Review: The Diary of a Bookseller

The Diary of a Bookseller The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wigtown is a beautiful rural town nestling in the south west of Scotland, and it has been designated as Scotland’s official BookTown. It is home to a range of bookshops and book-related businesses as well as its own book festival. The Bookshop in Wigtown is Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop, with around 100,000 items of stock and miles of shelves, an open fire and nooks and crannies to lose yourself in.

The proprietor of this bibliophile heaven is Shaun Bythell and on the 5th February 2014, he decided to start keeping a diary of the things that happened in the shop. Over the next year, he tells us just how it is running a bookshop in the modern world, from battling against the 1100lb gorilla that is Amazon to travelling around Scotland looking at collections of books, hoping, but not expecting to come across that rare book that he knows will sell.

Whilst he likes to have paying customers through the doors, it is his financial lifeblood, after all, there are certain types that he is critical of. Those that cross the threshold declaring a love of all things bookish are frequently the ones who leave empty-handed. He argues with customers who think that a second-hand bookshop should only stock titles that are £1 each and catching those that surreptitiously amended the prices of the books.

And then there are the staff…

This is a brilliant portrait about running a business in a small town, that the things that happen all have some impact on everyone in the town. He does not hold back in saying just how tough some things can be and how the core of second-hand bookshops, rare collectable and signed editions have had the heart and soul ripped out of the market with the internet in general and Amazon in particular. I really liked the way that he noted the number of orders that came through via the internet and the way this frequently varied from that actual number of books they could then find! Rightly, he has never embraced the flawed philosophy that the customer is always right and also seems to relish the verbal battle with those that want something for almost nothing. If, as a book lover, you have ever contemplated or dreamt of opening and owning your own bookshop then this is the book to read; you might just change your mind…

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2 Comments

  1. DoingDewey

    From the topic to the cover, this seems like a delightful, cozy read – even if being a bookshop owner might not be everything we dream it to be 🙂

  2. Paul Cheney

    I think that he wants to ensure that you are not looking through rose tinted spectacles. It is tough, but still a wonderfull thing to do

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