Quietly, over the past half a year, I have been working on something. It has recently changed from an idle daydream to a very real possibility.
I graduated at the height of the recession after the crash of ’08 with a degree in literature. It was almost worthless, especially as I could not afford to move to London to work for free for two years to gain the entry level job I’d been promised my whole life.
Since, I’ve aquired two master’s degrees, one from Glasgow University and one from the University of the Highlands and Islands, in writing and literature. I know my stuff. But somehow, work in books and publishing still eludes me. I still can’t move, I still can’t work for free.
Though I love writing freelance, it’s not paying the bills. There isn’t enough work to go around, it seems, and it’s a lot of time at home, working alone, too. I needed a new plan.
In the summer of 2019, I started thinking seriously about opening a bookshop. Independent bookshops have been popping up across Britain in recent years, booksellers finding their niche in more and more UK cities. This is a wonderful trend, and something that should be celebrated; when all we hear is about news of print media dying, screens becoming ever-more omnipresent, a shift away from the high street and into interchangable shopping centres, readers are bucking the trend.
People still love books, and they love them to come from friendly, knowledgeable booksellers. More and more, the general public wants to hand their hard-earnt cash to independent retaillers, not to Amazon.
This is where I come in.
There is no way to open a bookshop in Stirling town centre. The rates are astronomical, council tax alone would scupper any business like that before it got off the ground. The profit margins on books are not high enough for any business owner to seriously consider premises on King Street. I started thinking about what else I could do.
It hit me all at once. A mobile bookshop. A bookshop in the back of a van. I love vans! Not only do I think the previous five or six years of research will come in handy when it comes to buying and fitting out a vehicle, I’m genuinely excited to take on the work.
As the idea grew, the details became clearer. With a little market research, I discovered I’d need to stock used books as well as new. I came up with a few tentative routes, thinking about weekly events and tourist hotspots.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised how little I valued profit for profit’s sake: what I really want, what will make me excited to go to work in the morning, is to do good in the world. Books have the power to bring people together, and with a little careful planning I hope to be able to create connections and fight loneliness with my bookshop on wheels.
Over the next few months I’ll be furiously fundraising and trying to rope friends and family in to helping me set up the bookshop of my dreams. The vision I have is of a colourful outside and a magical grotto within. If I can make you forget your worries for twenty minutes while you browse books, and let you leave with a new favourite clutched to your chest, I’ll be happy.
We could all do with a little more brightness in our lives, a little more joy. That’s what I want to do with Octarine Books. Because reading is magic.