Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the rest is silence?

As I'm not really one for writing I've done one piece to stand as handout,blog or poster- this is what we are handing out in the store...

“A beautiful little bookshop’

The Pan Bookshop – A Personal Note of Thanks from the Staff

You may have heard the sad news that The Pan Bookshop is to shut up shop at the end of January. The shop will be a great loss to many – not least to our customers for whom Pan had become part of their lives, authors local, national and international, the publishing and media worlds who have supported us and of course the staff who are now thinking ‘what next’.

We wanted to thank everyone who has supported the shop. We will all miss you all and the books, the reps, the building (well, not the staffroom or toilet- have you seen them!!), the coming in everyday to work at a place you enjoy being in and know is appreciated. At 5 years I’m still a newcomer to the store and I wish I’d been here for some of it’s earlier, rich, history such as readings
from Raymond Carver, Philip Roth delivering his manuscript upstairs or the time when, allegedly, a former manager spread-eagled herself across the door and refused to let anyone leave until they’d purchased something- now that’s bookselling!

There are three questions that I have been asked a lot over the last few days and wanted to provide an answer to. Can it be saved? What are we (the staff) going to do? And, what can our customers do?

I’m afraid that, as it is, The Pan Bookshop cannot be saved. Our overheads really are very, very large and decisions have been made which I do not think will be reversed.

Just two days after our news, however, we learnt Waterstone’s Old Brompton Road would also be closing. A double blow to many customers who used both shops but also, perhaps, the creation of a new opportunity.
The departure of two shops within about a quarter of mile of each other does open up opportunities and some of us have begun to look for possible sites and benefactors.

If you would like to write something about us. We would be pleased to hear your comments, reactions, memories, etc. It makes us feel better, part of a community and I hope it helps the person leaving the comment to express their feelings.
It would also serve to underline the very real community backing that this store does have, something that may be useful to us in the future.

We will put all of these messages onto our blog, the address is . If people prefer to send to our e-mail the address for that is or please feel free to write a message, memory etc. onto this piece of paper, hand it back to us, and we will copy it onto our blog.
But the blog is not just to look back – we’ve also had some interesting suggestions as to ‘what next’. If you are interested in keeping an independent retail presence in the area and have specific suggestions or ideas about potential shop sites that may be available please feel free to let us know. The phone number is 0207 373 4997 and speak to me, Julian

Finally, to everyone who has ever supported us as a customer or author or who has worked here- in the words of an immortal Pan author from the, sadly, not to be immortal Pan Bookshop.
‘So long, and thanks for all the fish.’

I've got to fill up the space somehow

double oops.
I really should have written something here beforehand about our news, it's just that as it's probably one of the least viewed blogs in the western world (my fault, I don't keep it up to date enough and can't write for toffees) there seemed other, more important, things to do.

Anyway- I'm now in the situation where any posting will come up next to the previous post titled 'Congratulations' which I feel is just wrong hence me burbling away and wasting some space.

whistle, tap toe, time passing, I know- I always meant to write about the London Book Fair-
now our previous boss, Richard Charkin was something of an anti Bookfair person as he often mentioned in his blog from various parts of the globe. Maybe it was because Richard was (is) the head of a big publisher and saw a very global picture whereby even The London Bookfair could be viewed as parochial.
As a London bookseller I loved it, for the last 3 years I've gone to the Independent Publishers Group stand where they organised 'speed dating' meetings between booksellers and small publishers, publishers whose books are normally shown by reps who carry multiple lists and with the best will in the world can not do justice to everything they carry. Here at the IPG meetings a publisher had 10 minutes to tell a bookseller about books they really loved.
It was at one of these meetings where I met Emma and Snowbooks and was the first person to give her an order (I was very enthusiastic about her Virginia Woolf and Jerome K Jerome reprints- which we did very well with but it took our, then, fiction expert Glen to spot that the real gem was Robert Finn's 'Adept' which we sold loads of). The next year I met Mark Crick and, I think, his mum with his brilliant Kafka's Soup which I was also the first person to give an order for and was so enthusiastic we managed to get the launch party for the shop and over 100 sales later this was obviously a morning well spent. This year I met Gallic Press, a new venture specializing in translating French historical crime novels- we put both their debut titles into our window and did very well. I also met Kenilworth Press and realised we should have been working together for years and their window was very successful too. And it wasn't just the little guys like me that pitched up for these meetings, this year I met Kes, one of the main Amazon buyers, there- ok not so good for the booksellers but good news for the small publishers.
I know I would have found out about all of these books anyway but I think it's a good thing that small publishers have a chance to meet booksellers and think that, maybe, large publishers might try it too.

