Sunday 18 November 2018

The Open Book - A bookshop holiday

Post contributed by - Katherine Burchell (@katherinehelen)

Have you ever dreamed of running your own bookshop? Have you ever dreamed of running your own bookshop on holiday? That’s exactly what Liam and Rosie Austin did in 2015, and on Wednesday 31st October they came to tell us all about their time running The Open Book in Wigtown as part of a bookshop holiday. This opportunity is available due to the Wigtown Festival Company and this is where all the profits from the bookshop go to.

Wigtown is known as a book town, which is “a town or village with a large number of used book or antiquarian book stores,” which are usually in scenic places. The town is a long way from anywhere and as Liam pointed out “you can’t just pop in”, which means trips to Wigtown for people are usually planned.

Rosie described how when they arrived they met George, one of the volunteers, who showed them the cash tin, the ledger to record all sales and off they went. The first book that they sold was History of Islam for £2.50. The first thing Rosie highlighted that it was important to do was to get to know their stock, much like you would in a library. She described how there was an incredible level of trust, in terms of displays, choosing the opening hours of the book shop and prices of the books on sale.

Liam and Rosie decided it would be a good idea, as a way to get to know their customers, to set up an atlas in the shop for visitors to pin point where they had come from to visit the shop. They described how this was a great conversation point for them. Many of the locals regularly visit the shop to see who the new owners are for that week, and you could often see the marks of previous booksellers, who often would bring their own items with them to sell.

Whilst running the shop, Liam and Rosie were allowed to update and use the shops social media accounts and they used this an opportunity to engage with the locals and planned events. Liam planned a mini escape game, where he hid clues round the shop and the winner got the code for a briefcase with chocolate in, whilst Rosie organised a literary speed dating event, for people to tell others about their favourite books. Both of these events were very successful. 

Liam and Rosie visited a different bookshop every morning, to speak to other booksellers and to learn more about the community. They told us how lots of the booksellers would contact other shops if they knew that that shop might have a book that someone was interested in. Everyone supported each other and there was no rivalry. Liam and Rosie described how there was a real sense of community and everyone wanted to help each other. 

I think it is fair to say that everyone who attended Liam and Rosie’s talk now really wants to go and run Wigtown’s bookshop, but unfortunately it looks like we will all be waiting until 2025 for our chance! 

More information and booking can be found: