Sunday 1 March 2009

Buy More Books - And Cough Medicine!

Scenes like this (and no, I wasn't there yesterday) are, I find, at once guiltily exciting and decidedly unsettling - not only in their affront to one's (well, my) inner librarian, but in presenting the worrying image of the collapse of a corner of the book trade. As an Amazon Marketplace regular, I've had books from Bookbarn in the past - invariably astoundingly cheap, usually in good nick - and I'd hate to think that the demise of this pretty vast operation is a sign of things to come. It must be a very low-margin business when books are priced as low as 1p, as they are all over Amazon Marketplace. I guess there's only one thing for it - it is now incumbent on us all to buy even more books and keep these useful and amazingly good value operations going...
Meanwhile, this 'story' somehow found its way to the top of the news agenda overnight - well, it's not as if anything's happening in the world just now, is it? As well as being no news - it's been known for years that most cough and cold remedies, for adults or children, are clinically useless and can have adverse reactions - it's bound to spark yet another shelf-clearing panic, and no doubt present pharmacists with queues of anxious parents, who will have to be fobbed off with the only 'safe' (really?) medications, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Nice work... Surely the main point of cough and cold treatments is that they feel good and syrupy, clinging to the throat and easing it a bit - and that, with luck, they'll go some way to knocking you out. My own favourite is this classic, full of reassuringly old-fashioned ingredients, including both chloroform and ether - a few swigs of that and you're on your way. Stock up before it's banned.


  1. The Bookbarn had an interesting business model, but obviously it didn't work out. The idea was that instead of paying you up front for your unwanted books, as per trad 2nd-hand bookshops, they gave you an account and you got a percentage of anything that sold.

    This enabled them to have a vast stock, but as a buyer it wasn't a pleasant shopping experience. A huge, dirty, freezing cold warehouse, books all higgledy-piggledy, hundreds of copies of the same book, uninterested staff. In other words, it wasn't managed by an owner, and there was zero quality control.

    The Amazon thing is interesting too. The avbailability of all books instantly to all men perhaps reveals that what booksellers have always lived on is unavailability.

  2. Blimey, I never knew you could visit the place, Brit - glad I didn't, by the sound of it. And you're right about booksellers, I fear - many of them are only here because a lot of buyers haven't yet twigged that they can get virtually anything at a fraction of the bookshop price. Not that I want 'proper' booksellers to disappear...
    As for the cold remedies story, it's clear that this is Big Rest and Fluids at work again...

  3. Another book entering the house always represents something of a dichotomy for me. On the one hand a book is a joy forever; on the other, I foolishly let it slip a few years ago to Mrs S. that I was something of a dab hand in the joinery dept. So now each book represents approx 6.58 mins with hammer, plane or screwdriver in hand as yet another bookcase climbs steadily ceilingward. Paradoxically of course, this means that each book represents 6.58 mins less time to read said book. I'm too Sunday-headed to work out what this means in the long term - perhaps I should persuade Mrs S. to buy talking books, then I could listen to them whilst building smaller bookcases. I need a lie down!

  4. Ah yes that's the trouble with books, they need housing... I once had a system for making bookshelves with no nails, screws or other fixings, just accurate measuring and sawing. Only worked in recesses, but it did work - and when you'd done with the shelving, it just deconstructed into various-sized pieces of wood.

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