I used to call our local bookshop a Pork Chop when I was little. ‘Mum, are we going to the Pork Chop?’ a small, toddler-Mike would say. Of course, the pork chop in question isn’t there anymore. None of them are there anymore.
We’re all to blame, and now look what we’ve done. Physical shops are now the domain of the second-hand world. Who would buy a new novel in a bookshop? You get it on Amazon and get one for your Kindle while you’re at it. It’s progress and convenience but there are always victims.
The good news is that independent bookshops don’t have to pretend to be high street, multi-national organisations anymore. They don’t have to only stock the bestsellers of the week and pretend to be all clean and polished. Instead, they can spend their time becoming mystical places which hold wisdom and treasure. They can peddle dreams and take your hand as you explore far off worlds.
Every perfect shop, in my eyes, should be like the fancy dress shop in Mr Benn, although even that one could’ve done with a bit more thought on decor. To tell you the truth, when I was little, I was a boy (I bet you never saw that coming) and I hated bookshops. Boring. I never wanted to go to the bookshop, or the bloody pork chop, I wanted to run into walls and climb poles. But… if the shops were mystical and promised me adventure then I would’ve been pulling the Jane Fonda wristband of my Mum’s wrist to get there.
It surprises me that bookshops, which hold so much of other people’s imagination, don’t use a bit themselves. Books are the most romantic thing left on the high street and yet we buy them like we’re buying trainers. Now is the time for bookshops to change there outlook.
They’re not stuck between business models anymore, they don’t have to pretend to be something they’re not, they just have to concentrate now on becoming magical. For Christ’s sake, what have you got to lose, how much money do you make selling second-hand books each week?
As a reader, I guess my habits are fairly typical. I buy most books on Amazon and occasionally go into a major chain bookshop on the high street if I’m passing. That’s it. No wonder the independents have now either disappeared or stuck selling second-hand and ‘collector’ items. But… if they became an experience then I’d make an effort to go there. I’d buy presents there. I’d drink coffee there and I’d write there. I’d enrich my life there. I’d do all the things that you just can’t do when you’re flicking through Amazon. This is their niche but instead they’ve just become crusty old shops which have as much imagination as a non-fiction book.
Anyway, the reason I’m ranting about bookshops is that from today my books will be available in a local bookshop. It’s quite exciting actually, to know that my books will be on a physical shelf in a pork chop. It’s a dream come true and I may celebrate by climbing a pole.
Until next time…