Progress: it’s not just the title of a Take That album

I’ve been feeling a bit lacklustre of late; a bit down, a bit dubious about my future, a bit self-critical and a bit confused.

However at least I feel as though my documentary project is starting to come together. Today I ‘bagged’ my third interview with an independent bookseller (I’m aiming to get at least 10) in Falmouth: Bookmark. I got guilt-tripped into buying a book in the process – can’t afford to do that every time. It’s ok though, I’d wanted to buy a Daphne du Maurier novel anyway. Honest. I saw the preview of The Scapegoat at the Du Maurier fest in May and thought, I really should read some Du Maurier; I’ve never even read Rebecca, and I call myself a lit graduate.

Turns out

  1. Natasha, owner of Bookmark, actually has a radio slot on The Source, where she talks about exactly what my documentary is going to discuss (that’s discuss, not investigate as I so stupidly put in my project proposal) and
  2. she told me she’s ‘very passionate’ about the topic and could talk about it for ages.


This bodes well for my doco; I’m hoping to get some good quotes from her. She immediately struck me as a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of person. She is very direct, in person and over the phone. So, I need to make sure I’ve got good, no-nonsense questions. She also reinforced what I already suspected having done some research on my chosen subject – that independent business run book stores reflect their owners and not the public – more about that later. Whether this applies only to second-hand bookshops I will soon discover.


The day before I had also popped into a book store in Truro – Pydar Mews Books. Turns out it’s owned by the kookiest/coolest bookshop owner you could possibly imagine. I ended up having a right old natter with him and his employee about all sorts of inappropriate things, which was most enjoyable. It was nice to bond with an interviewee and bypass the awkwardness of asking someone you’ve never met before to do you a favour, for nothing in return.

Bonus – I was stated as being the youngest person in the room until I informed them both that I was 23, whereupon his employee said he thought I was only 18.

Other bonus – completely non-book related – the blonde bonneted employee turned out to be the manager of a band called The Watchmen who are just about to be signed if my memory serves me correctly. So I’m hoping to wangle an interview with them, or at least to film them in some form or another.

Other other bonus – guy who happened to be in the shop at the time, who knows the owner Adam, is something of a novice writer and has written a poem about technology taking over (which links into Kindles ect) and offered for me to use it in my radio piece.

I walked into that shop at the right time.

Adam seems like the kind of person I could easily become friends with; he’s very approachable and friendly, yet also incredibly candid and self-deprecating (both qualities I like) and cited myself as being direct, which I am when with like minded people. Hence our discussion of edit suite sex. Don’t ask.

Almost forgot to mention, he was very camp. I liked him a lot.

Natasha has the passion and blunt approach that I think will make her a good interviewee, but with Adam I have the rapport. Combined I think I’ve got a good couple of interviews.

I hope so anyway….


The Experience

I’ve been doing a lot of research for my documentary project ‘the decline in bookstores’ and was intrigued by Philip Jones’s article stating:

“subsidies cannot, and should not, save independent shops… owners and publishers have to make them unique places to visit.”

unique places to visit..

Part of the selling point of Waterstones is the integrated Costa and the small number of comfy chairs that are dotted around its stores. WHSmiths in Truro used to have one comfy chair in it that was always occupied. One of the highlights of going round the shops when I was a kid (aside from playing with the train set in the Early Learning Centre) was sitting in book shops and looking through all the Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson books. Even more so when the weather was gloomy.

There’s something so satisfying about sitting on a comfortable chair in a warm room with a book in your hand listening to the rain pour down outside.

Myself, mother and brothers would spend up to an hour, waiting for my rogue father to return from the record shops, looking at books. We’d never buy any because we didn’t have the money, but we’d browse and that was better than nothing. I had a soft spot for poetry. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Gez Walsh’s The Spot on my Bum. Those are both books I’ll be reading to the children/grand children.

It made me think; Philip Jones has a point. Why is it, do you think, that Starbucks is so popular?

It’s comfortable. It’s warm. It’s light. It’s inviting. It has soft furnishings and big, heavy mugs that heat your cold hands up in the winter. It’s welcoming.

This is what a book shop should be like. Ever since online shopping came along we lost the need to go out. If you wanted a book, you used to have to go out and buy it. Book shops didn’t need to invite you in, apart from to keep up with competition on the high street. Now the competition is digital. It’s so easy to buy books elsewhere it strikes me that shops need to do something more to keep customers coming to their stores. They need to remind people of why bookstores are so great.

