Saturday, 9 February 2013

Bugger them, I’m moving with the times (and the market)!

Hi, I’m Incy Black, one small but rather out-spoken, fifth of ‘The Romanchics’.  I thought about posting my ‘call story’ by way of introduction (cos everyone loves a happy ending), but then I realised my integrity would be better preserved with a rant. A good, old-fashioned, spewing of vitriol. Why? Because the ‘horrid’ part of the ‘little girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead’ has always been harder for me to supress than the ‘very, very nice’ part. Honest, but true. And I happen to enjoy Malakoff cocktails, just not the ones you drink.

So on with the rant…traditional bookshops, I can see why so many are going to the wall.

Though a convert of the e-reader, every now and then I crave to feel beneath my fingertips, the exquisite caress of ‘real paper’. I need to inhale the tart note of black print. I burn for the crisp sound of a page turning. And, cardinal sin though it might be, I have a fetish for the power inherent in breaking the spine of a book so the pages lie flat. (Also, given the amount I read, my eyes deserve a bloody good break from the harsh and inhuman glare of a screen.)

So into Bookshop No. 1 I wander, my heartbeat skipping at the sight of all the lovely books. I have a few holes to plug in my collections of Christine Feehan, J R Ward and Sherrilyn Kenyon, not to mention the seventy quid burning a hole in my pocket. Could I find a single title by one of these writers? Could I hell! Frustrated and not a little perplexed, I approached the scarily intellectual looking sales assistant, fully resigned to look a right idiot. ‘You need to look under science-fiction’, she sneered. ‘And you need a little romance in your life’, I shot back. No way was she making any commission out of me. Snooty cow!

Feathers ruffled, I headed off for Bookshop No. 2 (yet another high street name). Reluctant to waste a minute scanning the wrong section, I enquire politely of the young sales assistant, a boy this time (barely older than a baby newt), under which section I might find my preferred authors.  ‘Horror’, he said.
Science fiction? Horror? What on earth are people on when they categorize books? Do they even read (I’d settle for a quick flick-through) the books they carry on their shelves? 

Romance is supposed to be the second most popular genre after Crime. Surely that merits an entire wall of shelving, helpfully sectioned into ‘Saga’, ‘Contemporary’, ‘Paranormal/Urban Fantasy’, ‘Historical’, ‘Suspense’ etc. But no, Romance is obviously the reserve of the aberrant and best diluted with a filing so obscure such books are destined for the shame of ‘returns’. (And don’t think I didn’t notice how the ‘Shades of Grey’ trilogy earned pride of place by the doors with their own neat little shelving display in both shops – I’m guessing Erotica or Soft Porn have some way to go before earning the privilege of a huge black and white sign to helpfully inform about content.)

So long story short, and with my blood pressure now only slightly raised, I’ll be sticking with Amazon in future, that big black cloud responsible supposedly for driving trade from the high street and ripping the heart out of our towns. They currently have over 210,000 romance titles unashamedly listed and most helpfully sectioned, across at least eight niche categories.  Sheesh, I could probably read an entire book with the time I’ll save each week by not having to fathom the obscure labels pinned by the traditional retailers. And I’ll be saving money too!

Tantrum over! Until next time. 

If you remain a staunch supporter of the traditional bookshop, please tell me why. I’d truly like to know.


  1. Too true! I have pretty much given up ever buying anything on the high street. Unless you order in, they have such a poor selection. The internet has spoiled us all!

  2. Not spoiled us, Jess, liberated us! I do regret the demise of the second hand book shop though. Loved those musty, dusty retreats. And the usually half cut, bi-focaled, men who invariably wore maroon cardigans big enough for a family of five to live in.

  3. Yay!! Great rant. And she loves breaking book spines too. Vampiric devourer of words.... When I walk into a bookstore and ask for Incy Black books I want to to be directed to Romance. Suspense. So book shops better adapt or I ain't wasting petrol money.

  4. Awesome rant, and a little scary. In a good way :)

    I'm all for buying online. Can't remember ever seeing a second hand book shop here, just Waterstones and when you ask where something is there you might as well be asking a five year old about physics.

  5. The only High Street shop I frequent often is The Works, plus I like to support my little local Indie bookstore, but for everything else, there's the internet: Amazon, The Works, Book People, Red House, etc...

  6. Lol, it's like I'm reading my life, Incy! I read those same authors and always struggle to find them. My local Waterstones has actually helpfully (for a change!) given them their own little section - but then labelled it as 'dark horror'. Really? So vampire/shifter/mythology-based books with some romance and a (generally) HEA are somehow darker then normal horror with it's ghosts/ghouls/serial killers/half the characters are usually dead at the end scariness?

    The only 'traditional' bookstore I'll still buy from is a small independent one near me, and that's more to show support for the fact that they try and support local writers by arranging meetups, talks etc and never complaining when we take over the shop with laptops and clear the coffee bit out of cake :)

  7. I've read all those authors and I wouldn't really think of them as horror. Brings back shades of my English degree. Tutor: "Can anyone name a type of women's literature?" Me: "Mills & Boon." Tutor *cannot contain her disdain* "I meant literature". Bah!