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October 31, 2009

Dreams that Glitter

Something has changed during the two years since I was last in England, and I suppose you can blame it on what I now hear referred to as “the global economic shakedown”. It was unprecedented: I scoured the 3 for 2 tables at Waterstones, and could not find anything I wanted to read. One entire table was taken up by that Jane Austen zombie book and various take-offs of the same idea. There were a few good books, but I’d read them already, but all the rest were completely uninspired/uninspiring. And even those at full price seemed to mainly be the umpteenth volume of various celebrity autobiographies.

At the airport, we had pounds to burn, so we checked out WH Smith before our flight left. Their discount display was hilarious, and I really should have taken a photo. Books being promoted were as follows: Brick Lane, Catch 22, something by Enid Blyton, The Life of Pi, Fahrenheit 451 and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It was the time-warp book promotion, and certainly nothing to get excited about.

When I lived in England, I could easily be cajoled into even a 6 for 4, no problem. All the books I wanted would be the ones on sale, and I’d be longing to read them after reading reviews in various newspapers’ respective stand-alone books sections. These books were irresistible, particularly with the discounts. And discounts are cheating at book-buying, I know, but I was looking forward to a little indulgence.

But perhaps the fun is over. Perhaps we even have to start getting what we pay for, and if you’re looking for a deal you’ll have to settle for Dreams that Glitter at 4.99 in hardback. And perhaps this is only sensible, but something about it makes me a little bit sad. (Note: This must be how the derivatives traders feel! Poor us.)

2 thoughts on “Dreams that Glitter”

  1. writer_guy says:

    I thought of your blog post when I read this story about Waterstone's, so thought I'd pass on the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/nov/10/waterstones-high-street-bookselling

  2. Kerry says:

    Very interesting! And it made me realize that it wasn't so much the discounts that appealed to me as much as the promotion that went along with the discounts. Prominant and thoughtful displays had me excited about buying books, and that seemed to be missing on my last visit. Also, the "Bookseller recommends" tabs that used to be handwritten and stuck to shelves have been standardized throughout the chain. It's sad. Whatever appeal Waterstones had left when I shopped there in 2002 seems to be gone.

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