Machynlleth, an ancient market town in Mid-Wales, supports 4 bookshops: Dyfi Valley Bookshop (used and antiquarian books), Coch-y-Bonddu Books (angling, game shooting, sporting dogs and falconry), the newly opened Literary Cat Books, and Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop — opened by Diane Bailey and Geoff Young ten years ago, not “so that we can make a lot of money” but “because books are important.” These independent booksellers specialize in “books that we are happy to have on the shelves, books that mean something to us” especially photography, politics, Welsh writers (in Welsh or English) and interesting fiction. The shop is just a few doors from the MOMA Machynlleth art gallery with which they have close links, and they write a regular photography feature for the O’r Pedwar Gwynt literary newspaper. I spoke with them shortly after they had re-opened for browsing.
Anne Brichto and Derek Addyman opened Addyman Books in 1986, Murder and Mayhem in 1997, and in 2003 the Addyman Annex. All three stores are within walking distance of each other in the book town of Hay-on-Wye. The stores specialize in collectable and antiquarian detective fiction, science fiction, classic paperbacks, modern First editions, children’s books, as well as fiction and poetry. In addition to the three shops, Addyman Books sells regularly online, and Anne has maintained a popular #Bookstagram blog for several years. Anne lives upstairs in the original Addyman Books building. She spoke to me in May about the impact of the pandemic on their bookstores.
I recently carried out some research into independent bookshops in Scotland. This research builds on my ongoing interest into books, bookshops and authors, which emerged from working in Waterstone’s for many years and then doing a PhD on bookshops and bookselling culture. While my previous research had tended to focus on chain bookshops, I became interested in exploring the role of independents (Indies) as I feel, despite the many economic challenges they face, they seem to have a growing relevance and presence in the bookselling arena, and perhaps more importantly, are tied inextricably to our growing cultural interest in all things artisan, individual and unique. This is evidenced by the growth of book festivals in Scotland, and the distinctive consumption experience that so many people are now looking for.
Lección Inaugural de la Maestría en Estudios Editoriales (tercera cohorte)
A cargo de: Jean Yves Mollier Doctor en Literatura Francesa y en Letras y Ciencias Humanas por la Universidad de París I Doctor Honoris Causa por la Universidad de Lausana Profesor emérito de la Universidad de Versalles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
La Maestría en Estudios Editoriales del Instituto Caro y Cuervo se complace en invitar a la Lección inaugural de su tercera cohorte (2020-2022), que estará a cargo del profesor Jean-Yves Mollier (Roanne, 1947), uno de los más destacados investigadores de la historia del libro y la edición contemporánea. Autor de libros como Michel et Calmann Lévy ou la naissance de l’édition moderne (1836-1891) (1984), L’Argent et les Lettres. Histoire du capitalisme d‘édition. 1880-1920 (1989), Louis Hachette (1800-1864). Le fondateur d‘un empire (1999), La lecture et ses publics à l’époque contemporaine. Essais d‘histoire culturelle (2001), traducido al español en 2013, o Edition, presse et pouvoir en France au XXe siècle (2008), el profesor Mollier ha sido también un notable dinamizador del campo de los estudios editoriales en su más amplia acepción, aportando al estudio histórico de las revistas, la cultura mediática, las colecciones editoriales, y el comercio de librería. En torno a este último tema, fue responsable de la compilación Le Commerce de la librairie en France au XIXe siècle. 1789-1914 (1997) y actualmente tiene en prensa una Histoire de la librairie, obra que promete ser el primer gran panorama histórico sobre las librerías y sus innumerables mutaciones espaciales y temporales.
My first visit to a bookshop was an occasion which I can still remember, and it set a pattern for a love of books which has lasted all my life. I grew up in Ely, Cambridgeshire, a small cathedral city in the Cambridgeshire fens. Back in 1980 Ely had only one bookshop, Bennett’s. It was a fabulous place, crammed with books, and to 9 year old me it seemed enormous. It’s not there now – a tea-room occupies the building – and it’s a building which looks so tiny it’s a wonder it could of been a bookshop at all. But to me, it was a place to explore with my mum and lose myself in.
The Reboot workshop on bookselling is the third hosted by Wischenbart Consulting (more here on the earlier workshops). It was attended by 40 delegates from around the world (Argentina, German, Greece, India, Slovenia, Mexico, Portugal, UK and US) bringing together an interesting cross-section of booksellers, publishers and data service providers, featuring some large chains, some small indies, with a diverse range of operations. The topics for discussion were how book retailers had been able to adapt during the covid-19 pandemic and strategies for recovery.
Kieron Smith is a professional bookseller with over 20 years book trade experience, including WHSmith Retail, establishing the Ottakars.co.uk website in 1999, heading up the web offering at Bertelsmann’s Book Clubs in the UK and operations at Methven’s Booksellers, followed by three years outside the industry at Europe’s leading video games website GAME.co.uk. Head of online for Waterstone’s in 2006-7 and then MD of international bookseller The Book Depository (now an Amazon company) for five years. He joined the UK’s leading Academic and Professional Bookseller, Blackwell’s, as Digital Director in 2015. Kieron is also a published author, his book The Politics of Down Syndrome (Zero Books) published in 2011.
How did the way you conduct business change due to the impact of the virus?
The Pandemic posed a number of challenges for Blackwell’s, we offer many services; for example we have High Street and campus shops, we have business to business (& institutional sales) a significant online presence – in addition to selling new, second-hand and rare books. Some of our ‘routes to market’ were significantly impeded – campus sales for example, but others came to the fore with Blackwells.co.uk and business to institutional sales (we are a supplier to the NHS for example) becoming central during lockdown.
Working in Bookselling Interview Series
Bill Samuel and Trevor Goul-Wheeker have, between them, run some of Britain’s biggest bookshops, and so we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to find out more about their careers in the industry. Bill was Vice Chairman of his family’s business Foyles bookshop for twenty years until the company was sold in 2018. In that time, he was involved in other projects such as the creation of the Emirates Literature Festival held in Dubai. He now has a place on the board of the BA and is chair of Batch. His wife Vivienne has always worked in the book trade, too, which is how they met.
Trevor, after working in the chemicals and biochemicals industries as a B2B marketeer, became managing director of Hammick’s bookshops in 1994, becoming non-executive director of books at W.H. Smith in 2003, and was chairman of Blackwell’s for ten years until 2019. He served on the council of the BA for nine years and received two British Book Awards for Marketing and Services to Bookselling. In 2012, Trevor was appointed Chair of the Business School Advisory Board at the University of Greenwich, who generously awarded him with an Honorary MBA in 2015.
We asked Bill and Trevor the same questions about their longstanding careers and their responses give a fascinating glimpse into their views on bookselling, what they love about the trade and the advice they would give to booksellers out on the shopfloor of today.
It is now 90 days since lockdown began in Wales, and I am still wishing I had stopped at my local bookstore on my way home the day before it happened.
This exile from the space of the bookstore has developed my appreciation for the experience offered by that counter-space where commerce and culture agree a tenuous pact of co-existence. This balancing act happens within an identifiable physical location, within borders defined by the walls of the room, the limits of the market stall, or the edges of the book table. Within that defined space, that cultural / commercial balance creates a meaningful location, a normalcy specific to that space–a type of commercial and a cultural identity that may not exist beyond its bounds. Such meaningful locations exist in more than just bookstores, of course. Churches, hospitals, ancient monuments, the local garden centre, the town recycling centre–all of these spaces define a normalcy that dissipates as one moves away from them.