Monday, January 11, 2010

The pace of life at a good bookshop

Delicious/terrifying detail of my buying Berryman's The Dream Songs from the legendary Scarthin Books: the book was in the new poetry section (as opposed to second-hand), but a little dusty and grubby-looking. The man on the till noticed this (unprompted – I'd thought it myself but didn't mention it) and checked – yes, it was definitely down in the stock list as a new book, but he knocked £2 off the cover price. Smashing.

Later as I was reading the book, I found tucked inside the back cover the little distributor's sales slip that came with the book when it was first ordered. Which was in late 1992. So it was indeed a 'new' book – it's just that it had lain on the shelf for just over seventeen years before somebody bought it.

It's almost incomprehensible. The week the book came in and they put it on the shelf (slightly ahead of the book's official publication date in early 1993), I may well have been in the shop browsing, a few months before I did my GCSEs. But I didn't buy it then, even if I saw it. Nobody did. If it was Waterstone's, at some point they would have taken it off the shelves and returned it or fed it to the giant rabbits or whatever it is they do (there sure as hell aren't any copies of The Dream Songs hanging around the shelves of the Sheffield Orchard Square branch – I looked). That might have seemed the smart commercial decision; it probably was. But if they'd done that, it wouldn't have been there, waiting patiently, when I arrived nearly two decades later. Good books are a slow business.

The more I think about it, the more grateful I am that such things can happen. I wish I'd refused the discount.


Blogger Andrew Shields said...

Go back and buy another book from them! :-)

8:58 AM  
Blogger Matt Merritt said...

I was passing through Cromford a week or so back to go and do a feature at Carsington Water, and planned on stopping for a browse at Scarthin on the way home, but it was snowing hard by the time I did and I had to skip it. Must go back sometime soon - absolutely great bookshop.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Tony Williams said...

Andrew – I will!

Matt – it certainly is. I see from their website that they've been hit horribly by the snow (sales dropping to a tiny fraction of what's usual), so do go back when you're passing!

9:53 AM  
Blogger Bill Herbert said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Bill Herbert said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Bill Herbert said...

How all bookshops should be run:

Black Books

None of this selling books for profit baloney, Mr Bones.

12:39 PM  
Blogger martine said...

Thank you for sharing, what a wonderful story.
much love Martine

2:24 PM  

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