At the Nibbys


I was in my tuxedo under the blazing sun of Brighton for the annual Booksellers' Association dinner and awards (called the 'Nibbys' in the trade). I was there as a guest of Wiley's, whose imprint Capstone is publishing my book on markets, modestly entitled The Best Book on the Market, along with TV presenter Anne Diamond and other worthies. (Clarissa Dickson-Wright was on the next table – she and I are like that, you know).

Foyles cleaned up on the awards for the best bookseller – something that took even them by surprise. When I was at school this Charing Cross Road shop was revered among my teachers as 'the biggest bookshop in the world', capable of getting any book on any subject from any location. When I got to London in the late 1970s, though, it was starting to look very shabbly. Cluttered and confused, with a funny system where you chose your book, then went to another desk to pay for it, then came back again to pick it up. Christina Foyle, who lived in a penthouse on the top floor, was still holding her celebrated literary lunches, but the place was obviously dying.

In the 1980s, the rise of Waterstones and the like left it completely stranded, and the rational thing might have been to knock it down and sell the site for some big glass office block. But about eight years ago the family had a crisis meeting and brought in new management. They certainly seem to have turned it around.

Another winner was, inevitably But most of my bookie friends at the table told me that they never used the site, preferring bookdepository or For a believer in markets, like me, this was heartening news. Competition is a wonderful thing.