Friday, April 08, 2016

The Rise of the Non-Book Book

The new iconography of feminine purity: Our Lady of the Seven Salads,
She of the Immaculate Complexion

On the high streets of small towns, the success stories are Primark, Greggs, Wilko, Poundland and variety shops like Tiger. Card and gift emporiums are ubiquitous. In this unpropitious climate, Waterstones is holding out with almost 300 shops, recovering – according to the figures – from near failure four years ago. The owner, Alexander Mamut, has invested over £50 million. James Daunt was brought in to give the shops more character and relax central control: booksellers can decide which books to promote and tailor their own displays.

But it isn’t all about the books. Agreements with Costa and Paperchase, and the introduction of their own cafes in larger stores, are designed to make the shops more alluring. Gifts now seem to take up as much space as books, at least on the tables, where the prettiest paperbacks are distributed among Orla Kiely pots and enamel cups. There are horticultural tables, literary themed gifts (Penguin does a good line in pencil cases and tote bags), sewing kits and appliqué sets next to the craft books. Pets are reliably popular – see Dog Bingo – and natural history in the guise of faux-antique prints of fish and butterflies on notebooks and crockery. Something is working, because digital sales are down and those of paper and glue books are up, but the ephemera isn’t only disguising the books, it’s disguising the rise of the non-book book.   MORE

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