London bookstore news

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John F
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London bookstore news

Post by John F » Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:35 am

Every time I went to London I'd spend a morning in Foyles, focusing on music and theatre (taking their antique elevator to the top floor), maps and guidebooks, and humor. And I always left with a heavy bag of books. Later, when I heard that the Waterstones branch on Piccadilly had become London's largest bookstore, I'd shop there too; they weren't as good on music and theatre but for books of general interest, they had more stock and were easier to navigate. Now those traveling days are over, and as my New York bookstores have closed one after one, I depend on Barnes & Noble online - better for most books than amazon for various reasons. But I'd rather buy my books in bookstores, if they still existed and I could get to them.

Waterstones buys Foyles to defend bookshops against Amazon
7 September 2018

Waterstones is buying the 115 year-old family-owned chain Foyles, saying the deal will help to "champion" real bookshops in the face of online rivals. The sale includes Foyles' well-known Charing Cross Road store in central London, which was relocated to larger premises in 2014. The larger chain has 283 bookshops across the UK and northern Europe.

Foyles was founded at the turn of the last century by the Foyle family and for more than half a century was run by the famously eccentric Christina Foyle. Her approach included sorting the books by publisher rather than alphabetically, and regularly dismissing staff after a year.

Her nephew, Christopher Foyle, who took over the company from her, welcomed the deal as one that would protect the Foyles brand and personality as it entered a new chapter. "I look forward to witnessing the exciting times ahead for the company founded by my grandfather and his brother 115 years ago," he said.

Foyles has struggled to remain profitable as online booksellers have battered traditional stores. While sales rose last financial year, the company still reported a loss of £88,791.
Foyles original store was something of a mecca for booklovers, drawn by its history and the promise of browsing the vast stock, in what was once the world's largest bookshop. It pops up in numerous literary works, by authors including Graham Greene, John Le Carre and Ian McEwan. And it has boasted a star-studded clientele, including film actor Richard Burton, who once pilfered books from Foyles and was later horrified to discover that his then wife Elizabeth Taylor - taking a leaf out his own book - had stolen a copy of "A Shropshire Lad" by poet Alfred Edward Housman. "It's the first and last thing she ever stole in her life, except, of course, husbands," wrote Burton.

Perversely, it was partly because the shop was so badly run that it seemed to charm its customers. Books were filed with total disregard to logic, and modern technology including automated tills and computers was stubbornly resisted. Customers were obliged to queue three times to purchase a book. But as Agatha Christie wrote in The Clocks, it was as if the books "had run wild and taken possession of their habitat".

Waterstones was bought by activist investment fund Elliot Advisors earlier this year, but the new owners retained James Daunt as chief executive. The chain returned to profit under his watch in 2016, and he said the investment by Elliot would lead to more new store openings because the economic downturn had made empty space available in desirable locations.

Mr Daunt said the acquisition of Foyles would leave the company "stronger and better positioned to protect and champion the pleasures of real bookshops in the face of Amazon's siren call". He said good bookshops were rediscovering their purpose "in the fight-back against online and e-reading".

The transaction - the terms of which were not disclosed - is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45446899
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: London bookstore news

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:20 am

The only time I was ever in London, on a business trip (there are things I have never shared with anyone here, even John F), I happened to be required to make a side trip to Oxford, where I visited Blackwell's, both the book and the music store. It was a life dream come true. I don't even know if they are still in business, but at the time they were considered the greatest stores of their kind in the world. From the US when I was in grad school, one could simply write to Blackwell's and order anything in the way of sheet music with the expectation of being billed afterward.

The other thing I am reminded of is the book and movie 84 Charing Cross Road. After WW II when the Brits were still starving, it was possible to obtain something like an original of Samuel Pepy's diary for a very nominal price.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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jserraglio
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Re: London bookstore news

Post by jserraglio » Sat Sep 22, 2018 6:59 am

https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/home

One of my very wonderful profs from the UK put me onto these guys. I asked him how they knew folks would pay. His response: they assume they are dealing with gentlemen. It was very much gentlemen back in the day.

John F
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Re: London bookstore news

Post by John F » Sat Sep 22, 2018 7:21 am

Yes, Blackwell's is amazing, isn't it? Or it was before Amazon, I don't know how they're doing now. Like jbuck919 I went to Oxford on business, visiting a Norton author - Richard Ellmann, whose modern poetry anthology I was editing. (Sure, I'm dropping names; if you've got 'em why not drop 'em? :) ) While there I went to the Blackwell's stores, which I knew about because my father, than a professor of English literature, who was on their mailing list and ordered books from them. Their stock and Foyles's complemented each other's very well.

These days, New York no longer has any great bookstores. Barnes & Noble has closed its flagship 5th Avenue store, and its other branches are closing one by one; I hear that B&N's future is doubtful. The Gotham Book Mart, that great literary bookshop, didn't last long after the death of its founder Frances Steloff. The big chains, Borders, Brentano's, B. Dalton, and Waldenbooks, are gone. The only remaining big bookstore here that I know of is the Strand, which sells used and remaindered books. People, even Americans, still buy and read printed books, but decreasingly at real bookstores.

So I now buy books from Barnes & Noble's online store. I pay $25 annually as a membership fee and in return I get a 10% discount on almost all purchases, plus additional discounts up to 15% when B&N offers them by email. I always get my membership money back early in the New Year. Amazon doesn't offer any such deals, and besides, I want to do my bit to keep B&N in business. For foreign books I check out the web sites of the major stores in London, Berlin, Vienna, wherever, or Amazon's overseas branches, and now and then I buy. It's not like browsing the shelves of a real bookstore, when I've often discovered titles I didn't know about and want to have, but it's better than nothing.
John Francis

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