Monday, 14 September 2009

Bookshop blog - Scarthin Books

Scarthin Books

We have many different independent bookshops taking part in Exclusively Independent, and Scarthin Bookshop in Derbyshire, have been kind enough to let us feature the store here for you. So here is some information about the bookshop, along with many photos in the album…enjoy!

Owned by David Mitchell, Scarthin Books was founded in 1974 and hasn’t changed ownership since. The bookshop boasts a wide collection of 41,000 different titles including 9,000 childrens books and approximately 50,000 second-hand books. Scarthin Books also began publishing in December 1981 stocking 15,000 copies of about 50 titles in print.

“We may have the desired volume on the shelf as a new book, or orderable overnight from a wholesaler, over week direct from a publisher, or an American wholesaler. A copy may be on the shelf second-hand, or available by means of a book-search. On occasion we suggest the customer write it for us to publish. Dave, the proprietor, buys thousands of second-hand and antiquarian books, preferably by appointment. In addition, our main strength is as a wonderful place to browse; a comfortable labyrinth with many chairs and a rarely matched range of stock amidst which to spend happy hours. “Don’t bring Jane, you’ll never get her out of here.” Children often run up the road ahead of their parents to dash up the stairs and into the children’s book room. We are developing our website to offer an equally unexpected range of experiences, as well as to promote the shop and (even) to sell books. The café, managed by Jools, is curious and homely. Homemade soups, pies, pizzas, cakes, fresh coffee, etc.

“Our staffing is stronger than it has ever been. In the bookshop, Guy chooses the new stock and handles customer orders, Wendy soothes schools and harvests internet orders, Dave, assisted by Ivan and Les buys and prices the second hand stock. David has taken over the publishing; Phil does the book searches and suggests marketing ideas – as well as everyone taking shifts at the front desk. David and Phil now take turns on Saturdays. Pam, Nikki, Eve, Edmund, Jennie, Ruth and Tom share the rest of the desk shifts. Difficult Sunday queries tend to need referral to the specialist weekday staff. Our age range is 16 to 64, but mainly 40 to 60. The café is ruled by an enthusiastic Jools, assisted by Eve and quite a flock of sixth-form schoolgirls and even the occasional boy, coping with unpredictable lunchtime and weekend rushes.

“In December, Phil coaxed us into introducing a customer reward or loyalty scheme – for every £20 spent, customers receive a £1 Scarthin Voucher redeemable “next time” in shop or café. So far these have been issued in hundreds, received appreciatively and, as yet, cashed in only slowly. In addition we discount most individual £19.95 or over new books by 10%. So far we seem to be able to afford these gestures – are they enough?

“On the publishing front in 2008, we produced two books under our own imprint and undertook to design and distribute three scholarly works by clients met through the shop. In February, David attended the e4books conference in Bristol and has since prepared our best out-of-print titles for re-issue as POD (Print on Demand). We have found publishing to be satisfying, but stressful and unprofitable, so we are doing much less than a decade ago. The internet has replaced publishing as a way to transcend the limitations of our site."

The bookshop possesses a homely, welcome and comfortable atmosphere for readers to browse at their own pace. Scarthin Books showcase what it is to be independent – providing a wide and varied selection of titles, keeping up to date with the latest popular titles and meanwhile supply those lost or hidden literature gems.

“This bookshop is a slow-growing hardwood that has funded fast-growing families and survived financial traumas. In 35 years of Golden Ages we have changed greatly in order to stay the same. “Don’t change ANYTHING!” We are told. But behind the scenes…” David Mitchell, proprietor.

Many thanks to David for supplying us with the images and information, to check out this fantastic store, visit


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