I am a Senior Bookseller at one of London’s biggest bookshops. A little while ago I wrote a blog post entitled 10 Things your Bookseller wants you to know, in which I gave a little insight into the daily struggles of a bookseller along with some tips on how to properly behave in a bookshop and towards booksellers. A lot of you really seemed to like it, and I have a lot more to say on the matter – so here we are.
I’m sure it’s not lost on all of you lovely readers, as I have no doubt you are all perfectly aware of correct bookshop protocol. But perhaps you have relatives or friends who don’t understand the subtle art of book-shopping? Maybe you just want to double check your bookshop etiquette? Perchance you are a bookseller yourself and came here to laugh and nod along whilst muttering “that is very true”.
Whatever your reason for being here, please join me in 10 More things your Bookseller wants you to know.
1. Don’t complain to me about how expensive books are.
This is disrespectful on so many levels. Firstly, I personally have no control over the price so bitching to me about it isn’t going to suddenly make me mark it down a few pounds. In fact, the bookshop itself doesn’t have any control over the price of the book. Secondly, and most importantly, an author has put their time, talent, patience and soul into that book. It may have taken them years to write it, possibly even years of being unpaid in order to have time to properly complete that book. There are other options if you are strapped for cash, such as libraries and second hand book shops. But if you want to own your own copy of a slice of unique work that another person has worked their arse off for, you can pay the £7.99. Artists deserve to be paid for their work.
2. Just because it’s Publication Day, doesn’t guarantee we have it.
“It was published today” said the disgruntled man looking for the new book on railroads. Just because it was ‘published today’ or ‘recently published’ doesn’t mean I have heard of this book or we have it in stock. There are hundreds of books published each day in the UK and not all of them are going to be popular or sought after titles. Bookshops can’t afford to order in every freshly published book just because it’s new. Our buyers are pretty good at judging whether there is actually going to be demand for a new book or not, meaning we only tend to get in titles that we know someone is likely to buy.
Sometimes we receive books slightly before their publication date, and if they aren’t embargoed then we are allowed to put them straight out for sale even if it isn’t technically published for another few days.
If a book is embargoed, it means that we strictly cannot sell it until publication date. This only tends to happen with hugely popular books, anything to do with the Harry Potter universe, Sarah J Maas, Dan Brown and so on. So no amount of begging will get a bookseller to sell you an embargoed title before it’s date. We aren’t even allowed to buy them ourselves!
3. We are not a Library.
We don’t mind if you read a few pages to get a feel for the book before you buy it, but please don’t sit down and read the whole damn book in store. I hate to say it, but Students are the worst for this. I know I know I know textbooks are stupidly expensive. I know. But it’s ridiculous that some people feel entitled to treat books like they are their own. What you’re looking for is the library down the road. Because inevitably the spines get broken, the pages ripped, the cover bent, espresso spilt and your danish pastry crumbs in between the pages. In addition to this I must urge you all to restrain yourselves and NOT try to return a book that you have clearly read or studied from. I actually had a student hastily pull a bunch of page marker tabs out of the textbook she claimed “was the wrong one”.
4. We are not Google.
Whilst I absolutely encourage customers to ask me for recommendations, what I don’t encourage is them expecting me to do all their research for them. If you’re looking for “a good book about the Crusades” and won’t accept “the Crusades section is just at the back there” insisting that I do a keyword/internet search for you – you are lazy and I hate you. If you knew what you were coming in for then you should have done some research in your own time. At least come up with a couple of titles or author that may fit your criteria, because you know what you’re looking for better than I do. This again comes back to expecting booksellers to not only know every book in existence on every subject but also to have read them all and be able to recite extensive reviews upon request. Not going to happen boy-o.
5. Please don’t blind your bookseller.
If you have an image of the book you want on your phone, PLEASE don’t shove the phone screen two inches away from my face. It’s impolite.
6. Don’t be embarrassed about your books.
Although I can only speak for myself here, I would never ever judge anyone for their reading tastes. I just think it’s great that people are reading. So don’t sheepishly bring the latest Sylvia Day up to me and try to hide it under another book. I really don’t care. You do YOU gal. Also, booksellers are sympathetic and want to help you if you are searching for books to help you deal with a difficult problem. We will be discreet and help you as much as we can.
7. Please don’t hover.
I can’t bare it when I’m shelving and I can feel the presence of someone near by who wants my attention. Please just ask. Waiting for me to notice you is weird and annoying. I feel sometimes that older people do it to test how quickly they are seen to, so if I take a second longer than they expect they can complain to their friends later “ooh yes Sally I was kept waiting by that young shop assistant far too long today, bloody millennials.” I understand that people can get anxious and shy in social settings, but I promise we won’t bite. All I can suggest is to just wait a little distance away until you feel ready to talk.
8. If you’re going to put a book back, put it in the right place.
The only thing worse than dumping books on the side, is putting them back in completely the wrong place on the shelf. I literally cannot wrap my mind around why people do this. Dumping the books shows a certain level of laziness. But putting it the book back in the wrong place is just sadistic. It is people like this who thrive off chaos and want to see the world crash and burn. If you’ve made the effort to move your arm and put the book away, it takes absolutely no more effort to put it back correctly. If you dump a book on the side at least we can see it, collect it, and ensure it finds it’s way home. Putting a book back in the wrong place just means the next time a bookseller or a customer wants to find this book, we can’t. It causes a lot of frustration on our part, disappointment on the customers part and completely messes up our stock levels.
9. UK plastic bag laws.
In the United Kingdom it is the law that any business with over 250 employees has to charge 5p for each plastic carrier bag. This is not a new law. And yet I have people daily who behave as though I am charging them the soul of their first born child. If you want a plastic bag I will pay the 5 bloody pence for you.
The argument a lot of people use is that bookshops should use paper bags. I’m going to tell you once and for all why this is a bad idea.
Books are heavy. A paper bag simply won’t hold the weight of a hardback, let alone a stack of books.
If we were to use paper bags, the glue that would be needed to make the bags strong enough to hold books is more damaging to the environment than the plastic bag in the first place.
We are already cutting down trees for books, you want to cut down more trees?
Finally, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed at all, but the weather in the UK is really rather wet and unpredictable. A paper bag will not protect your books from the British weather.
Of course people should be sensible with their use of plastic bags. No you probably don’t need a bag for one paperback. Yes you should probably re-use that bag as much as you can. But can we please all stop being dramatic over a piece of 5p plastic.
10. Always be nice to your bookseller.
In my bookshop we have a rewards scheme, in that every £10 you spend you get a stamp and once you have 10 stamps you receive £10 off your next purchase. If you are nice to me I will round your £7.99 purchase up and give you a stamp. If you are very very nice I will give you a whole extra stamp.
If you are an arsehole, you can bet your bottom dollar you are not getting a stamp for even a penny under £10.
There we are. 10 More things your Bookseller wants you to know. I have such a fun time writing these posts and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them. Feel free to post any thoughts or feelings you have down in the comment section below. And remember to use your local Bookshop responsibly.