We need to get back to the physical.

We’ve lost the experience. Shopping has become instantaenous thanks to the internet. Sure you have to wait for your product to be delivered, but it means you needn’t leave the house. With prices cheaper online and in supermarkets people will ditch book stores for quicker and cheaper alternatives. Popular titles now sit beside the milk and tiger loaf in your trolley.

It’s just not the same.
We need to reintegrate the idea that book stores are worth spending our free time in. They’re warm, carpeted, wood-panelled havens that smell of paper back novels and sometimes coffee (twice the nasal satisfaction).

I’m probably biased (by probably I mean definitely); not everybody likes books. But for me, in my dream home, I gots me one of theeeeese.

[I fantasise about wooden step ladders on wheels]

Click like for this being, probably, my shortest blog post ever.

Paperback or plasticback?


It’s a period that’s been looming ever closer since the wistful (and let’s be honest , not that greatly missed) rolling news days and now it’s finally here. Presentations are in a weeks time – ARRGGGHH – and I need to buck up my ideas and come up with a 10 minute visual and verbal display of what I plan to achieve over the next couple of months and how I plan on doing it.

Radio or TV?

So far it’s been pretty easy, mostly because I haven’t done anything. I decided pretty quickly what I wanted to do my project on and Chazza B liked it. SHOCKER. Normally the hardest thing for me, being incredibly indecisive, is choosing what to do (or buy, or eat, or wear). However I have um’ed and arr’ed and see sawed my way over the last few weeks between whether to do my final project as a TV or Radio documentary. Eventually I came to the decision (with the help of Tim Hubbard) to go back to my original plan and do radio.

Now comes the research stages. I’ve taken drastic measures and set my home page to The Bookseller (not even kidding) and have begun tweeting and emailing people that I hope to interview. It’s already become clear that getting people to talk to me isn’t going to be easy. Slightly worrying…

Oh yeah, haven’t actually mentioned what I’m doing it on yet. The Decline in Bookstores. Three cheers for cultural creativity!

Something I have noticed since reading up the background on my chosen topic is that sales in books aren’t down – people are reading more than ever. This shouldn’t be confused with the fact that independent book stores are closing down; the market is thriving, but it has changed. People are consuming commodities in different ways – mammoth retailers HMV and GAME have suffered similarly because of it. The internet/technology/electronic devices are changing the way we buy.

I’m traditional.

I love reading books. I love the smell, I love looking at the spine and seeing how far you’ve got into the story, I love reading them in the bath, I love turning the pages in fast paced thrillers knowing there’s going to be something explosive on the other side, I love borrowing them off people and lending them. I love the simplicity. I love that I don’t have to switch it on to use it.

However I can see why people like Kindles. Personally they’re not for me – but they’re a force to be reckoned with and something which cannot be ignored.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a news conference in front of a graphic showing the rise in sales of Kindle books (Picture: Reuters)

An estimated one in 40 UK adults received a Kindle for Christmas, with John Lewis saying that at one point they were selling a Kindle every 30 seconds.

Brigid Macleod, sales and marketing director at Granta Books, said the Publishing Association’s Statistics Yearbook figures confirm that ‘a sharp decline in sales of physical fiction titles has been almost entirely accounted for by sales of ebooks.’ *

But it’s not just the Kindle.

Online retailers like Amazon and supermarket giants Tesco and ASDA are the main contributers to the downfall of bookstores, and not just your independent ones. Waterstones have closed down branches in the UK and discontinued their ongoing 3 for 2 offer on popular titles. ASDA was famously slammed in 2007 when they released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for under £9; almost half the R.R.P. I know this because I’d just started working there.

Bookstores cannot compete.

 So what does the future hold? Are specialist shops going to continue their downward spiral as more people switch to mp3s and ebooks and buy online? What can book shop owners do in light of the recent Kindle fever?

Well folks, this is what I’ll be asking in my doco . I’ll be taking you with me on my journey of enlightenment, through the passages of time and the delights of public transport and technicalities of JVC cameras and interviewing techniques.

At least I’ve got one thing sorted; my first music clip for my documentary. The Beatles seem ubiquitous in my life at the moment.

Of course it’s not just the UK that’s suffering. Bookstores are in decline in the US too. Check out this overtly American news package for Fox TV. Seriously.. you watch things like this and realise how completely different the Americans are from the Brits. You don’t want to miss the 10 second interview with 13 year old brace wearing Keeaarstan Campbell, trust me.