Of course I buy books online, everybody does. But I also can’t pass by a bookshop, and with the good ones – those where there’s more to the stock than the Top Ten airport reads and a wall of discounted remainders – it’s almost impossible not to find something. Some book that you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it.
You can, cynically, go home and order it online. That’s always going to be a problem for the trade and I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know this.
Look at any town centre. If there are no booksellers, it’s dying. I don’t mean a few shelves in charity shops, they don’t count. I mean the real thing, whether it’s new books or secondhand, where the person in charge knows something about what they’re selling. It’s not just an economic indicator, it’s a social one. Like fish in a river, a town’s bookshops are a sure indicator of its overall health.
So here’s a proposal.
If you buy/bought your copy of The Kingdom of Bones from a bricks-and-mortar bookshop (you have to buy a copy from somewhere, it’s the law), send a scan or photo of your book and receipt to email@example.com. On publication day in May I’ll choose three readers at random and send them signed copies of The Bedlam Detective UK paperback.
And yes, I realise that each book given away is a lost potential sale. Let’s all shake our heads at the irony.