Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The latest news from Waterstone's
Last week I had a drink with former colleague from Waterstone's. I had been looking forward to hearing the latest gossip, but it turned out to be a rather depressing experience and after half an hour I was desperate to change the subject.
Apparently the management have now introduced bag searches for members of staff. This comes on top of a compulsory uniform (sorry, dress code - the word uniform is apparently frowned on in Waterstone's), mystery shoppers, restricted access to proof copies and the introduction of a course called Get Selling (because those airy-fairy booksellers don't know how to sell books).
My ex-colleague added that they'd read on book on Nazi Germany a few weeks ago, and were struck by the parallels with Waterstone's. It was a slightly melodramatic comparison. As far as I know, Waterstone's haven't started exterminating Ottakar's booksellers yet, but I could see that the combination of inefficiency, obsession with efficiency and intolerance of dissent all sounded horribly familiar.
I used to want to hear what was going on in Waterstone's and bookselling in general, but this time something had changed. I no longer felt any connection to the book trade and I was reluctant to open up an old wound. I listened patiently until there was a slight lull in the conversation, then decided to change the subject:
'Have you heard of an author called David Karp?'