Quite a while since I was last in Canterbury, but what a pleasant spot it remains. Beautiful old houses akimbo. And right at the heart of it, just a short walk from the Cathedral, a pleasant bookshop – the Chaucer Bookshop – on evocatively named Beer Cart Lane.
Digital evidence provided by my computer seems to record that the last time I bought a book from here (barring some online purchases) was back in February 1995 – far too long, I know – and no real excuse. But back there again yesterday to a warm and cordial welcome. Current intern (Lizzie Critchley) in tow. Lizzie is writing an essay on how the trade has adapted to the online world and all the perils and pleasures of the internet – and in particular on what we might call the second phase: not just the basic search engines developed back in the last century, but the twenty-first century world of social media.
We shall be contacting many of you over the coming weeks – but please don’t wait to be asked. How are you all getting on with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and wherever else you may be? Not just booksellers but book-buyers too – what do you have to say? How is it for you? Who is still blogging? – and to what effect? And how many of you are using eBay, Etsy or other non-book-specific online platforms to sell or to buy? Tell us more. Do let us have your thoughts – how it’s going, where it’s going?
While Lizzie was quizzing away (she’ll probably be going back soon to give the shop’s online profile a boost), I stuck to what I love best. Book-hunting pure and simple. Buying online is all very well, but nothing to beat the raw experience of viewing the physical books, handling them and letting them speak to you in person.
The Chaucer Bookshop was established in 1956 and the amiable Sir Robert Sherston-Baker, Bt. took it on twenty years later. He’s still there and the shop is now somewhat larger than I remember it – it’s expanded into the building next door in the intervening years. And it’s everything you might wish for in a local bookshop – full of books from floor to ceiling – books downstairs, books upstairs – books for reading, books for enjoying, books for collecting, books for giving – all subjects catered for – something for everyone and for every depth of pocket.
I soon had a bagful – fiction, poetry, topography, economic history and cricket – and departed weighted down with a ballast of purchases. You will too if you go there – and you could not ask for a more pleasant day out. And failing that, do look at their website.