While I was helping steward for the inaugural Crickhowell Literary Festival in the first fortnight of October unbeknownst to me the 2015 campaign for Books are My Bag was being launched simultaneously — perhaps not a total coincidence.
#BAMB is, in the initiative’s own words, “a nationwide campaign to celebrate bookshops”, a collaboration between publishers, bookshops and authors to promote these once ubiquitous outlets. “56% of all book buying decisions are made by consumers in a bookshop,” we’re told, but — like so much these days — we must remember to use it or else lose it.
So, why buy books in your local bookshop?
The campaign helpfully lists eight reasons:
You love books
This goes without saying, doesn’t it? You certainly won’t be needing eight reasons why you should love books, will you?
You may be about to make a purchase you’ll value for the rest of your life
I value most of the items on my bookshelves, whatever the source, but many of the ones I keep, re-read or frequently refer to were from a high street bookshop. I’m sure I’m not the only person to be often able to recall when and where I acquired a particular book.
You’ll be shopping on your local high street
That is, if your high street still has a bookshop, of course. Luckily we have a house on the High Street, and a few doors down is … a bookshop! (The clue’s in the name: Book-ish!)
You’ll be helping create local jobs
Ain’t that a fact. Not just locals but also visitors and tourists ensure that, by buying locally rather than by mail order or online, not just the owner (if it’s an independent, as ours is) but also the assistants stand to gain employment-wise from the existence of just such an outlet.
You might just find a book you never knew existed
Bookshops are great for browsing in. Imaginative and innovative displays draw the visitor’s attention to a variety of works, and not just currently promoted bestsellers: they might be by local authors, or be about local interest matters. And our local bookshop cunningly shelves fiction titles randomly, encouraging potential purchasers to necessarily discover new titles for themselves rather than merely searching for authors alphabetically or heading for their customary genre section.
You’ll find great gifts for friends and family
Good booksellers usually sell items closely related to books, don’t they, some stationery, cards and gift-wrapping for example. They can function as an all-in-one stop when it comes for that special occasion or when a thank-you gesture is required. When our granddaughters arrive for a visit you can guess where they’re sent to spend their birthday monies!
You can talk to real people about books they know and love
Some national book chains — I’m thinking of Waterstone’s in the UK — have enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, don’t they, not always the case in shops where books are just one commodity among many others and where the staff are only there to process a product at the point of sale.
You’ll be part of your local book-loving community
Now that’s indubitably so. Customers of our local bookshop attend book clubs, use the local library, help out at the literary festival, go to creative writing classes, chatter about the latest TV or film adaptation, even scour the shelves of the local charity shops (where so many ‘pre-loved’ books often end up, to hopefully be loved yet again).
Now, like puppies or other pets, books aren’t just for Christmas, they can be for life. But, since Christmas is coming you may be interested in Books Are My Bag’s next initiative. UK residents may ruefully remember that recently imported transatlantic institution, Black Friday. Why this promotional discounting frenzy on the Friday after US holiday Thanksgiving Day should be aped by UK retailers eludes me, not least because America would have just celebrated being released from British shackles; ironic then that Britain should itself be shackled by a commercial con-trick instituted by its former colony.
Enough of this rant, which isn’t at all in keeping with Civilised Saturday. What’s this? Of course, a way to calmly go about pre-Christmas shopping in search of books, gifts and good conversation at your local bookshop. Another commercial trick on the back of Black Friday, maybe, but altogether much more to my taste. And maybe yours.