Monday, September 24, 2007

How the new Mr Books plans to change the way we read

In the first interview after his surprise takeover of Borders, Luke Johnson plans expanding into toys .

From The Observer 23 September

It is hard to resist scanning a new acquaintance's bookshelf for a clue to their personality.

Take Luke Johnson's favourite novels: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson and Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. In between chairing Channel 4, sitting on several boards and writing a newspaper column, he is currently reading - 'before I go to bed, when I travel on trains and on holiday, and sometimes on a Sunday afternoon if the children will let me,' - JG Ballard's Kingdom Come .

There is no obvious theme linking the three books - unless, perhaps, it is excess
in a capitalist world. He rates Fear and Loathing as 'a brilliant
description of Las Vegas, which is America at one extreme'. Nostromo
appeals to him as 'an incredibly clever description of capitalism in the
19th century in Latin America'. Ballard's recent novel is a satire of
consumerism gone mad.

This weekend Johnson,who made his name at Pizza Express, became Britain's third biggest
bookseller with his surprise purchase of Borders for £10m. In an interview
yesterday he told The Observer about plans for a new Borders online store,
a possible expansion into computer games, stationery and toys, and the
probable demise of CDs and DVDs. But any suspicions that his interest is
purely capitalist will be tempered by his impassioned plea for books'
inherent social value.

'Books are different, as people have always argued through the ages,' the 45-year-old said. 'They are a cornerstone of civilisation, so they're not quite like other
consumer products. They are fundamental to intellectual development. The
very depressing statistics you read about the coincidence of dyslexia and
prison inmates suggest that in the modern world if you can't read and
don't enjoy reading it's a major disadvantage. I think a home that doesn't
have books is a bit of a sad place, really.'

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