Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Diary of a Bookseller

Shaun Bythell purchased The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, in November 2001. From February 2014 the author decided to keep a diary for the year about life working in a second-hand bookshop. At the beginning of each month Shaun Bythell includes a line or paragraph from Bookshop Memories written by George Orwell in 1936. He then elaborates on Orwell's comments relating them to experiences in The Bookshop.

Shaun Bythell comments (makes observations) about his staff, customers, people wanting to get rid of book collections and Kindle which he dislikes intensely. Throughout the book there are interesting observations about the current state of publishing, viability of bookshops such as his and the inroads being made via the digitisation of books. He is definitely not impressed with people who spend time in the shop examining his stock then leave without purchasing any items. He is well aware that they are going to look for a similar item online. On one occasion he also make an 'observation' about librarians.

Wigtown is renowned for its bookshops. Currently there are 14 bookshops in this small town and the owners work together as the Association of Wigtown Booksellers.  The Wigtown Book Festival is held in September each year and Shaun Bythell describes his involvement in this annual event.The Wigtown Spring Festival is also held in May. Having just read the novel, The Red Coast, where many of the characters are involved in organising the Broom Literary Festival, it was interesting to read about the work involved in organising an actual book festival.

The author is not always polite about some of the characters who enter the shop but he defends himself by saying that he is just 'making observations'. Many of the observations are amusing and this work does provide a description of the state of the book trade today. For those interested in physical books, this work is well worth reading.

Bookshop Memories in Collected Essays volume 3 by George Orwell (Adelaide University ebooks).
[Librarians will recognise and sympathise with some of Orwell's observations.]

Wigtown Book Town

The Bookshop also has a page on Facebook

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