For the 150th anniversary issue of The Bookseller (the world’s oldest publishing trade magazine), the editors commissioned me to write a short-short story about the next 150 years of book sales. The result is called The Right Book, and it’s out in the current edition and online as well.
The thing that Arthur liked best about owning his own shop was that he could stock whatever he pleased, and if you didn’t like it, you could just shop somewhere else. So there in the window were four ancient Cluedo sets rescued from a car-boot sale in Sussex; a pair of trousers sewn from a salvaged WWII bivouac tent; a small card advertising the availability of artisanal truffles hand made by an autistically gifted chocolatier in Islington; a brick of Pu’er tea that had been made in Guyana by a Chinese family who’d emigrated a full century previous; and, just as of now, six small, handsomely made books.
The books were a first for Arthur. He’d always loved reading the things, but he’d worked at bookshops before opening his own little place in Bow, and he knew the book-trade well enough to stay well away. They were bulky, these books, and low-margin (Low margin? Two-for-three titles actually *lost* money!), and honestly, practically no one read books anymore and what they did read was mostly rubbish. Selling books depressed Arthur.
These little buggers were different, though. He reached into the window — the shop was so small he could reach it without leaving his stool behind the till — and plucked one out and handed it to the kid who’d just asked for it. She was about 15, with awkward hair and skin and posture and so on, but the gleam in her eye that said, “Where have you been all my life?” as he handed her the book.