Sitting Pretty on a Shelf in a Bookshop

The recent trend towards eBooks in the world of literature is a fast-growing phenomenon that is spreading across the global landscape the way butter melts on hot toast. And readers are loving it. They can carry a whole library of books with them, whether it’s in a kindle, kobo or ipad.

That’s technology for you.

Call me old-fashioned if you must, but I still savour the touch and feel of an actual book – made of pages – constructed from paper, and full of a unique magic.

To wander round  a branch of Waterstones (UK) and see the array of books available to buy is like entering a palace of prose. But, ultimately, as far as Waterstones is concerned, books are business, and their shops are dominated by celebrity biographies and cookery books. Although, it must be said, they stock a wide range of titles, and their staff are knowledgeable.

Smaller, independent shops such as the Bookcase in Lowdham (Nottingham, UK) specialise in local books, and have a wonderful, cosy atmosphere, and it’s there that customers can purchase Sliding on the Snow Stone, my debut historical memoir:

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82 thoughts on “Sitting Pretty on a Shelf in a Bookshop

  1. They can call us both old-fashioned, if they like. I shall ever adore the feel of a physical book in hand.
    Congratulations on having your own work up on a shelf like a proper big shot. (:

    1. Jane and Jo at the Bookcase have been really encouraging, as have many others. Ebooks are the in-thing right now, and that’s great, but ‘old technology’ still breathes, and big shots prefer actual books, I reckon, just like many others.

  2. While I understand the appeal of eBooks (and am glad they’re getting people to read!), like you I still prefer actual books I can hold and place on my bookcase. I love looking at them. I love flipping the pages. I’ve never been to the Bookcase, but next time I’m in the UK, i’ll surely check it out!

  3. I straddle the line between old-fashioned and new: I think e-publishing offers freedom that traditional publishing isn’t at this point in time, but if I didn’t love physical books, I wouldn’t currently be learning how to make them! One of the things I love most about e-pub is that it is forcing print books to justify themselves, which often leads to more elegant, beautiful books.

    1. Hi Jessica, e-books, as you say, have cemented their place in the world of literature, and offer tremendous choices for both reader and writer. But, I guess I just like browsing in bookshops. But it’s also great to see the market developing in so many new ways, with fresh horizons coming into view.

  4. I worked in librarianship for nearly 30 years. In part, I was drawn to that field by my love of books. Yeah, REAL books … with paper and print and bindings. Cyberspace definitely controls nearly everything these days, but I’ll always treasure my wonderful books.

    1. I know just what you mean, Jeff. Ebooks feel more disposable, whereas paperbacks/hardbacks are more substantial and solid. Mind you, lots of them end up in charity shops, but even then I reckon that’s a marker of success

    1. Thanks. I must take a look next time I’m over that way. Geoff Blore’s in Nottingham is a second-hand labyrinth – a truly wonderful shop with books piled wall to wall, and up to the ceiling. A browser’s paradise.

  5. Agree. I’ll read ebooks if they’re “throwaway” books, paperbacks that I know I’ll read once, but if it’s a book I’ll read over and over again, I want the whole experience. It’s the same with letters. Email is great, but I miss writing paper letters to people.

    1. Hmmm. Good point, and a little sad, because I’ve just realised I rarely write letters to people. The modern reliance on email has devoured the writing of letters, and I think that’s a shame, as you say. It’s just that emails are so convenient, and exist as a record.

  6. So many kindred spirits! I’m really enjoying the whole ebook thing, but I agree, there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands. When I’m published (notice the ‘when’, not ‘if’ – I’m stupidly optimistic), I want to smell the paper, rifle the pages and put the book on a shelf for all to admire.

  7. Congratulations, I’m sure it feels good to see your name and book in the window. :)
    Let me speak for the “other side”, I mean e-books. I respect other people’s desire to hold and touch real paper books. I do. My wife is absolutely like that.
    However, I run out of space for paper books. I read from age of six, when I learned to read. Since then I love good stories, and gathered a big private library. Most of the books are in boxes in the basement of my parent’s house.
    I live and work abroad (in Belgium), and I go to my home country once or twice a year. For me it is easier to buy an e-book online in my mother tongue. I also read in English a lot, and the most easy way to get English books is to go to Amazon and buy them by one click.
    I went to Waterstones last week, and browsed for a while. I just realized that I miss the reviews. I decide what to buy based on the reviews given by readers. It is convenient when I’m checking books online. But there were none at Waterstones.
    Oh, did I mention that I save money buying e-books? Usually they are cheaper than traditional ones, plus, there is no shipping cost.
    My opinion is that everyone has his/her own preference. Mine is the e-book. And I don’t want to turn you from paper books, at all.

