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Book Chats on Book Chains.

"Retailing by the Yard".
“One needs to go to a pear tree for a pear, not an elm wood”. (P. Syrus. Epg 674).
Last updated here on July 2020.

We were much taken by an article on "Current Retailing", in a recent issue of The Sunday Times, in which books were referred to as “Complex Products”.

This epithet by the Managing Director of a well-known book chain.

Well, there is another more gentle world view, and shared by millions of humane and contemplative individuals...


...it's that nothing beats a real shop with books in....Click here to hum along (music by The Bookshop Band)....


Nobel Prize-winner Hermann Hesse also expressed it well way back in in 1929, as follows*.....

“...books give life meaning, interpret the past and prepare one to meet the future without fear. It is an endless journey, to familiarize oneself gradually with the massive treasury of thoughts, experiences, symbols, fantasies and dreams that the past has bequeathed to us in the works of writers and thinkers of many nations. It is an endless journey......the true reader will approach this study with love.
Reading without love, knowledge without respect, formation without deep personal involvement, are some of the most deadly sins against the spirit, or soul”.

To this one might add ...regarding books as complex products and just problems in retailing.
Perhaps accountants should stick to reading accountancy books, where they only need to read the bottom line. Or, when visiting Waterstones, their "complex product retail outlet", they could pick up and read a copy of “Small is Beautiful” **,  and Thomas Moore's "Care of the Soul", that is, when they get home from their warehouse full of complex products (see top images below). Is it the turning of the pages in number sequence that the book chains find so complex, or deciding which end to start from....?

Perhaps too, booklovers should favour their custom to genuine book sellers, often struggling, who are actually interested in their content and flavour. As P. Syrus noted two millenia ago....indeed, the best pears grow on pear trees, as the three delightful bottom images below can testify...
“Hermann Hesse. The First Biography”. Bernhard Zeller. Peter Owen. London. 1972. Pages 120 and 121.
**“Small is Beautiful”
. E F Schumacher. Blond & Briggs. London. 1973.





"Book Selling in an Alternative Reality".

(The two realities that face all booklovers are shown above)
Mighty rivers may easily be leapt at their source”. P. Syrus. (Epg 442).
[What price a soul, or how to recognise that which cripples and deforms society].
This Issue also last updated July 2020.

At a meeting in May 2016 another self-styled “Chief Executive” announced a rolling expansion program of opening up to 400 bricks and mortar book stores, starting in San Diego and spreading across the United States. This all tucked away in a recent Sunday Times article (see also our article above from the same source). Currently, the Chief Executive has thirteen such stores (as of January 2019). Subsequently an Amazon spokeswoman said the company did not comment on "rumours and speculation." Here indeed is a veritable well spring of alternative reality and funded by us...and our purchasing choices!

Such statements would normally go unnoticed by the average Times reader, but you are not our average reader (or you would not be here); you are, we presume, a book-lover.


So, there are a number of observations one can make......

  1. At fifty states, that's eight bricks and mortar stores per state...more than the UK's Waterstones 290 (the last remaining chain of bookshops on the UK High Street), but less than the U.S. Barnes & Noble's 640 retail outlets. For comparison, Waterstones has been trading 33 years, while Barnes & Noble started 130 years ago. Presumably our Chief Executive won't be achieving this single handed in 2018.

  2. The Chief Executive's original business model (1994) was presumably based on the economies of scale. Also the much reduced overheads won by trading on the internet, then just starting up and expanding at a phenomenal rate. I.e., not through bricks and mortar. Nothing wrong in that, but how things have changed. We note that online fashion site Bonobos, similarly Birchbox, and opticians Warby Parker, are also opening physical stores to cut back on online overheads (how curious).

  3. Anyone who thinks grotesque sums of money buys soul, or money buys wisdom, clearly has not read their Aristotle and is unaware of The Considered Life. One is more reminded of the paranoia of a ….….ah well, it doesn't matter. The reader can fill in as they wish.

  4. Here is a Business that claims the moral high ground...yet sells paperbacks at 1p. What could they be up to one imagines? There would be more profit in selling them as fire lighters....yet, curiously, they don't....and all the time assuming we do not notice the £1.65 UK postage, where the actual post is 64p. At the other extreme, Alfred Fryer's 1881 "Harold and the Months" is, at the time of writing (January 2020), on offer through www.amazon.com "Cost-Cutters-R-US" at £814 ($1040 + $3.99 postage!) (no..that's not a missprint..and it's a 2010 offprint), yet identical original copies may be had from ethical and knowledgeable traders from £11.00. Curious isn't it? You would think that after twenty-four years they would know what they were doing. Rip-off comes to mind. Yet...in 1999 our so-called Chief Executive is “Time Person of the Year”. In 1925 President Coolidge said: “.....the chief business of the American people is business.” Is this really what he meant?

  5. Shown above left is their Warehouse for Robots, Golems, Endermen, and the Trumps of this world.

  6. To paraphrase Hermann Hesse....."... It seems obvious, that, while the spirit has apparently been made democratic, and the intellectual treasures of our culture apparently belong to everyone who can read, in reality, everything important now occurs through money men and goes unrecognised. There would seem to be somewhere underground a secret priesthood , which from its anonymous hiding places (in California maybe...?) directs, puppet-like, intellectual destinies throughout the book world. And this, equipped with disruptive power and disruptive forces extending through the Web, in order that public opinion, happy in its enlightenment, shall notice nothing in this hall of mirrors that is carried on right before their eyes".

In the image above right, one can sense the pleasures open to anyone who understands the considered life. On the left and below....? Well......

'My name is OzymanBezos, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

How nice it would be, in some future and more gentle culture, to defend the indestructibility of the individual human spirit and so recall Shelley's 1818 next three lines....

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far far away..."

It's fascinating to note that staff at Amazon’s “fulfillment” centres, where orders for these Complex Products are put together, packed and shipped, work up to 55 hours a week. Their boss, an American called Bezos, 53, is the world’s richest man. Last year he made £2.2 million an hour.


Just take a peek on the reality behind the scenes...click here....

And how about this for ethical bookselling..!

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