We had our first JBW quiz on Monday night in the lovely Lockside Lounge in Camden, hosted by Lana Citron and Cosmo Landesman. It was certainly a lot of fun to organise. We called in a couple of friends to help us design the questions. Some were probably too easy and others much too difficult but I think everybody had fun. To all of you who missed it, why not try a few sample questions and see how you would have fared. We’ll give you the answers next time.
Literary families: What is the relationship between Assaf and Jeremy Gavron? (both appearing at JBW).
Guess the lonely biblical heart: Recently bereaved Orthodox man, with a good heart, a skin condition and fear of strong wind WLTM understanding n/s woman with GSOH. Must keep a kosher kitchen.
Who lived at 23 Campden Hill Square?
Who was Evelyn Waugh describing as: ‘Very poor stuff…I think he was mentally defective…the chap was plain barmy.”?
Who is the odd one out among Yiftach, Cain, Abraham and Oedipus
Which novel was originally to be called A Jewish Patient Begins his Analysis?
On a more serious topic, I had a meeting at the Royal National Hotel with Marcus Gipps, from Blackwell, in charge of our book fair and Ofer from Steimatsky, who has certainly seen it evolve over the years. The book industry is going through very turbulent times. We’ve recently seen the demise of Borders and Books etc… The Apple tablet is eagerly awaited but there is no doubt that the Kindle and other electronic devices are going to revolutionise our experience of reading. More and more people buy their books on line, drawn in by the discounts offered by such websites as Amazon or the point system on Blackwell’s. (I do hope many of you are buying books through the latter from our website as this is another way of showing your support to JBW).
There was no way the JBW book fair would stay the same in the middle of all this turmoil and I know that many of you will not like it. It is not Blackwell’s fault or ours but just taking into account the recent changes. It is far from uncommon to see people browse in the book fair, note down titles and leave to go and presumably order them from Amazon. All to often the supposedly essential titles missing in our selection turned out to be out of print. And we know what sells or doesn’t and cannot ask our bookseller to create a huge bookshop for just a week and then spend months returning books to publishers.
So like most festivals, our bookshop will offer primarily our speakers books which, as we know from past sales figures, represents 65% of sales. We will still have a range of books by non speakers, mainly Jewish interest books published in the last year or so. We have invited publishers to take their displays out of the main book fair, on both Sunday afternoons, and to sell their books themselves at -hopefully- much discounted prices (not having to go through our bookseller anymore) which should benefit everyone, them as well as the book buying public. Steimatsky will still be there with books in Hebrew and we will also have an antiquarian bookseller. Blackwell will be able to take in orders and most excitingly to print books on demand (in the store, not at JBW) on their Espresso machine which has been called a “retro Kindle”. Then on the second Sunday, when we have our kids events – the Little Bookniks interactive lounge and authors Anne Fine, Inbali Iserles, Judy Jackson, Meg Rosoff, Justin Somper and Jonathan Wittenberg– specialist bookstore Bookworm will be selling children books.
I don’t believe the future of reading is threatened. The book as we know it and the ways to obtain it have changed. We are living through exciting times and, as “the people of the book”, we cannot but eagerly follow these new developments. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts and get the conversation going.