Book chain founder Philip Joseph dies

Book chain founder Philip Joseph dies

Bookseller Philip Joseph, who co-founded UK bookshop chain Books Etc with his son Richard Joseph, has died at the age of 94.

Philip Joseph first founded the Exclusive Books chain in South Africa, opening the initial bookshop with his wife Pamela Joseph in Johannesburg in 1951. The chain now runs to close to 50 bookshops. After relocating to the UK, he then founded Books Etc with his son in 1981, opening more than 40 stores before selling it to US chain Borders in 1997.

The Bookseller's former editor Louis Baum interviewed Joseph for a profile interview in 2000, in which the bookseller talked about his struggle to increase discounts from UK publishers above 35% in order for Books Etc to operate profitably in the early years. "I wasn't the most popular person at the time because of this, but I was determined that we would break this mould, and indeed the co-operation I received from the larger publishers then was good...The smaller publishers were very, very difficult to break down," he said. He added: "I'm not a literary person; I wish I was. But if a bookshop, or any shop, is not run on sound business principles it is doomed to fail. I became knowledgeable about books and the whole process of publishing and bookselling because I had to. It's not that difficult to pick up. But just because someone comes to you with a profound knowledge of 19th-century literature, that doesn't make them a good bookseller."

Joseph was sanguine about the development of UK bookselling in the aftermath of the collapse of the Net Book Agreement, commenting: "So much success in a business depends on the people running it. You require committed maniacs to run any business, and if there's a shortage of committed maniacs then the businesses that don't have them will suffer, whether they are large or small." 

Funeral details will be published shortly and a full obituary will follow at a later date.