Our book buyers survey is in, and in the bit where we asked you what you would like us to do, you’ve suggested we change some things, and if we do that, you might come visit us more often. You’ve collectively suggested that as a volunteer led bookshop, we open on Thursday night and Sunday...oh, and that we somehow we find the funds to open a coffee shop on the first floor.
Er...no. Just no.
“Why not you ask?”
“Because you’re in love with someone else.” we say.
Whether you accept it or not, this Valentine’s Day it’s clear that Belfast is totally and hopelessly besotted with Jeff Bezos’s Amazon, and love him more than it loves its independent booksellers, and probably by extension, other small local retailers.
Despite us being much cooler than him, more inventive than him, cheaper than him, more available than him (he doesn’t follow ANYONE back on Twitter), you lot seem to be in a stuporific unrequited love bitch relationship with him.
“That’s a bit harsh John.”
Not from where we’re sitting. Let me give you a real world example of what happens when Greater Belfast slavishly buys it’s books from Amazon.
In the last number of months you guys have managed to close a social economy bookshop and cafe on the Lisburn Road (in non-ghetto North Belfast, South Belfast) because you didn’t support it. Did you know that? At least partly because you guys loved Jeff Bezos more, a social economy bookshop and coffee shop closed. A meeting place and bookish venue of the highest quality was lost. A bookshop and cafe that if my information was correct got over £500,000 of money from the Department of Justice and other funders now sits empty.
Your love for Jeff Bezos’s Amazon knows no bounds, and you seem totally oblivious to what he gets up to when you’re not around.
Take a wee break from your telling off to read this story...
Am I really to believe that you don’t care about the working conditions and health of these non unionised workers, and can just blank them out? If so, please don’t read on any further, and just head back to Omelas.
“But John, where else would I get a unicorn balloon at half three in the morning?”
Um... ordering it is not the same as ‘getting’ it. You can see one and feel one and ‘get’ one from any of the loads of party shops throughout the city. Small retailers who don’t have hedge funds and billions of dollars worth of backing, but who have something Bezos and Amazon will never have - they contribute to the economy, lifeblood and social well-being of this piece of land we share.
Take us for example. Over the last few weeks we’ve held a charity to account whose workers harmed women and children. We’ve also helped a number of intoxicated people get safely home, ordered taxis for pensioners, helped a local woman navigate the social housing points maze, are wrestling with a landlord over a lease for a farmers market and donated loads of books to a local social enterprise. Oh, and we’re designing a community magazine and are frequently told that the free tea and chat at ours is the only act of kindness local vulnerable people have experienced in a lifetime. As well as that we’ve also acted as ambassadors for Belfast, directing tourists to various parts of the city. I’m certain other shopkeepers throughout the city are similarly contributing to the greater good of the city and the communities around them. Is Jeff Bezos making such a difference in where you live? Is he planning breakfast clubs and running ballet classes and trying to get a stage school opened in north Belfast? We are.
“Ok John, my original messianic rage at being criticised for my choices has abated, and I’m suitable chastened. How can I help?”
Well, we need money to keep the doors open and we need more money to grow.
We can get money from a number of sources.
Equity (where you buy in to acquire a share of the bookshop). I wouldn’t recommend that as there’s no return on investment coming this side of never.
Loan us some money to invest in some areas we’ve wanted to get into, but because of lack of funds we haven’t been able to. Not as crazy as it sounds as thus far, that’s exactly what we’ve done over the last 3 odd years. You may also not get your money back, as we’ve no expectation of getting our investment or loans back.
Donations of money. As some of you did when our shutter got damaged by a hurricane, you can help straight away by gifting money to us by PayPal. Here’s the link...
We’ll set up a crowdfunder later for bigger projects. If anyone has experience of doing that successfully, get in touch.
Donations of books.
Good quality non fictions books, but that’s not enough of itself to keep the doors open. Trust me, we’ve tried paying our phone and broadband bill with a copy of ‘Lost Lives’. That didn’t end well, but thankfully the restraining order is due to expire soon.
Buy stuff from us at the shop, as we’re always cheaper than Amazon Marketplace.
Volunteer at or on the bookshop. Here’s the mailing list to sign up for that.
Got YouTube presenting or video skills? We’ve a special list for that here...
Also, give your high level skills to help us improve things like our website, accounting procedures, stock control and branding. If you’re a creative writing tutor, give your time for free so we can run a course. Or offer to host a book club. Do something. Make a difference. As the Book Reserve and Thinking Cup found out to their cost, the choice is stark...it’s either
And no, we didn’t get the end of this post wrong. It really is ‘#buylocal or #byelocal.