I’ve always loved reading, and have never not had a ‘book on the go’. I also like writing them too. I can pinpoint the moment that I became a writer to my ninth birthday when my Grandpa gave me a toy theatre he had made, and I started turning the stories I had written into plays that I would put on for my family on Sunday afternoons. Before then though, I had still always been creative, with an (some might say over-) active imagination for stories.
No Saturday morning trip to town was, for me, complete without a trip to the local library or the local bookshop. I remember devouring the children’s library bare of books, and our bookshop was the the local WHSmith’s in the days when they did have proper book departments. A treat would be to go to Cambridge where I could lose myself in the (now sadly closed) Heffers Children’s Bookshop. Bookshops, have always been a place where you could find new books by authors you loved, or discover brilliant new authors you’d never heard of before. There’s something special about bookshops when it comes to discovering and falling in love with books and stories.
Now though, I’m not just a Reader, and a Writer but an author of the Indie breed. As such, I am, unapologetically in bed with Amazon. I would counter this to say that whilst I am in bed with Amazon and my debut novel The End Of All Worlds, it really is a marriage of convenience. For me telling a story and a good book is where it’s at, and if that means that to get new books out there that some publishing company have deemed “not to be for them” you have to go an Indie route that involves eBooks and multi-national conglomerates, then that’s the bed that I’m going to have to lie in.
I get less of a royalty but my book is opened out to a wider enough distribution as possible (I still get as much or more than I would per copy than a traditional publishing deal), and this means that, should they want to, your chain or your local independent bookshop can order copies. Why wouldn’t I do that? Why would I want to exclude real bookshops from being able to stick my book?
Amazon is convenient, sometimes all too convenient, but you can’t beat a proper bookshop. Just the other week I was on holiday in the New Forest and I wanted to get myself a copy of Susan Cooper’s new book Ghost Hawk. I want to the brilliant Fordingbridge Bookshop on the release date but they didn’t have it. As I was going home the next day I thought I’ll order it from Amazon… it turned out they couldn’t despatch it for 7-10 days…. at 3pm I phoned Fordingbridge Books back and ordered it. By lunchtime three following day I had it in my hands. Now that’s service.
If books are your bag, you should check out the manifesto that Fordingbridge Books have written for their website as to why books are important. I agree pretty much with all of it…
Yes, books are used as a sign of our taste / education / bias and are placed on show for those we allow into our house to see (something much more convoluted and less subtle to do with your e-reader of choice) but they are also objects we can loan and share with others. Being able to share a book you’ve loved with someone as instantly as handing them your heavily leafed copy rather than directing them to an Internet link. It is for this reason (and many others) that bookshops are still relevant and even essential.
So yes, Amazon has opened up the world of publication to me, but they are not the end of the story. I’m not sure that eBooks and online shops would ever inspire songs like this:
…or prompt people to spend however many hours making this:
I’m also not sure where you could put one of these if you are reading on your eReader? Come and see me at Blackwell’s Oxford’s Books Are My Bag party tomorrow, Saturday 14 September to get one for yourself…