( 1 Vote )
Lucy Mangan: I need to be brought to book 1.0 out of 5 based on 1 votes.

A trip to a favourite book store seems to have brought out my inner capitalist. How did that happen? And is there a cure?

I recently paid one of my many visits every year to the Book Barn in Somerset (two warehouses, 800,000 books, £1 each in the browsable first barn, which is divided roughly into sections but is still chaotic enough to allow for the magic of serendipity, that vital, intangible component of any successful shopping spree; and in the second, fancy-dan stuff you need to order). It's a grand day out.

But there was something new this time: posters inviting people to become investors in the business. The Book Barn apparently needs £50,000 to recruit staff and improve its IT and "visitor experience". I started to look at the place with a newly covetous eye. I could be a stakeholder here. And not in a tosspot, Tony Blair-ish way; in a real way. I've never been part of a group from whom metaphors were drawn before. Exciting!

Of course, if I did become a shareholder, I'd want them to tidy it up a bit. Put the books into a more sensible order. A lick of paint wouldn't go amiss. I'd make sure all those £1 books were properly priced – you don't want people scurrying away with a bargain where profit ought to be. And I'd smarten up the cafe – no more squashy, shabby armchairs and rickety tables where people drink cups of tea from mismatched crockery as they peruse their potential purchases. In would come something nice in blond wood. Not too nice, of course – that would be expensive and you wouldn't want people to sit there reading all day. This is a shop, not a library. Keep 'em moving. Turnover is key.

Which is the point when my thoughts suddenly stuttered to an appalled halt. Who am I? I thought I was someone who believed in the sprightly magic of serendipity over cold, heartless efficiency. Someone who delighted in teetering piles of people's bibliographic trash waiting to be transformed by other people into treasure. Someone who thrilled to that unspoken contract between bibliophile and bookshop, that somewhere in its antiquated recesses may lie hidden the volume for which you have unknowingly been searching all your life. For God's sake, I was someone who, when she read on the poster that investors got free books proportionate to their investment, briefly wondered whether they got shares as well.

But one hint of a chance of ownership, of turning what tiny bit of knowledge I have about this one niche market to my financial advantage, and I am chucking out everything I hold sacred. I'm importing blond wood and Dewey decimalisation quicker than you can say, "Actually, an ex-library copy of Shirley Conran's Crimson is markedly overpriced at £1. But I'll take it."

Are we all just latent capitalists? Does the venal, grasping spirit simply lie dormant in each breast, some requiring a more unusual confluence of circumstances to rouse them than others? Do I secretly long to be one of Them instead of one of Us? Do We all? Is that the secret of Their success?

I don't know. I do know that I went home, looked up the Book Barn's proposal online and worked out that, if I put in £251, the resulting free books and discounts would put me in profit within 20 visits, even before dividends.

I am standing on the edge of a precipice, my friends. And I've a terrible feeling about which way I'm going to jump.

Lucy Mangan

guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/04/lucy-mangan-books-capitalism-dilemma


Who's Online in Lifestyle

We have 4 guests online