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Home » Blogs, Inside Publishing - Rebecca Lee


Submitted by admin on May 28, 2010 – 2:06 pmNo Comment

by Rebecca Lee

When you can buy books from aisle 2 of your weekly supermarket sweep, why bother going into a bookshop? Or why can’t you just go on Amazon?

A regime change at Waterstones is planning to bring us back into our bookshops, enticed by better service. They’re decentralizing from Waterstones HQ, putting trust back in their store managers to run local shops individually, rather than buying range centrally and rolling it out across the country.

The Telegraph reported this saying customers missed their local bookshops and “the regionally-tailored, customer-friendly, mildly eccentric services and books they offered” The ‘mildly eccentric’ caught my eye. Do customers really want a bit of bonkers with their books?

I love my job in publishing partly because I work with such talented and fun people. Yes, they’re often idiosyncratic, shall we say, and tend to be less than straight-laced, but do I like them because they’re a bit mad?

I’m not sure they are mad, but, like Waterstones’ and other booksellers, they are working in an industry where they wear their personal taste on their sleeves at all times. To be able to recommend a book to a customer, or to convince your publishing team to sign up a book you’ve fallen in love with, you have to be highly attuned to and articulate about your personal opinions at all times. It is this openness and honesty about one’s inner thoughts and feelings that can come across as eccentricity.

Books are a direct line into the author’s mind. People who like books are interested in the world around them and the other people in it, and how they think. Readers are attracted to better understanding themselves and others through a narrative, and, in an admittedly solitary, internal way, ultimately reading is about sharing ideas.

So the people who choose to work with books are choosing to work with ideas. I guess that’s a bit unconventional, and possibly eccentric, but I don’t think it’s actually that unusual or restricted to booksellers. It’s why literary festivals are such a success –people like getting to meet and hang out with other people who like ideas, and stories. In their thousands: the big literary festivals attract over 100,000 visitors each, each year. And that’s just ordinary readers, not publishing professionals.

We might be eccentric, but so are you. And I for one think that can only be a good thing.

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