anyway- I think I've filled that space up now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


oops- over 2 weeks without a post
As mentioned before this post is mostly written at home where the computer has been constantly hogged by my very busy civil servant partner. Trying to do anything at work has been tricky as this is the big month of selling books at launches. We've been to Max Hastings, Ken Follet, Simon Sebag Montefiore (twice) John O'Farrell, John Simpson (twice) and a Gyles Brandreth event with Piers Brendon and AA Gill still to come as well as selling bocks at the ever interesting Battle of Ideas.
but it's not all about glamour, last night I could have gone to the Booker parties but, sadly, my diary just said- 'pick up kids.' Embarrassingly this was not due to Kirsty having important civil servant things to do- she was at Crystal Palace High Street having a massage- now I'm not sure if this just further underlines my already impeccable new man credentials or just goes to show what a crap negotiator I am.
It does, however, bring me on nicely to the ManBooker- and congratulations to Anne Enright. I must admit that I have not read any of her novels but they do always look intestring and there is no doubt that she can write- I glean this information from her book 'Making Babies' possibly the best and certainly the best written book on becoming a mother.

Monday, October 01, 2007

what's in our windows (and an apology)

There is or should be soon a new feature on our website. It's called 'what's in our windows'- ok so the title errs on the side of boredom but the site is still in development. The idea is that the window books are so new that even we haven't read them yet- as opposed to the 'recommends' where we have, all of them. This does involve a certain amount of guesswork and reliance on the publisher being honest about the contents for my little reviews but I hope they give an idea of the books in question. The aim is just to highlight around 10 titles a month and that they should run from the well known to the quixotic.
The last time I mentioned the site I didn't give the address- this was particularly remiss as we can not easily be found via Google or other search engines (still in development), but the address is the easy to remember

our windows today..

The Age of Conversation
Benedetta Craveri
Who says the art of conversation is dead ?
Fascinating social and cultural survey of the French Salon, with its contribution to the Age of Enlightenment.

Graham Greene: A Life in Letters
edited by Richard Greene
Wonderful collection of correspondence spanning seven decades. Essential reading

Shakespeare’s Wife, Germaine Greer
Much has been written about
Stratford’s Bard, yet little about his family life. Greer’s fascinating research into Ann Shakespeare’s life further enlarges upon the roles and position of Elizabethan women.

Mummy ?
By Sendak, Yorinks and Reinhart
What a great pop-up book for kid’s !!! Sendak and friends at their most inventive.

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
Epic novel with Howard Roark at its
Centre, in his battle against the establishment to build on his own terms.
An unashamed celebration of Capitalism in the pursuit of excellence.

David Golder, Irène Némirovsky
Grim but beautifully wrought character
study of a businessman, whose ambition and greed exact a harsh price on his failing health. Very moving.

Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable
Life of Gertrude Bell, Georgina Bell
Who doesn’t want to be a polymath (even an archaeologist)? Excellent account of an extraordinary woman who lived life on her own terms.

God’s Architect:
Pugin and the Age of Romantic
Britain, Rosemary Hill
The first authoritative biography on Pugin for seventy years. Hill’s research illuminates the importance of this pioneer of British Romanticism.

1080 recipes
Simone and Ines Ortega
It is truly beautiful, looking at the inside you realise why Phaidon are one of our finest Art publishers and reading the recipes you realise why this has been Spain's best-selling cookbook for over 30 years.

The Golden Age of Couture
Paris and London 1947-57
Edited by Claire Wilcox
Accompanies the exhibition at the V&A. Sumptuous.

and now the apology..

Reading the Bloomsbury party entry it seems a little churlish, moaning about the food and the use of the word ‘bothered’. All I can say is that it was written under extreme circumstances (a brute of a hangover). I also completely accept that, as Stuart has pointed out, the condition of inebriation is not caused by lack of food but by the (willing) consumption of alcohol. Also any party that consists of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, meeting old friends some of whom I have not seen for a decade, dancing (albeit in, possibly embarrassing but fun circumstances) and saying goodbye to your host at 1.30am, is a pretty good party. Thank you Bloomsbury.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

modern retail methods

something of a first at the Pan Bookshop this week- we're doing a three for two promotion. According to some of our staff that means that the Vandals are just across the river and civilization will collapse any minute. I don't know, I don't think we can constantly say these things don't work and that our customers do not want them without doing the most basic research and trying some. It is, however, rare to find a promotion where we can come close to matching the price of the big boys and so if price is an issue we still won't get the sale. Also I am not really a fan of discounting it really only seems to lead to inflated recommended prices . We often sell books at launch parties and are asked if the book is discounted but if you don't think the book is worth it's full price at it's launch party- when is it worth it's full price!
That said I am always willing to try something new and those nice people at Random House- well their nice rep, Peter- came along and offered me a spiffing deal on their fabulous PG Wodehouse hardbacks and this I now pass on to our customers.
Buy 2 of any of the very excellent PG Wodehouse hardbacks from Everyman and you will get a third completely free. Who knows, if it works it could catch on.


