Something very sad is happening today. For those who do not know Jane Badger Books is ceasing trading and Jane writes about the decision here. Jane is one of the most knowledgeable specialist booksellers in the country. She ran her pony book online shop alongside a formidable bibliographical website providing encyclopaedic knowledge of all things pony book including, amongst a wealth of illustrations, profiles of over 1,100 authors. Many of you will be aware that she has recently published a book on the genre Heroines on Horseback. As well as being fascinating for the lay reader, for booksellers, or for anyone enrolled on the growing number of MAs in Children's Literature, it is a much needed resource in an under-explored area.
Jane has been a friendly and supportive colleague in the five or so years I've known her. We're both members of Ibooknet where she has been invaluable, and she was a strong and hardworking chairman during a difficult time. We've commented on each other's blogs and swapped jokes on twitter. We've discussed books, and selling, and customers, and dogs and hamsters, and on one occasion sparkly shoes and the possible addition of welly socks which explains where we both are sartorially! I got Jane onto twitter. She got me onto Facebook. We're not fully losing Jane because she will be keeping the informative side of what she does going, so she is not going away, but the fact she is no longer trading upsets me greatly. I buy my Flambards books from this woman for heaven's sake! The laws of supply and demand are getting it wrong if this kind of bookshop can't work!
What is particularly sad is that Jane ran a specialised shop with great expertise. Another very experienced bookdealer told me many years ago to specialise as it is the only true way to compete with the pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap model, or indeed what Jane calls the model of 'now' that has come about with the internet age. If a specialised dealer like Jane can't drag a reasonable living out of her expertise then, well, I'm frightened. Not just for my own business but for what the trade as a whole will look like in ten, or twenty years' time.
I know there has been a bit in the blogosphere this week about the impact of a certain website on book sales and book sellers. It is focused mainly on the new book trade but both sides of the trade are suffering together. You can read a lot of debate on Simon's blog here. Simon was on the wrong end of some unfortunate vitriol. That's not on. We need to debate this without blaming anyone. As Jane says it is not as though every bookseller in the country hasn't bought something from you-know-where.
Beyond that, I don't know what to say. I can't imagine what will happen next to our trade which supports reading for pleasure and education, supports collecting and completing and preserving, and is frankly dying on its feet.
In the meantime, if you would like to buy your literary criticism and theory from an independent dealer you know where I am. And you can sign-up to be the first to hear about new stock and discounts here.
And I do sell new books too ... just ask!