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Go On… Choose It By The Cover!

The adage is supposed to indicate that, just because a book is marketed well and presented in a visually attractive way, there’s no guarantee the story will be any good.

And that’s fine. It has certainly provided us with an everyday quip to suit many a situation. But these days, perhaps the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” in its original literal sense isn’t relevant, or even very good advice. And there are various reasons for this:

  1. Choosing a new book is generally guesswork anyway

Aside from external recommendations, we’ve all got a few ways to try and deduce whether a book will be worth laying down the hard-earned. Most of us will turn to the blurb, but a good copywriter can deceive just as well as a good graphic designer. Maybe you read the first couple pages, or just the first para. Dip in randomly? Or, as a certain unnamed bookseller inexplicably tends to do, skip to the end to see how things pan out. In the end, you just take the plunge – so what’s wrong with using the cover as your main selection aid?

  1. Marketing has been refined so the cover is generally a good match for the book and suits its target audience

Publishing houses these days throw a lot of money into their marketing departments. This means, if you like the cover, chances are your stereotypical self has been market-tested and defined as the ‘target audience’. A great example of this is the movie tie-in cover. I hate them (unless they’ve had at least 40 years retro circumspection) yet they sell and sell and sell, leading one to assume that people place great faith in Hollywood to determine the most worthy pieces of literature. Snobby derision aside, the marketing departments know what’s what and the covers are designed with the masses in mind… are you one of them? Then that book with Keira Knightley on the front is a must-have!

  1. If the book already has good reputation, then itall about the cover

How many productions of Pride & Prejudice have been created over the last 200 years? You donhave to waste time Googling to know itquite large number. Many have wonderful covers and there are number which, well, dont. So why would you waste money on something ugly? If you visit more than one bookshop in your life, chances are youll come across an attractive copy, so, even if itrelatively cheap, donrush into buying ugly. You will find better one, probably very soon.

  1. Doesn’t matter anyway

There are no guarantees in life and reading the occasional dud doesn’t do any harm. Everyone reads books they don’t particularly like. A book may have won a major prize, been recommended by a respected friend, had a great blurb and killer intro… but not float your boat. Why? Well, reading is subjective and we’re all different. But it’s OK because, just as you need to fail numerous times in life to succeed, so too do you need to read the occasional dud in order to refine your tastes and elevate your broader book knowledge.

So go on – pick the book with the cover that speaks to you. These days, you just can’t lose!

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Did It Jump, Or Was It Pushed?

All our customers are booklovers. We know it, so please don’t take offence. This post is just to let you know you’re not alone… and perhaps give you a couple of tips. We’ve all done it more than once. It’s just one of those things and, since we’ve been on Rundle Mall and have been experiencing larger numbers of people in the shop, we’ve had it happen quite a lot.

I’m talking about dropping a book.

You may be surprised to learn that this has quite a few variations:

1. The rarest book drop is fumbling an attempted catch of a book hurled across the room (maybe partly because I have large stick which will be brandished should this ever occur and used upon the hurler, not the dropper). RESULT: Damaged book, hospitalised hurler. SOLUTION: Don’t hurl books in my shop.

2. For most of our dust-jacketed books, we use an archival plastic to protect the jacket. However, this can make the book a little slippery to handle, especially if it’s a heavy book. RESULT: Surprisingly, this rarely results in the book falling to the ground. More often there is just a little scrunching of the plastic as a reflex book save is conducted. SOLUTION: Slowly does it – making sure you have a good grip before book leaves shelf entirely. Should scrunching occur, place book on flat surface and de-scrunch (simple enough to do – it’s surprisingly difficult to attempt while holding book in air).

3. Domino Effect. Again, this is largely our fault as we don’t display our books in a traditional format. We often have books stacked and used as bookends or something similar which means when a load-bearing book is removed its load (ie a book or three) may tumble. RESULT: as the name implies, this can damage more than one book. SOLUTION: Again, slowly does it – assess before removing book from shelf entirely.

4. Jumper. Sometimes a book can appear to leap of its own accord but it is generally due to it being placed precariously and gravity doing its thing slowly but surely. RESULT: This usually results in a damaged book – very occasionally it is fatal – as there is no-one to stop/slow its fall. SOLUTION: Take particular care when replacing book on shelf, especially free-standing hardcovers.

Now here’s the important bit. If you happen to participate in a book-dropping incident, try not to feel bad. We see it all the time and do it ourselves. I will not brandish my stick (unless there’s some hurling involved) and we don’t have a ‘you broke it, you bought it’ policy.