modern retail methods

Friday, September 28, 2007

what's in a name

I've been sent a letter- apparently Thomson Learning has changed its name. It is now CENGAGE Learning. wow.
''The new name is based on being at the 'centre of engagement' for learning worldwide.''
''We hope you'll agree that the name Cengage Learning reflects our commitment to promoting engagement and improving results for all our customers.''

is it just me or.......

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ow my head hurts

so that was the Bloomsbury 21st birthday party.
I have to say the combination of not going out much, as much free wine as you can be bothered to queue for and being a hungry non meat eater at an event where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall provides much of the food is a heady one.
After being part of only about 10 people among around 400 actually watching the excellent Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (I can't believe that such a thunderous version of Psycho Killer will ever be played before such a large group of rational people to so little response ever again) then meeting up with my first ever Bloomsbury rep (I still remember the craft list),
the guy I gave my first ever order to (the legendary Barry from Penguin- now Bloomsbury),
after getting lost on the way home (never take a short cut when you're drunk), my trousers splitting, inappropriate (and, I'm pretty sure, just down right bad) dancing as well as catching up with, amongst others, the ever magnificent Mathew late of Deansgate now Manchester University press, the biggest surprise of the night was finding out that Richard Charkin had left Macmillan for Bloomsbury (actually the inappropriate dancing may still be the biggest surprise)

Richard seems to have copped a lot of flak from the book blogging world-quite a lot of it simply for being good at what he did. From here it seems he did an impeccable job of taking Macmillan and specially the magazines and academic side of it, through to where we are in the 'digital revolution'. More relevant to the shop (for those that don't know, the Pan Bookshop is owned by Macmillan, Richard was CEO until yesterday) is that Richard lives just around the corner from us and although there must have been times when he must have been bursting to say something he never interfered with the shop. I think we have about 3 books that we might not have had if our overall boss didn't shop here regularly (RSC Shakespeare which was borderline but maybe proximity of it's publisher got 4 onto the table rather than just one copy on the shelf and this was a margin issue rather than anything to do with the quality of the book- I also have 2 copies of the new Macmillan Advanced Learners Dictionary as I did want to show Richard that we actually got a better deal from the wholesaler rather than Palgrave- the academic wing of Macmillan- who are part of the same company as us!)
So farewell Richard, I think he is going to be a pretty tough act to follow and I'm sure Macmillan will miss him but I hope we'll still see him at Pan

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


ok- having mentioned that retailers tend to write about our strange customers it's probably only fair to hold ones own hand up when committing a shopping faux pas myself

last weekend, with a spare half-hour at Crystal Palace high street I nipped into the local antique/flea market. I had little time and went with two objectives- a cheap toy and a particular record. Arran had just left Woolworth's sans tears after we had bought a present for his mate whose party it was later that day- this I considered as a result worthy of reward. Anyway first stall we get to loads of great plastic toys in perfect nick for £2 each. Hooray. After a short time we agree on the Blue Power Ranger with excellent morphing abilities rather than the (my favorite, very excellent Thunderbird 2). We paid and as we were leaving I said to Arran to say 'Thank you' and the very nice lady who ran the stall said that he had, I then said something like 'I meant to you' or 'I meant for you' and Arran mumbled a 'thank you' as did the lady.
I then had to negotiate some steps and stuff with the buggy and got to the record stall where, right at the front of 'H' was the very record, Hawkwind 'Space Ritual', I was after- for £10 (I'd sold it for £30 about 25 tears ago when I was on the dole!) Flushed with my success I did not think about the buying of the toy until I got to the library where I was meeting my partner.
I began to get worried, had that been a surprised expression? Was there strange body language? Had that been an inappropriate 'Thank you?' as I knew that he had already said it to me. I am now convinced that the very nice, very helpful lady at the toy stall thought that when I asked Arran to say, 'thank you' to her she interpreted my comment as requesting her to say 'thank you' to Arran! How mortifying is that? Over half an hour had passed, I did not really think I could return and find out- I think I've over analysed but what if I haven't? How can I go back?

p.s A very good toy a third of the price of less good ones brand new- and the very double vinyl album I'm after for a tenner- all in 30 minutes at my local highstreet- how about that?- remember kids- the internet- it's not everything.