Waterstones is the biggest book-selling chain in the UK. It has over 300 stores, employs over 4,500 book sellers, and it claims that its Piccadilly branch is the largest book shop in Europe, stocking over 200,000 books.
I love Waterstones: I love the sense of darkened calm which soaks over me when I visit. The smell of newly-printed books, the organisation, and the reliability: if I want a book, and it’s been published recently, chances are that I’ll be able to find it on their shelves. And there’s a good chance that some of the books I’m looking for will be on offer more cheaply there than anywhere else.
Because of its centralised buying systems and its demand for the highest discounts, Waterstones isn’t quite so good, however, at stocking the quirky stuff. The odd books, the peculiar books, the ones which are less likely to sell in vast amounts but which are interesting to smaller audiences who want something a little different to read when they go to bed at night.
For that you usually need an independent bookshop, and they’re in increasingly short supply.
I’ll be blogging about the various reasons for that soon, but meanwhile if you have a favourite bookshop, whether it’s a Waterstones or not, do please tell me about it. Where is it? What’s it called? And what treasures have you found there?
My recent finds include David and Ruth Ellwand's enchanting The Mystery Of The Fool And The Vanisher; the beautiful 44 Things, by Kirsty Gunn; and Niall Griffiths' Real Aberystwyth, which reminds me of childhood holidays and hours catching mackerel from my Great Uncle Richard's fishing boat, the Lucky Maid. As I said: odd books; peculiar books; smaller audiences.