Confessions of a Bookseller: day 2 takeover

Confessions of a Bookseller: day 2 takeover

In his second takeover blog, Shaun Bythell shares more of his experiences running a bookshop.


Shortly after I’d opened the shop, a young woman and her mother who'd visited the shop last week returned and bought the six volume Folio set of the The Arabian Nights for £80. They’d been vacillating over whether or not to buy it, and had clearly made up their minds that they’d regret it if they didn’t. As a bookseller, almost anything published by The Folio Society is to be desired. Not, perhaps, for its financial value, but for the visual impact that a shelf of Folios has on the shop. They are, almost without exception, beautiful and in recent years the production values appear to have further increased with stunning illustrations both to the boards and the spines, as well as internally.

Gillian, who covers one day a week in the shop, appeared at 10 a.m. We unloaded the boxes from the van. She became unduly excited when she realised that they contained the library of J B Pick. She was familiar with his work, and with his interest in Neil M Gunn, and had several mutual friends in the world of academia. She cleared space in the Scottish Room for them and priced them at £3.50 each. They will—on the whole—sell quickly. With its Classics range Canongate has made a shrewd business decision; many of the books it publishes will be on either school or university curricula, and since most of the authors are long dead, and the estates can no longer legally expect remuneration, they have no advances, royalties nor copyright fees to pay. 

An elderly woman came to the counter with a box of tatty Observers books at lunchtime. I found two with jackets and offered her £1 each for them, to which she replied "It’s not worth it for that. I know what they’re worth. I’ve seen them for sale for £3 in charity shops."

By mid-afternoon the sun had come out, following a grey start to the day. I lodged the cash takings with Wilma at the post office who was on the phone when I arrived. As I waited, I heard her side of the conversation which went: "Aye. Aye. And you entered a plea of ‘not guilty’?"

My friend Luise posted this on Facebook:

Cold caller: "I understand that you were in an accident that wasn’t your fault?"
Me: "Yes. Brexit. Can you help?"
Cold caller: [hangs up]

Shaun Bythell is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, and also one of the organisers of the Wigtown Festival. His first book, The Diary of a Bookseller, has been translated into twenty languages, including Russian, Korean and French. His second book, Confessions of a Bookseller, was published by Profile Books on 29th August 2019.

This diary extract is published as part of Shaun Bythell's FutureBook takeover. Read the rest of his Confessions of a Bookseller entries here