These days, we've got booksellers in cities, in deserts, and in the middle of a rain forest; we've got travelling bookshops, and bookshops underground. We've got bookshops in barns, in caravans and in converted Victorian railway stations. We've even got booksellers selling books in the middle of a war. Are bookshops still relevant? They certainly are. All bookshops are full of stories, and stories want to be heard.
Books bend space and time. One reason the owners of those aforesaid little rambling, poky secondhand bookshops always seem slightly unearthly is that many of them really are, having strayed into this world after taking a wrong turning in their own bookshops in worlds where it is considered commendable business practice to wear carpet slippers all the time and open your shop only when you feel like it.
With all of their benefits, and there are many, one of the things I regret about e-books is that they have taken away the necessity of trawling foreign bookshops or the shelves of holiday houses to find something to read. I've come across gems and stinkers that way, and both can be fun.
J. K. Rowling
There's something rather wonderful about the fact that Oxford is a very small city that contains most of the cultural and metropolitan facilities you could want, in terms of bookshops, theatre, cinema, conversation. But it's near enough to London to get here in an hour, and it's near enough to huge open spaces without which I would go insane.
The Internet is merely a new means of communication, that's all it is. It serves the purpose of getting information, which it is fantastic at. I mean, I live by the Internet in terms of research and it's incredible - there's nothing that you can't find out about. It's not stopped me going to bookshops but I must say that I don't go into as many because any book I want...
It was amazing to me then, and still is, that so many people who wander into bookshops don't really know what they're after--they only want to look around and hope to see a book that will strike their fancy. And then, being bright enough not to trust the publisher's blurb, they will ask the book clerk the three questions: (1) What is it about? (2) Have you read it? (3) Was it any good?
Mary Ann Shaffer
I think that most people go to bookshops and have no idea what they want to buy. Somehow the books sit there, almost magically willing people to pick them up. The right person for the right book. Its as though they know whose life they need to be a part of, how they can make a difference, how they can teach a lesson, put a smile on a face at just the right time.
There was also something about the smell of bookshops that was strangely comforting to her. She wondered if it was the scent of ink and paper, or the perfume of binding, string, and glue. Maybe it was the scent of knowledge. Information. Thoughts and ideas. Poetry and love. All of it bound into one perfect, calm place.
My husband claims I have an unhealthy obsession with secondhand bookshops. That I spend too much time daydreaming altogether. But either you intrinsically understand the attraction of searching for hidden treasure amongst rows of dusty shelves or you don't; it's a passion, bordering on a spiritual illness, which cannot be explained to the unaffected.
I spent a lot of time at my grandparents in the school holidays, and the only books in the house were a copy of the Bible and Agatha Christie's 'Murder at the Vicarage.' I developed a taste for murder mysteries and then later discovered libraries, second-hand bookshops, and jumble sales.
If I'm feeling desperate, I'll go out image-hunting. I'll go to news agents and stand at the rack flicking through magazines or go to second-hand bookshops. And then, bit by bit, like concrete poetry, I start to realise that I am drawn to particular things, and then I start wondering why that is.
Its intuition that works. Just intuition.""Waterstones was aimed at me. I knew that I wanted, and badly needed in my life, bookshops just like the ones I was creating. I simply assumed that plenty of other people, no doubt of wildly differing demographics, would find once they saw them that they wanted them too. Well - they did.
I didn't go to bookshops to buy. That's a little bourgeois. I went because they were civilized places. It made me happy there were people who sat down and wrote and wrote and wrote and there were other people who devoted their lives to making those words into books. It was lovely. Like standing in the middle of civilization.
I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers-- booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one-- the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it-- along with first dibs on the new books.
Mary Ann Shaffer
I haunted streets, whorehouses, police stations, courtrooms, theater stages, jails, saloons, slums, madhouses, fires, murders, riots, banquet halls and bookshops. I ran everywhere in the city like a fly buzzing in the works of a clock, tasted more than any fit belly could hold, learned not to sleep, and buried myself in a tick-tock of whirling hours that still echo in me.
There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag-and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don't read a book out of its right time for you.
Whenever summer rolls around I begin to realize that I'm a complete and utter book snob. In relation to reading, I have absolutely no guilty pleasures at all. No graphic novels. No murder mysteries. My summer read is really no different from my winter read. I know many bookshops and magazines would have me believe that our summer forays are different, but literature is literature, and unfortunately snobbery is snobbery.
