Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (c/o Christopher Fowler’s blog)

This Week's Fish Wrap (№26)

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.


Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Want to Buy a Book Store Right Now?

Good question… erm… because they’re cheap at the moment…? Granted, so are video rental stores, especially the ones with Betamax® tapes as part of their collections… erm…

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (c/o Christopher Fowler’s blog)
Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (c/​o Christopher Fowler’s blog)

Oddly, there’s a number of retailers in the middle of exchanging current for new owners. For every shop such as Vancouver’s Ardea Books & Art, formed by the laid-​​off staff of multi-​​generational shop Duthie’s Books [The Georgia Straight; “Farewell, Ardea Books & Art”], there are others in the marketplace who are large enough that the publishers and wholesalers will work with the management to find new money so that the closing of the chain doesn’t lead to wide-​​spread unemployment and shuttering of businesses up and down the production ladder. Yes, as the old saw goes, “money talks”, and the more you have involved the more attentive the ear of those with their finger on the button (to mix one’s metaphor to the point of muddling the thing to death).

Chapters USA and Barnes & Noble in America, Australian bookshop chains Borders and Angus & Robertson, and Waterstone’s in the UK are all either looking for buyers or are in final negotiations with one. Either the new owners are getting the businesses at ground-​​floor prices, or they’re the biggest suckers to ever come down the pike; there’s a slim line betwixt those two, as well.

The funny thing is, whenever you bring-​​up the closing of a bookstore – any bookstore – the universal response is one of dismay; the end of an era; yet another step toward the End Times has been taken; it is another sign of the Fall of Civilization. However, if you live in North America or anywhere in the UK other than Metropolitan London, let me ask you this: when was the last time you bought a book from a bookstore. No, not an on-​​line retailer, or even the on-​​line version of a brick-​​and-​​mortar retailer, but when was the last time you walked into a bookstore and purchased a book before leaving? Be honest now.

The advancement of /​ .ca /​ /​ .de /​ .fr /​ .jp,, and even have somehow created a disc9onnection in the mind of the people with the normal manner that they acquire their reading materials. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a ‘bad thing’, or is merely a ‘new thing’ as the way anything is purchased has changed over the centuries of business-​​based exchange. It’s no good bemoaning the evolutionary change in buying patterns if people are not only reading more – because they are – but are discovering a more diverse selection of authors simply due to changing their method of purchasing books. Likewise, it’s pointless to decry the closing of bookshops if your last visit to one was during the Presidency of George Bush, Sr.

Admittedly, Atomic Fez books are available right here, so it’s possible to argue that I’m part of the problem. However, when the number of actual shops you can walk into in the world and locate a copy of one of those book actually sitting on a shelf numbers a grand total of zero*, one can hardly consider oneself the principle reason for the town highstreet becoming a non-​​stop panorama of coffee houses and fast-​​food outlets, can one?

Meanwhile, the on-​​line ordering of books from shops can’t be helping the postal system of Canada any. The postal system of this country is suffering rotating strike action, with most people shrugging and saying “nearly all of my mail is bills – except for the ones I get on-​​line – so who cares?”

All of this leaves me with a feeling that is mixture of frustration, bitterness, sadness, and general confusion. Anyone have an answers to this…? Anyone…? Anyone…?


VANCOUVER EVENT: Learn to Pitch Your Thing to the Media (from ACTUAL! MEDIA! DUDE!)

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m the organizer of this event, as well as subsequent monthly meetings of The Shebeen Club, which aims to be Vancouver’s version of the Algonquin Round Table.

Mr. Stephen Quinn
Mr. Stephen Quinn

Whatever you have to pitch to the media for coverage — your band’s new record, your new publishing company, the fact you won a big shiny award — it’s not always easy to attract their attention. While different media outlets and platforms have their idiosyncrasies, there are general rules and techniques that always work (and not necessarily include tucking a bottle of whisky into the package, although that does help). Come to the June Meeting of “The Shebeen Club” and learn or re-​​learn the rules, share your own tips about successful pitches, and generally sharpen your pitching techniques.

SPECIAL VANCOUVER MEDIA GUEST: Globe & Mail columnist and the host of CBC Radio One’s On the Coast: Stephen Quinn!

Additional fun includes hearing “Bad Pitch Horror Stories”: Pitches from Bitches! Don’t miss this evening’s zany hilarity!


Interview with Publisher / Proprietor Now On-Line!

We’re done! For those of you who missed it, head TO THIS PAGE and listen to the interview on Blog Talk Radio with Wayne Herlbert. Go to the page linked to above and click the little button on the player to start the babble. Or, if you’re into that sort of thing and would rather download it and play it as a podcast, HERE’S A LINK FOR THAT.


* any shop in the UK will happily order in a copy of anything you happen to know about; although given they don’t have any copies there in the shiop it’s beyond me how you would have found out about the things without coming here in the first place, frankly [BACK]

2 thoughts on “This Week's Fish Wrap (№26)

  1. I have this insane dream of opening a bookshop. I even have two potential locations in my head — one more concrete than the other — and one Dream Location somewhere in Quebec City, despite the whole “not speaking French” thing. But damned if I’m brave enough to take the leap.

    I’d totally stock your books, though.

    1. WHAT?! Are you insane? Not only would some of that be contrary to laws in the Province of Québec, it would…

      Oh, hang on: did you say you would stock my books? Never mind then.

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