Bluewater where I am sure the prize has equal footing sales wise.

    I take it you would never be a judge if you were asked then?

  12. Annonymous - where did Adam say our customers are not interested in the Booker Prize? He says HE isn't.

    The first comment is from Marie who works at the shop and says she DOES like the prize!

    As for second-hand books I would happily sell them at C & P alongside new books - but there is a second-hand bookshop over the road. Would not want to step on their toes.

    There are a variety of opinions at C & P as you would find out were you to visit the shop...

    Oh and Clive - thanks for the words of wisdom!

  13. We need a disclaimer on this site, don't we: "Not only do the opinions expressed here by individual staff members not reflect the opinions of the shop as a whole, we spend hours arguing about them when we're not blogging. And the Booker prize rocks. No it doesn't. Yes it does..."

  14. If your customers are interested in The Booker then perhaps you should cater for them.

    Is that not how a good business works?

  15. Hello M...

    Please sign me up to your business course right away!

    As a general rule people shop at places they like. We are doing fine thanks so obviously plenty of people like the lively atmosphere we have created down the loo...

  16. Matthew, secondhand bookdealers are generally quite happy to see other commercial sellers opening in the area : the greater variety, the more reason for casual and trade customers to visit. It is not the same as neighbouring new bookshops which are often trying to sell the same range. (Some dealers, myself included, are less than happy at the manner in which charity shops taking advantage of 80% business rate relief, free trade waste collection etc., have aggressively moved into secondhand bookselling ; however, that is all another matter.)

  17. I don't understand
    You don't understand
    He, she or it doesn't understand

    We don't understand
    You don't understand
    They don't understand

  18. New conjugation:

    The Blog doesn't understand

  19. Hear that? That's the sound of me steering well clear.

  20. Congratulations Booker judges you have left the really Big names out (for once) except for the marvellous Peter Carey and the wonderful Sarah Waters (ok my partner told Sarah just how much she hated The night Watch at the South Bank Centre event in Feb.but they did kiss and make up afterwards,I have the photo taken from the signing queue to prove it) LMS books feels that the short list will include Carey, Waters, Edric,Matar and Unsworth or maybe Messud (is she really eligible ??US born etc ...)List provided after earnest discussion with some of our main customers who like us have fabulous Booker collections from Newby onwards...oh and re. Remainder, well when the readers need it due to its cult status and because it is really rather good ,we do have plenty of Signed copies still.what do C & P bloggers think of the cult of Signed copies of current authors incidentally . Roll on September and short list day .....

  21. PS to our Booker deliberations M.J.Hyland to win (despite the dustwrapper) just remember the Guardian`s comment on her first novel .....this is now a writer dipelling the myth of the difficult second novel !

  22. Someone tell me more about this idea of authors getting money for second hand sales. Sounds like a scheme for full employment. So my office at No. 10 is interested. I volunteer to monitor Lionel Shriver sales in North Wales(ex-Kevin)!

  23. The Cult of signed copies is a weird one...

    I used to work at the Pan Bookshop where they probably have more authors coming in to sign than anywhere else in London.

    I met all sorts of writers there and have lots of signed copies.

    My faves are a copy of The Corrections signed by Franzen with "He bled for the cause" next to a blob of my blood. (I had a paper cut that bled over several copies)

    I alos have a signed first of The Life of Pi with a dedication and drawing by Martel.

    But what does it mean? I'm never going to sell them. What does having a signed copy proove? It's a weird one.

    These days I am utterly indifferent.

    We might have Zadie Smith in to read but will I ask her to sign a book for me? No. Why? Dunno.

    I say again - what difference does a signed book make?

  24. Hi. As a sometime collector I have wondered about signed books. I guess either the book is just a way of presenting some often rather accomplished word sequences or there is more than that and it has other merit as an object. The design going into a book and the fact that it is a hardback first edition with jacket etc are all just making the object? Some signatures are actually quite attractive or at any rate distinctive (Zadie Smith is one!), Ishiguro, Keneally (with his little faces). What with jackets and all they become right little pieces of art.

  25. A signed book has INCREASED VALUE - IF AND ONLY IF , THE BOOK is a first printing of a first edition book - if you strike lucky that book may provide a nice contribution to your pension plan - think wise! think clever - think signed FIRST EDITION, FIRST PRINTING BOOKS!!!

  26. I used to work with a lady who was collecting signed firsts for her pension.

    She was probably the weirdest person I have ever met - though also extremely nice.

    The trouble I have with signed books and collecting in general is that it all depends on the PERCEIVED value of the object.

    Take e-bay. There is almost always someone out there willing to part with cash for stuff you consider to be junk.

    A signed book is going to be worth more to someone if they like the author. But trying to buy signed first for your pension is probably harder than playing the stock market. Besides they have to be kept in very very good condition. One flood or blast of sunlight and your collection is worthless.

    I would "think wise and clever" by saving my money in some other way...

    Saving my money? What am I talking about!