    1. Great analysis, Gyula. And a very persuasive argument in favour of eBooks. Thanks for that. It’s great to get a broad range of views. I keep intending to buy a kindle or a kobo or whatever, but I’ve still got a pile of paperbacks to get through, and I seem to keep acquiring them. For those on the move, such as yourself, there is no doubt the ereader is a valuable device.

  8. I’m completely with you on an emotional level but e-book readers are so handy. All those books in this tiny piece of hardware; and I can read one handed without an awkward balancing act or breaking my wrist – cool!

    But emotionally there is no substitute for seeing your book in print and, wow, how good must it make you feel to walk past that shop and see your poster in the window, congratulations!

    1. Thanks Sally. And I see where you’re coming from, but doesn’t it mean you’ve got to carry a bit of hardware around with you at all times? Also, in a sense it devlaues the reading experience in some ways, because you can read a couple of pages while waiting for a bus, and I know you could do this with a paperback too, but reading a book usually means getting comfortable at the end of the day, in an armchair or in bed and concentrating on reading – much more of a bonding process. Although I do know of one writer who reads while knitting!
      I still plan to get an ereader, because I understand you can proof read your own work on them, and they have a range of other features. Which one is best?

  9. Go for one with e-ink display, that one gives the reading experience like paper pages. I have a Kindle, and I love it. And indeed you can proofread your manuscript.

  10. You can shop only on Amazon, directly from the kindle. If you buy e-books from another source, usually you have the choice of format. For example from Smashwords you can downlod the e-book in 4-5 file format, according to your reader. in case there is no prc or mobi available (like Barnes & Noble gives you epub) you need to convert it. It is easy, there are softwares for that.

    As a writer I like Amazon’s free service that you can send your word or pdf document to a dedicated e-mail address, and it arrives to your device in a few minutes converted to e-book format.

  11. Which would I treasure more, selling 50,000 e-copies of a book, or seeing it on a physical shelf, with a promotional poster in the window, of a bricks-and-mortar bookstore?

    Let me do both and I’ll get back to you. :)

    What’s Night Publishing like to work with?

    1. Hmm. A new angle. Thanks for that, Jeffrey. Of course, I was hoping the poster in the window would boost sales, and really don’t mind whether the sales are eBooks or paperbacks. Night publishing are great to work with, BTW!

  12. I love your post, and was just thinking the other night how I would love to have a small bookstore with cafe…there is a children’s book out and I love the cover – Magical Mischief by Anna Dale – it is what I where I would love to be…your photo reminds me of this. Quite inviting!

  13. Sigh. Sounds like a wonderful spot to visit. I love small book stores that have been around a while – unfortunately with the internet and big box retailers, small book stores are becoming rare. Such great adventures in book stores – alway something to discover ( why let other people determine what you read by their opinions in their reviews?)
    I can understand e books – if you don’t plan to keep them. But what happens when your e reader breaks or technology moves on? does your collection disappear? Maybe some don’t want the “clutter” ( and e readers are great for travel) but some books deserve to sit around and be revisited at leisure – just the feel of the pages and covers enhance the experience.
    Great post.

  14. OK, here I am a true ebook fan who has no sentimental love of the ‘real’ thing. Throughout my life I have bought books, in case I want to read them again. Very rarely have I had the time to do so. I still have shelves full of books that I have never read. Real books collect dust and make me sneeze. My ebook reader has 100 books that go everywhere with me. From new to classics, there at my fingertips for whatever mood I am in. Unlike some of you who like browsing around book shops, the sight of all those books on shelves makes me wonder why anyone would want to buy my book. With shops like ‘The Works’ stacked with books at 2 for £5 I shudder at the waste of paper, print and resources that have created these throwaway books.

  15. On a slightly different note ebooks have been my saviour. Without them I would never have been published. As it is, since Kindle arrived in the UK I have sold close on 100,000 of my ebooks during the last eight months. Consequently – and from perhaps a slightly jaundiced viewpoint – I couldn’t care less if I saw another paperback as long as I live. And Waterstones – who refused to stock any of the books I have self-published in paperback – can go fuck themselves.

    Terry Ravenscroft

  16. I’ll keep it quick, I love my Kindle and it’s probably the best present I’ve ever had. I’ve decided to approach this so, I’ll buy a book to download and if it really impresses me, then I’ll get it in paper.
    I still go for paper but my Kindle is really turning me to the dark side because it’s so damn COOL !! ^^
    BTW Andy, I’m just about to start your “Sliding on Snow Stone”. Review to follow and it’ll be a STINKER mate ;-)

  17. Congrats on your book Andy. Hope it catches fire. I’m admittedly and hopelessly inconsistent. I like what independent bookstores add to my community, but really like the convenience of buying, reading, and storing e-books.

  18. “Palace of prose” Love it. Love the photo. If I lived across the ocean near you instead of Cincinnati, Ohio in the USA, I would run to that bookstore today. Congratulations on your book!
    Dauna Easley

  19. Agree completely! There’s something special about tossing a book in my purse, shifting it over to the nightstand, setting it on the bookshelf. Your post made me think of the “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Books are magic! E-books…eh?

    1. Well, it seems like people still like ‘real’ books – old technology, but it’s important to recognise the contributuion to a rounded reading experience that ebooks can offer. I still plan to get an ereader. But, even when I do, I’ll still read books, always will.

  20. While I love my Kindle I miss the touch and smell of a book. I do miss the feeling of accomplishment when I turn that last page and just hold the book pondering unanswered questions and replay my favorite parts of the story in my head.

  21. I’m wrestling with that — loving the feel of a book vs. having the convenience of carrying around All The Books Ever (Ok, Not Ever But Still A Lot) in one handy (too-handy?) vehicle. As my reading has slowed to scary-slow proportions, I’m starting to think the convenience of the vehicle might help me get back to my 2 books a week pace. Or at least a book a month. Or at least a book… ever.

  22. I used to be really against the Kindle…until I attempted to lug around a Harry Potter book in the voting lines a while back. It was ridiculous. I still have my old books and love them, but I have a lot of them on my Kindle. I even have a Bible, a dictionary, and a British Slang dictionary on there for reference when I’m writing (must be a pretty odd book to need all three of those things). It is nice to see book stores like the one you discussed still thriving in the UK. Here in the States we have one major book chain left and the mom and pop book stores are still doing good because they resell. But a good deal of the market is switching to e-publishing.

  23. I envy you: our local book store chain (WH Smith) is tiny, the nearest Waterstones is 15 miles away, and I have to travel 30+ miles to find an independent book store.

    I’m a fan of the ebook in terms of convenience, but nothing can beat the scent and touch of a book in my hand, and the sublime pleasure that comes from browsing among the shelves in a book shop :)

    1. Thanks for that, Johanna. I’m coming to the conclusion that both have their place – but there’s still a passion for ‘real’ books, and some commentators may dismiss that as sentimental, but ‘real’ books become part of a physical community such as libraries and bookshops. People come together in such places face-to-face, and I wouldn’t want to lose that.

      1. I feel the same way. My local community has lost four independent book stores in recent years, and our library is under constant threat of closure, as are many others around the country. I don’t want to even think about a world without books.

      2. Agreed. Some communities were struggling enough under the previous government; the new regime is already sounding the death knell for many initiatives that have become vital to the survival of some pockets of society. I dread to think where it will all end

  24. Congrats on publication! Looks like just my kind of book. And I’m glad you covered both formats. I just downloaded the Kindle version to take with me on an upcoming trip to Europe. That’s not my prefered method of reading, but it’s a lot lighter than carrying the paper library with!

  25. I agree, there’s nothing like the touch of real book, the weight in your hand, the smell of the paper and ink, and the handsome binding, so quickly becoming a lost art. But I love my kindle. Does that mean the NYC Public library is no longer the shrine where I worship whenever I’m in town, no. I keep multiple shelves, and rooms lined with the real things. I love books and many are also on my Kindle. There’s room for both, and if I have to buy your book twice? No tragedy.

  26. No electronic device can replace the feel of paper beneath one’s fingers. A wall of books is as beautiful to me as any painting, and full of the promise of good things to come. Great post.

    1. Thanks for that contribution, Naomi. It seems people still like ‘real’ books above all, but strangely, it doesn’t tally with the way ebooks have taken over in terms of sales. Obviously, they’re cheaper and more convenient, but it’s heartening to know there’s still a place for ‘old technology’, and personally I spend far too much time looking at a screen, so any break from that is welcome.

