Friday, April 27, 2007


I was in Foyles buying some books yesterday. For those of you who don't know Foyles it's a very odd shop. Nothing like as odd as it used to be but still a bit weird. It's not the biggest bookshop in the world any more, in fact it's not even the biggest in London (in terms of square footage) but it has one critical advantage: in terms of number of titles stocked it kicks ass. I don't know if it carries more titles than any other book shop in the world, but it's up there. I certainly never found anywhere with more actual books in New York - it is, after all, one thing to have 100,000 square feet of store space but if 50,000 of that is taken up with Harry Potter, Dan Brown and Michael Crighton you may be shifting more units /square foot, but who cares? Kinokuniya in Times Square, Shinjuku could probably give it a run for it's money, but to be honest it's quite hard to tell really.

Anyway, I'm confident in saying that Foyles has probably the largest number of titles actually on it's shelves of any English Language bookshop in the world, which means that if you can't be bothered to wait for something to be delivered you probably have more chance of being able to pick it up there than anywhere else.

But back in the olden days Foyles was truly mad - like some sort of exercise in Victorian doublethink :-

  1. Computers were banned - everything was cross indexed manually
  2. The fiction was arranged by publisher (ie all the Penguins together followed by the Picadors etc etc). This meant that unless you knew the Publisher of the book you were looking for as well as the author you had to engage with Foyles entirely non-computerised cross reference system to find anything.
  3. You couldn't just buy a book. Oh no. You had to find you book, take it to the assistant's desk who looked it up in some insane ledger wrote out a chit for it gave the whole lot back to you and then take the chit to a different floor queue up again and give the book, chit and money to the cashier who;d give you a receipt. If you were lucky you'd get the book too sometimes. One can only imagine this was some sort of primitive stock control procedure, but who knows
  4. Everything above floor 2 was covered in dust
  5. All the staff were insane - either rabidly obsessed with their own area of book specialisation or rabidly obsessed with hating the customers. Either way it didn't make it easy to pick up something to read on beach.

Actually the shop may now mostly look and operate more normally but both points 4 and 5 still have some validity - up at the top you could still be crushed to death by a stack of, ooh, lets say 'Non Metalic Minerals of the Trans Ural Massif (1934)' and no-one would notice for years. And actually now that regular books can be found and purchased in a normal manner its really good to have assistants that care about the subject matter and not just selling the lastes blockbuster. Nerds love Foyles.

So there I was in book nerd heaven. I'd made my selections and was sidling up to the counter to make my purchases when the specky geek suddenly ducked out of the way and was replaced by a chick. A hot chick. Well hot for Foyles anyway. So what's the problem? Let's just say I don't think I could have been buying a selection of books better designed to tell everyone within earshot "I am still a virgin" if I'd tried :- Build a computer from scratch, The Elfish Gene, Y The last Man: Unmanned

So:- a DIY manual for building a computer in your bedroom, a fantasy role playing memoir and a comic book. I might as well just have bought something called "Animal Cumshots: A Celebration!" and be done with it.

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