Last night was the Bookseller Industry Awards. At a glitzy award ceremony (i'm assuming it was glitzy, I wasn't there) Sainsbury's scooped the Bookseller of the Year award.
"Sainsbury's was honoured with the Martina Cole General or Chain Bookselling Company of the Year Award after reinvigorating book zones, increasing book sales by more than 33% and attracting new book buyers to the market. One judge said: "We should celebrate the fact that they are embracing books and offering people an alternative place to buy—somewhere they can spend time browsing as well as buying."
I went into my local Sainsbury's today and after congratulating the person on the cigarettes and lotto counter (six items or less), I asked if they could show me where their books were.
Slightly baffled they said they didn't keep them.
That seemed strange for the winner of Martina Cole General or Chain Bookselling Company of the Year Award, especially after one of the judges says that Sainsbury's is a place that we can spend time browsing.
And I don't know about you, but anyone who uses the phrase reinvigorating book zones deserves a very stern talking to and a wedgie at the very least.
So, Sainsbury's are embracing books are they? Well, it's true to say that some of their branches are selling a small selection of general fiction titles at a ridiculously low price. It is also true that they have sold many many thousands of copies of Jamie Oliver's cookery books. They have nailed it with Jamie. Well, if I had 900 shops and sold Jamie Oliver's books for £2 less than I bought it for then I would probably have sold a few copies too.
They sell books, but this does not make them booksellers.
We have sold local honey in the past (Tottenham honey is delicious), but we don't expect to be acknowledged by The National Honey Association.
I have no problem with anybody selling books, but OUR INDUSTRY has recognised them as the Chain Bookselling Company of the Year. This says a great deal about chain bookshops but it says even more about our industry and where it sees the future of bookselling. And for that, I worry.