It is, incidentally, a favour that e-books have done for the Good Bookshop: they have made books beautiful again. A few years ago, book covers could be rather drab affairs: the title and the author's name printed over a stock photograph of something Vaguely Relevant. If you wanted to read it, you had to take it as it was. Whereas now, in these new and glorious days when the margins on physical are that little bit higher than on the electrical alternative, publishers produce exquisite bindings. Bookshops haven't been this pretty for at least a century.
The coming of the printing press must have seemed as if it would turn the world upside down in the way it spread and, above all, democratized knowledge. Provide you could pay and read, what was on the shelves in the new bookshops was yours for the taking. The speed with which printing presses and their operators fanned out across Europe is extraordinary. From the single Mainz press of 1457, it took only twenty-three years to establish presses in 110 towns: 50 in Italy, 30 in Germany, 9 in France, 8 in Spain, 8 in Holland, 4 in England, and so on.
James E. Burke
There's a long-standing (50 year old) flame war within the field over whether it's "sci-fi" or "SF".SF has traditionally been looked down on by the literary establishment because, to be honest, much early SF was execrably badly written - but these days the significance of the pigeon hole is fading; we have serious mainstream authors writing stuff that is I-can't-believe-it's-not-SF, and SF authors breaking into the mainstream. If you view them as tags that point to shelves in bricks-and-mortar bookshops, how long are these genre categories going to survive in the age of the internet?
As adults we choose our own reading material. Depending on our moods and needs we might read the newspaper, a blockbuster novel, an academic article, a women's magazine, a comic, a children's book, or the latest book that just about everyone is reading. No one chastises us for our choice. No one says, 'That's too short for you to read.' No one says, 'That's too easy for you, put it back.' No one says 'You couldn't read that if you tried - it's much too difficult.' Yet if we take a peek into classrooms, libraries, and bookshops we will notice that children's choices are often mocked, censured, and denied as valid by idiotic, interfering teachers, librarians, and parents. Choice is a personal matter that changes with experience, changes with mood, and changes with need. We should let it be.
Fairy tales, fantasy, legend and myth... these stories, and their topics, and the symbolism and interpretation of those topics... these things have always held an inexplicable fascination for me, " she writes. "That fascination is at least in part an integral part of my character - I was always the kind of child who was convinced that elves lived in the parks, that trees were animate, and that holes in floorboards housed fairies rather than rodents. You need to know that my parents, unlike those typically found in fairy tales - the wicked stepmothers, the fathers who sold off their own flesh and blood if the need arose - had only the best intentions for their only child. They wanted me to be well educated, well cared for, safe - so rather than entrusting me to the public school system, which has engendered so many ugly urban legends, they sent me to a private school, where, automatically, I was outcast for being a latecomer, for being poor, for being unusual. However, as every cloud does have a silver lining - and every miserable private institution an excellent library - there was some solace to be found, between the carved oak cases, surrounded by the well-lined shelves, among the pages of the heavy antique tomes, within the realms of fantasy. Libraries and bookshops, and indulgent parents, and myriad books housed in a plethora of nooks to hide in when I should have been attending math classes... or cleaning my room... or doing homework... provided me with an alternative to a reality I didn't much like. Ten years ago, you could have seen a number of things in the literary field that just don't seem to exist anymore: valuable antique volumes routinely available on library shelves; privately run bookshops, rather than faceless chains; and one particular little girl who haunted both the latter two institutions. In either, you could have seen some variation upon a scene played out so often that it almost became an archetype: A little girl, contorted, with her legs twisted beneath her, shoulders hunched to bring her long nose closer to the pages that she peruses. Her eyes are glued to the pages, rapt with interest. Within them, she finds the kingdoms of Myth. Their borders stand unguarded, and any who would venture past them are free to stay and occupy themselves as they would.
I have always lusted after a sepia-toned library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a sliding ladder. I fantasie about Tennessee Williams' types of evenings involving rum on the porch. I long for balmy slightly sleepless nights with nothing but the whoosh of a wooden ceiling fan to keep me company, and the joy of finding the cool spot on the bed. I would while away my days jotting down my thoughts in a battered leather-bound notebook, which would have been given to me by some former lover. My scribbling would form the basis of a best-selling novel, which they wold discuss in tiny independent bookshops on quaint little streets in forgotten corners of terribly romantic European cities. In other words, I fantasize about being credible, in that artistic, slightly bohemian way that only girls with very long legs can get away with.