HarperCollins CEO Victoria Barnsley said in a recent radio interview she thinks the idea of bookshops charging 'users' to read is "not that insane". This is an extraordinary statement. A bookshop is a place where there are books for people to pick up, look at, read a few pages and decide whether to buy. It is not just a showroom for a publisher. Bookshops are places where you come across books you didn't know you wanted, where you can be advised by booksellers and fellow customers. And yes, we do already charge customers - the cost is built into the price we charge for the books. This is why books from independent booksellers are nearly always sold at the price printed on the cover, not discounted like they are by Amazon and other cut-price outlets. Because we have overheads - lighting, heating, rates, rent, staff costs, phone bills. We need to make enough to live on so we can continue to give people advice on books.
I've heard there is a place in London where people are offered 'book therapy' - they pay for a slot with someone and discuss their current and past emotional states, and are then recommended a list of books to answer those needs. This, too, is extraordinary. It is what independent booksellers do all the time. People come into the shop and talk. They do not just want something to read. Everyone is different and, at some level,. is looking for the perfect book, the perfect match, something that can answer all those possibly unanswerable needs and questions. I never just recommend a book, I recommend a book to a particular person on the basis of what they have read in the past and what they tell me about themselves and what they might enjoy. It needn't be by an author they've read before - sometimes the enjoyment lies in having your boundaries extended, finding a new author or style to explore.
I am not a therapist. But there is something about the quest for a book that draws people together. I have learnt more about some of my customers than probably many of their close friends. One woman broke down in tears as she read me a Larkin poem and confessed she hadn't had sex with her husband for years although they love each other. Another stood and told me about the stillbirth of her first baby, over 20 years ago. A bookshop is a private, as well as a public space. It seems there is still a need for such spaces. In spite of everything you read about ebooks, the actual quantities of ebooks sold are still very low compared to printed books. There are still independent booksellers all over the country with customers (customers, not 'users') who value their services.
Welcome to The Woodstock Bookshop
The shop opened in May 2008 and is on the main road in Woodstock, just next to the bus stop. We can supply most books to order by the next day and have several thousand books in stock: to order books ring or email the shop. We have a large selection of children's books and are happy to advise and recommend. We can also supply second-hand and out-of-print titles. We offer discounts for school orders and for book clubs and have a free local delivery service.
We were on the regional shortlist for Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2009, 2013 and 2017, and listed in the Independent's Top 50 UK Bookshops.
Two monthly book groups take place at the bookshop - a poetry group, initially formed to read collections submitted for the annual T S Eliot Prize and now following a slightly wider brief; and a book group focusing more on fiction. Both are open to everyone but occasionally space is limited - please contact us for details.
We hold a series of informal talks and readings throughout the year. If you buy any book at the talk the cost of the ticket will be deducted. Please ring or email to book a place - early booking advisable.
WOODSTOCK POETRY FESTIVAL
This year (November 9-11) is the 7th Woodstock Poetry Festival - organised entirely by the bookshop. Full details soon.
The Woodstock Literature Society also holds an excellent series of monthly talks - do visit their website for further details.