  27. I haven’t gotten to the electronic reader phase yet and I really can only imagine wanting one for travel. I love not only the feel of a book in my hands and the sensation of touching the paper, I also often like the smell of the paper. There’s no way an electronic device can replace the sensuality of reading a real book– at least for me.

    1. Books, made of paper, have been around for a very long time, and I hope they are here to stay – the sensory exeprience of flipping paper pages is hard to capture, but it’s a wonderful thing, that much is true.

  28. Absolutely agreed – and I’ve found myself in a position where it’s going to be much more practical for me to get an eReader. Nevertheless, everywhere I go, I check out their indy bookstores, and I have a near addictive compulsion to purchase something new from every store I visit.

  29. Fabulous window poster — congrats!!

    I, too, love the feel and heft of an actual book and found that feeling perfectly captured in a video I shared last week….. (http://squirrelcircus.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/for-the-love-of-books/). You’ve probably already seen it elsewhere, but I just discovered it and found it SO moving.

    A friend did loan me her Nook recently because she wanted me to read The Hunger Games, prior to attending the movie with her. The Nook functioned perfectly fine, but it didn’t make me want one.

  30. I’m with you Andy. I Luuurve books. If fact, I’m quite the uncool nerd, completely fascinated with libraries and book stores of any description. They are like churches to me… sacred places of magic where beauty, passion and connection lay all around me. It’s enchanting. I walk in like a new witch entering Hogwarts for the first time! Thanks and many blessings with your book too! xx Hugs, Ariella xx

  31. I don’t know if someone else mentioned it, but one cannot forget the smell of books, especially old books. The muted, golden antique color of the paper, and that whiff of friendly nostalgia that hits your nostrils when you slowly breathe in.

    That’s why I love actual books.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog!

  32. Hi Andy – thanks for dropping into my bottom drawer. I picked up some old who dunnits recently in an Antikvarium in Buda. The spines are crinkly and the paper so old that if you pull at it at all, it comes away in your hand. When reading them, I’m back in the 1940s. I could spend hours in a secondhand bookshop reading the inscriptions alone – To John – come home safely, son. June 1942. So poignant. I look at my books and see how the contents of my shelves track the various stages of my life, my obsessions, my fascinations. What electronic reader could do that?

    1. I know what you mean, Mary. A couple of years ago I was at the annual rally of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britian and for a pound, maybe two, I picked up a couple of battered Ukrainian/English dictionaries (it was a double volume set). Later, on closer inspection I saw they were publsihed by UNRRA, the relief organisation that operated out of the Displaced Persons’ Camps in Germany just after World War 2. So, it feels like a piece of history right there on my bookshelf.

  33. Hi Andy, I love to open a book and bury my face in its pages smelling the scent of the ink and the paper. It is all part of the magic of reading, seeing the words, allowing the scent to mix with your mind to create visions, you float away on a sensory journey. We would be lost without books. They are the first step to our dreams.

    Oh yes, and thank you for visiting my blog. I self published my poetry so it is in print,

  34. Good post Andy.
    I personally haven’t gotten into the e-books – yet. I agree that there is joy and mystery found while meandering the aisles of a book shop. I also believe that those cozy little book stores with their coffee shop corners and comfy couches will never go out of style,,, they survived the television boom anyways…

  35. The British certainly know how to do bookshops. I try to find a new one (new to me..some of them are VERY OLD!) on every trip to the UK. I’ll be there again this summer. I wonder if I can incorporate a visit to Nottingham.

  36. Yes, there’s something special about a bookshop…but generally not a Waterstone’s! Especially as my nearest Waterstone’s seems to be satisfied it’s covered poetry with: the poet laureate (OK, Carol Ann Duffy, but they’ve stocked her because she’s laureate); the previous laureate; children’s poetry; a couple of anthologies; er, that’s it.

    The various electronic devices are a boon, but you tend to read something on the screen fast. Holding and reading a book is more conducive to savouring phrases or musing about something. That’s especially important with poetry.

  37. Hi from the sunny Bahamas Andy!….I totally agree with you. To me, there is nothing like the feel of a good book, especially if I am curled up in the couch along with a good cup of Lipton’s tea. My kids are trying to convince me to buy a Kindle; the closest I’ve come to that is downloading the Ap on my computer….i still don’t use it though :) For me, computers and all closely related gadgets are mentally associated with work so I do not see a Kindle as a tool of relaxation. I like the convenient accessibility of E-books for research, but give me a real book any day for reading pleasure. Long reign the print book!…….all the best!……Kim

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