As you all know I have a passion for books and all things bookish and this, of course, includes bookshops! As part of my series “A Day in the Life Of”, I have been lucky enough to be able to “grill” the lovely Karen of “Print Point” a unique little independent bookshop in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.
I first came across Print Point earlier this year when I attended Bute Noir and Karen was my first point of contact with the shop(I had mailed in a last minute panic to buy tickets for sell-out panels at the festival and she kindly squeezed me in!) I was absolutely bowled over by the shop, one of those kooky spaces where something new catches your eye every time you turn around! And as it was used for one of the venues for Bute Noir, I was also lucky enough to sample one of Karen’s mum’s cakes! #OMG not to be missed! And check out that door!
Tucked away on the corner of West Princes Street and Bishops Street, Print Point is Bute’s only bookshop and it stocks over 4000 books for adults and children (and when you see how small the shop is that is an excellent example of good use of space!) Yet despite the size, the shop is not cluttered nor is it cramped, rather it is a warm, welcoming and quirky venue that is clearly a large part of this small island community.
Not only does Print Point provide an excellent selection of books (and if they don’t have it they will order it in for you!) you can also grab a cuppa and some cake and get yourself settled for a wee afternoon of R&R (that’s reading and relaxation!) Looking for stationery or some printing jobs done? Then Print Point can also help you out there too! Want to keep up to date with your social media, catch up on emails, then free wifi means you can indulge yourself in an afternoon of chilling in this unique little bookstore, what are you waiting for!
So over to Karen to hear about “A day in the life of an independent bookstore”
How did you come to be a bookseller?
I came to be a bookseller after I left school at 18 and asked to do voluntary work in my local printers/stationers and bookshop (then called Bute Print). It was run by a voluntary organisation and employed 4 full-time staff then me. I worked there for a couple of years through a jobseekers scheme then was taken on full-time. At this point, the printers was the main source of income and books were just a small part of the business. In 1997 with the company making a loss, the employees were asked if we wanted to buy the existing company for £1 or be made redundant. We had nothing to lose so myself and 2 of my colleagues took the plunge while the other 2 employees took redundancy. We got a grant to purchase the machinery and stock and Print Point was born! I went from doing a lot of the print finishing to becoming manager of the bookshop side of things.
What is a typical day for you?
A typical day begins by checking emails/social media etc and posting anything that is of interest to the local community such as new books in the store. We also have a photocopying facility in store and a coffee area so I split my time between bookselling, copying and serving coffee! We get book orders in most days so I spend an hour or so each day organising all the new books that come in, my favourite part of the job.
What are the common myths about working in a bookstore?
Not sure if it is a myth but a lot of customers assume that you have read every book that is on the shelf, I mainly read crime so if I am asked what the latest romance/sci-fi best read is I have to go with Gardners Books recommendations! I wish I had time to read all the books on the shelves.
Highlights of your job?
My husband jokes with me that I love my job that much I would open Christmas Day if he let me…….not strictly true but I am very lucky to enjoy coming to work every day, everything is a highlight really. I have to say in the last year and a half the highlight has been working alongside Rothesay Library and Bute Museum (and Craig Robertson of course) to create Bute Noir Crime Writing Festival which has enabled me to get to know so many lovely people. Oh, and we have had Sir Richard Attenborough come in on several occasions to purchase National Book Tokens!
If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?
If I could change one thing about my job it would only be to be in bigger premises. There is nothing I don’t like about it…..
What’s the most important quality for a bookseller? A passion for books or retail skills?
I think the most important thing for a bookseller is to get to know your customers and make them feel welcome so that they enjoy coming into your shop. I have a fair knowledge of books but it wouldn’t be any use if people didn’t want to come in because you put them off. It is also nice to point people in the right direction if they are buying a gift for someone and don’t know where to start.
The craziest question you have ever been asked?
I have been asked a few crazy questions but the one that springs to mind is the customer who came in asking if I sold bandages as she had sprained her wrist. I said no but advised her to go to the local chemist to which she replied: ” Do you think they would sell them, I thought I would get them in here”
What’s the book flying off the shelves at the moment?
The books flying off the shelves at the moment are Denise Mina’s The Long Drop and Myra Duffy’s Dark Deeds at Bute Noir.
One thing you would love to do at work?
The one thing I would love to do at work is expand…..but failing that we have been lucky to have so many great authors come here already. If I was being greedy it would be amazing to have J.K. Rowling come to Print Point and read from any Harry Potter book. We have had so many midnight openings in the past for Harry Potter including a party in Rothesay Castle for The Deathly Hallows launch so to have her would be fantastic.
If you weren’t a bookseller what would you be?
If I wasn’t a bookseller and didn’t have to work I would be a full-time Liverpool football supporter…….I have been a fan my whole life as my grandpa was a Scouser and my husband and I spend the footy season travelling there for every home match so if I was a full-time supporter I would go to every away match too! I can’t imagine working anywhere else.
A huge thank you to Karen for taking part, what a fascinating background to a career in bookselling.
And really, if you are ever in Bute, you really do need to pop in and see the shop for yourselves, you will not be disappointed! And if you are a crime fiction lover then check out Bute Noir and have yourself a wee trip doon the watter for a cracking wee crime fiction lovers book festival!
Print Point can be found on Facebook and Twitter on the links below: