Reading various interviews with Ann Patchett around the time her latest novel State of Wonder* was published, I noted that she had plans to open a bookshop in her home town, Nashville. Along with her business partner Karen Hayes, a former Random House rep., her idea was for a not-too-big, not-too-small independent shop that would be a focus for the community and sell the books its owners love and want to recommend.
Parnassus Books is now taking shape, and to help with start-up costs and to build customer loyalty right from the off, they have come up with a scheme by which a 7-tiered founders' club gives members various privileges from single book discounts to a '20% off' shoppping spree, after hours buying and more. All very enterprising, and if I lived anywhere near, I'd join (I have signed up for emails as I'm interested to follow their progress).
What makes a good bookshop, one that you want to return to again and again? The following are obvious attributes/elements, but not always present, in my experience at least, and are surely all the more crucial in these tough economic times:
- a pleasant place: light and airy, or cosy but well-lit, with places to sit down and space to browse comfortably,
- stock which looks as though it's been carefully chosen by book lovers, rather than lifted from a retail outlet which doesn't purport to be a bookshop per se,
- knowledgeable staff: people who know books and are passionate about them - and are good with customers!
- author events,
- book groups,
Anything else? What, apart from the above, might draw you in to our fantasy bookshop? Financial incentives such as a customer loyalty scheme or privileges like the Parnassus Books founders' ones? Well-chosen non-book items like stationery, 'gifts', homewares, etc.? Art exhibitions or musical evenings? Writers' groups? London's Big Green Bookshop branches out in other innovative ways, too. Food for thought ...