Take your time and assess the situation – if there’s no damage and you can replace the book(s) as it was, go for it. But don’t be afraid to bring it to our attention.

Please don’t just chuck the book back on a shelf and scurry ashamedly off – you’re not obliged to buy the book, but maybe you’ll want to anyway. And if you don’t, that’s OK too – we’d prefer to assess the damage and make repairs or alter the price rather than have a book on the shelf that is no longer worth the stated price.

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One small step for a bookshop…

We’re about to embark on something huge. For a couple of Adelaide locals with a passion for books it’s massively huge (our passion for strict grammar notwithstanding). We’re going to have a bookshop on Adelaide’s main stage, Rundle Mall, during the Christmas season! This means more to us than words can express but we think it goes a bit beyond us…

Why this is important for Books:

It may have struck some people that the book industry is having a tough time of it – the impact of online sales coupled with the advent of e-reading driving many bookshops out of business. The number of bookshops in Adelaide has decreased markedly in the last couple of years to a level approaching embarrassing (for a capital city supposedly hanging its hat on its arts culture).

Adelaide’s Pop-up Bookshop has been fighting to keep books in the public eye despite misguided opposition from those who should be supporting us in the fight. We want to reunite people with their old favourites and remind them what it is that connects them with books. This can’t be done by sitting around and hoping for a return to ‘them good old days’ or pleading with people to ‘buy local’ or ‘support our industry’.

This Christmas, as always, we’re preaching to the unconverted – those who have strayed from the literary path or have forgotten that bookshops exist.

We promise a bookshop (and Rundle Mall) experience unlike any other – it’s not for everyone, but we like to think it should be. And the more people we get back on the bookwagon, the healthier the book world becomes.

Why this is important for Adelaide:

There are so many people doing great things in Adelaide right now and, even better, it’s a groundswell of simultaneous inspirations rather than a leader taking charge. We’re just another tiny piece of this amazing puzzle. We’re only little, but we do books really well – just like other locals who do coffee really well, or burgers really well, or street art really well, or wine, or playgrounds, or websites, or furniture, or… well, there are too many to mention. And whenever a local stands up and says “this is what I do best and I want everyone to know about it,” Adelaide gets that little bit closer to being truly one of the world’s great cities.

Oh yeah. And, even if it’s just for a short while, we’re taking a bit of our Rundle Mall back for the locals (thank you very much, multi-nationals)! We’re in that envious position where we don’t have to plead with people to ‘buy local’ – we only encourage the public to treat themselves to the best. The fact that the best things in Adelaide are being done by the locals is Just. Freaking. Awesome.

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Functional or Face-mask?

Sorry for not having put anything up for a couple of weeks – our travels have made our internet connectivity a bit patchy… which kinda ties in with this post:

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical second-hand bookshop. Middle-aged proprietor sitting at desk, book in hand, coffee/tea/gin at ready. Customer scuttles in and plays the independent book sleuth while book is read and coffee/tea/gin sipped.

But I can’t help having noticed a slight change to this scenario – no longer is a book in hand!

As the customer scuttles in (and I often fill this role), where once there was a book, there now sits a flatscreen or a laptop or a tablet or a smartphone. My sleuthing is distracted by a constant tappity-tappity-click-slide-click coming from the desk.

Booksellers hang thy heads! Which industry has lamented the pervasiveness of the online world more than ours? Who has sneered with more venom, cursed with greater vitriol or pleaded more pathetically?

Yet there we have it in almost every bookshop (and certainly this includes new bookshops):  tappity-tappity-click-slide-click whilst the customer sleuths, ignored.

Customer service has often been just theoretical in bookshops but even I – having been on the other side of the flatscreen – am finding the new stereotype untenable. I was always happy to consider myself less important than the book being read or the coffee being sipped but the tappity-tappity?

I understand the functionality of computers for small-business owners (thankyou GST, thankyou Fairwork,  thankyou ballboys) but is this essential admin or just a face-mask to hide behind when a customer comes a-scuttlin’?

Luckily, with our pop-ups we are there face-to-face with nowhere to hide (unless gripped by a book!) But since we do change things up a lot, there is every likelihood there will be an electronic device entrancing me (or Kate) at various stages.

This post is more than just a post – it’s a permit. If you are one of our customers and you hear any unapologetic tappity-tapping going on, you are hereby authorised to snap me out of it. Loudly!

You ARE more important than the tappity-tappity.

This permit is unfortunately not valid in any other bookshop, but having sown the seed…