Friday, 29 July 2016

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE! Or, On Second Thoughts . ..

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke without thinking about the full consequences. (There’s a lot of “forgetting the full consequences” in the air at the moment, in my opinion.) I'd left the CRANKY LAPTOP to itself and gone into town to buy a few needful things.

Now, in the morning, I’d been pondering about the plight of Jo Cotterill’s LIBRARY OF LEMONS. The week before, when I'd been in my local Waterstones, I'd expected to see a copy on the shelves. There wasn't. When I asked why, their system replied that it was out of stock. As the title's been mentioned in the media recently, the absence was a puzzle.  I’ve since checked and there are plenty of copies. They just weren't in my Waterstones. 

So, though I got no Lemons, there were books I wanted. I bought the new David Solomon’s MY GYM TEACHER IS AN ALIEN as a present and Terry Pratchett’s THE SHEPHERD’S CROWN for myself and a couple of other titles. Quite a big spend. 

However, what with all the flourishing of Gift Card and my SoA discount card and the bookseller's nudge about Why Not Choose a Half Price Title?, my itsy-bitsy little Points Card missed being stamped at the till. (Still with me?)  

So, yesterday, as I’d be passing, I decided to call in again and claim my red-stamped rights. Gradually, as Waterstones Central has pulled itself together again, this smallish two-storey branch in town has become busier and better. 

I could hear faint hammering and sawing sounds overhead. Workmen passing purposefully in and out from vans outside. 

"Improvements," I thought, idly, as I waited at the till. "More shelving. Good."

Then I saw a printed Notice: an A4 sheet apologising and announcing that this Waterstones branch would soon have its own in-house coffee shop.

I was, at that moment, delighted. Enchanted, even. I love being surrounded by books and I do like coffee. In fact, I was surely in need of a coffee right then? Immediately I started daydreaming about sitting in such a place musing, scribbling notes, all that Being A Writer stuff.
 “A great idea”, I told the nice young man stamping and squiggling on the grid on my Points Card.
Instantly enthusiastic, he told me he'd been drafted in from the big city branch and that he missed having the scent of coffee around him. We nodded our mutual approval. The shop might not be that large, but a coffee shop is a coffee shop, right? Surely? 
However, as I stepped back out on to the pavement again, all at once I was definitely not smelling the coffee. Suddenly I thought Oh! Coffee Shop? That means FEWER books!” and I felt very dim and stupid. 

My just-a-fantasy coffee shop would be taking up real world space. Furthermore, this is in a town that has a host of coffee shops but only one such bookshop! Even worse, after my positive response, I could now imagine those higher up in Waterstones being told “Yes, the customers are really happy about it.” 

How I wished I’d kept my mouth shut! But that wasn’t all. I remembered, back when I’d been browsing for Solomon’s book, that there'd been a notice by the front door: a friendly, wacky, hand-written advert for a Full-time, Experienced Bookseller. I’d wondered which of the long-term staff had gone but the queue had made it impossible to ask.   

Now I wondered if that "coffee V. book-stock" choice had been a real book-lover's last sip? A change just that bit too far? Especially as there was now an equally friendly, wacky advert for an Experienced Coffee Shop Manager?

Ah, well. Ah, well. I do truly wish my Waterstones bookshop – all bookshops – well in these tough times. None of it is easy. Will the planned coffee shop work out? I don’t know. Will it bring in more book-buying customers or attract more book-selling staff? I don’t know.

Nor, thinking on it, could I be absolutely certain that those upstairs improvements are why the teen and Y/A section was currently squashed back into the children’s corner? Or if that was why there was no shelving space or stock for A LIBRARY OF LEMONS?  

I must say that the coffee had taken on a bitter taste.
Onwards. Where else can one go?


  1. If you want a coffee you go to a coffee shop. If you want a book you go to a bookshop (while they still exist) Why mix the two up? You can't drink your coffee while browsing - it takes up too many hands and results in spills - and if you want to read your purchases, why not take them to aforesaid coffee shop? Or home, even, where you can read in comfort and drink the beverage of your choice for a fraction of the price (thereby leaving more money available in the kitty for further future book purchases) This whole coffee shop in a bookshop thing utterly baffles me.

  2. I agree about the impracticality of new books and coffee, Madwippit. I will report back once the coffee shop is done. It may after all just be a tea-urn and dried scones in a tiny corner.