One of the wonderful things about doing this feature is participating in a virtual tour of bookshops all over the world.
Today’s bookshop is in Winchcombe on the edge of the Cotswolds, one of my favourite places in England, so a beautiful bookshop in beautiful countryside.
Books & Ink Bookshop
6 North Street
Telephone: 01242 603625
In their own words
How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?
When we opened the bookshop in 2005 we stocked books and stationery and the idea was to stock all sorts of book-related things – things you needed to write books as well as books to read, so we had calligraphy nibs and ink, fine journals, even sealing wax and seals for old-fashioned letter-writing. So Books & Ink is how the shop began…. it’s since evolved to be books, with a few book-related gifts; it was too difficult to keep stocking the fine stationery as suppliers wanted big orders. Our stock changed but the name stuck!
Who are you? Owns the bookshop? Bit of a bio and pics, please
I’m Sam, now sole owner, though begun as a joint venture with my good friend, Sheryl. A lot has changed over the years so now I run the shop on my own, while Sheryl has gone on to running her own antiques business with her partner. She still buys her books from me though!
Why a bookshop? What made you want to get into bookselling?
I taught myself to read with Beatrix Potter books when I was about 3. I was a poorly child at that age but, according to my mum, could quite happily amuse myself on sleepless nights, as long as I had a book in my hand. I didn’t have many books of my own growing up and always treasured the ones I had. One birthday all I wanted was a little cobbled together bookcase with little glass doors, so my precious books didn’t get dusty. I remember choosing it from Weedon Antiques Centre and I still have that bookcase. I think I was always destined to work with books.
General background/history of the shop please
Initially torn between opening a bookshop in Banbury or Leamington Spa, the bookshop was in Banbury from 2005 until September 2019 when I re-located to Winchcombe in the Cotswolds. I had a wonderful time in Banbury but Winchcombe has stolen my heart – it’s a beautiful small town with a wonderful community spirit and plenty of Cotswolds walks on the doorstep. I was given a really warm welcome to the town and although the shop has been closed since March 2020, due to the effects of covid, I can’t wait to re-open in 2021.
Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?
Lots of genres. I’m particularly passionate about children’s books (vintage and modern), illustrators (particularly Edward Ardizzone), history, classic literature and books about books but have a wide-ranging stock.
Do you mainly sell new or second-hand books?
We’ve had varying relationships with second-hand, antiquarian and new books over the years. When we opened we just stocked second-hand, antiquarian and new remainders. That soon evolved into small selections of new books as well and when I moved the shop to Winchcombe I opened with about 50:50 new and old. However, when we re-open after the pandemic I will be concentrating again on the antiquarian and second-hand books, with a much smaller selection of new books in stock (but with plenty of new books available to order). As a solo bookseller this is much more manageable for me than having lots of new books as well, which involve a lot more human hours in paperwork, admin and stock management. Although I love keeping up with new releases, old books are my real passion – I love the research aspect of selling old and antiquarian books and I love re-uniting customers with favourite books from their childhoods or which have long been out of print.
What makes your bookshop special?
Everything about it is special. I may be a little biased… but my customers tell me so and over the years I have come to believe them… just a little bit. p.s. ALL bookshops are special 😉
What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?
Juggling work/life balance vs a bookseller’s income but doing a job I absolutely LOVE (and don’t really see as a job to be honest – it’s a vocation!!). Also, while I love being in a customer-facing job, I can get people-overload and it’s hard to get ‘quiet’ time on a busy day.
What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
My customers. Hands down, seeing happy smiles on customers faces when they discover a book that they love; whether it’s something I’ve recommended, or something they’ve discovered browsing, happy customers is the very best thing about bookselling.
If you could invite any author for a book signing at your shop, who would you choose?
The Obamas; and I’d love to take them out for dinner in a friendly Costswold pub afterwards.
How do you choose the books you stock?
Generally I have to love them; and if I love them I think you’ll love them too!
Name three books on your TBR.
I counted a couple of days ago and I currently have 174 books on my TBR (plus a few on my Christmas wishlist). Three at random: 1. Wildspark by Vashti Hardy. Vashti’s Brightstorm trilogy are one of my favourite recent children’s fantasy series – full of excitement, adventure, friendship, courage… they are brilliant. Wildspark is a stand-alone and I can’t wait to read it. 2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell; I just know I’m going to love it. 3. Long Live Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Tirzah Garwood. I’ve long been interested in the Great Bardfield artists, wood engravers, the Curwen Press and generally in illustration c 1920s-60s. I’ve been saving this book for an indulgent weekend.
What are you reading at the moment?
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
What is the weirdest thing a customer has ever asked for?
There have been a lot of weird moments but hands down it’s ‘can I have my funeral in your bookshop?’. This little anecdote can also be found in Jen Campbell’s delightful book, ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’.
What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?
There are too many to single out. I wouldn’t be a bookseller without my wonderful customers and there are so many wonderful moments – from long standing customers who have become friends, from passers-by just visiting, and when children pop in to say thank you for a great recommendation that’s particularly special. One moment that sticks in my mind is when I found exactly the right edition of a book for someone to give to their friend who was going through a tough time and an overwhelmed, happy, tearful customer brought tears to my eyes too. It was a special moment.
If you own a bookshop and would like to be involved have a look at this page http://www.indiebookshops.com/category/browse-a-bookshop/ and then email your answers and images to firstname.lastname@example.org