‘Ethical’ Book-buying

I’ve been away for quite a while. I won’t bore you with the details but basically there’s been a whole lot going on, both personally and in the world, and not enough time or headspace for everything. But today I felt a little inspired and so decided to ignore the washing up and write instead.

This sunny Sunday morning I had the strongest urge to go be immersed in a lovely (fairly local) independent bookshop I know – The Chiswick Bookshop. I rarely get enough time to go out of my way and visit nowadays but when it opened last year I was so excited. Another indie publisher was taking the leap and opening a physical bookshop and this has been an obsession of mine…well forever.


If you love books half as much as I do, you can imagine it was heart-breaking to arrive and see some of my most dreaded posters in the window; “We’re closing. Everything half price”. Needless to say, I went inside, pottered around, looked at every book and item on the shelves and felt genuine grief whilst listening to the staff explaining to the mass of customers that they had to close due to the high rent – the terrible epidemic across our high streets. I bought books and shared my apologies with the staff as the only gestures of solidarity I felt I could make. After all, book people are my tribe, and as book people we stick together anyway we can.

As I walked up the high road I got to thinking – about books, bookshops, publishers, about all the empty shops I passed and all the big chain restaurants, stores and bad coffee shops that surrounded me and I settled on something. I realised  my own personal sense of ‘ethical’ shopping, particularly shopping for books. This isn’t going to change anything really, it won’t force landlords to bring down rents so that we can continue to have the pleasure of independent shops, it won’t necessarily stop any businesses from going under, it won’t change the world that is for sure. But when I do shop, these small principles drive how I do it and I hadn’t realised before that they were even in my head.

  1. If I see a book I want (and can afford at the time) in a physical bookshop, I buy it.
    I’m in the bookshop browsing, using their resources and time, benefitting from their curation and expertise. The least I can do is buy the book I see and want in that environment from the people who allowed me to.


  2. I try very hard not to take my phone out in a bookshop (but if I do, I will buy a book from the shop).
    Remember Bernerd Black’s rule – “No phones”? I got it then and I get it now. Perhaps it’s because I have worked in retail and have seen ‘show-housing’ from the business side but to me if you get your phone out in a shop it tends to look like your looking the product up online (perhaps an unfair generalisation but I have known people to do it…ALOT…with no reservation or embarrassment) or actually BUYING the book online where you stand! This is without a doubt the worst thing a customer can do in my mind other than spitting in your face (and I’ve had a few customers sneeze and cough in my face over the years) so just do me a favour and stop visiting shops if this is you!

    There is rarely a time you need to look at your phone in a shop, particularly a bookshop, books aren’t the sort of thing you can buy whilst staring at a screen. But fair enough you might get a call or text that you “absolutely must take” – you don’t have to take it in the shop though. So my rule is, don’t look at your phone, focus on what you’re buying and if you do ‘trip up’ then buy a book. You’ll soon spend less time looking at your phone in shops (it can get expensive)!


  3. For every book bought on Amazon or as an ebook, buy a book in a physical bookshop too.
    I’m not going to lie – I buy on Amazon occasionally and I have a Kindle (funnily enough I had avoided this like the plague until being surrounded by publishers who owned them, who asked if I had one “as it will make some of the work easier”). Actually, it’s rare I buy a physical book from Amazon (I don’t live so very far from several indie bookshops) – if I fancy an instantaneous read (usually late at night) then I buy an ebook. It happens. I have learned to limit my guilt by making sure for every book I buy in this way, I buy a book in a physical bookshop for balance soon after. It makes me feel better, it means I don’t get too lazy, I get to enjoy pretty books in their natural habitat and later implant them into my natural habitat – I feel it’s a win win situation.


  4. I never argue about the price of a book (even an ebook).
    I never argue, I may decide not to buy, but I don’t go searching it out cheaper elsewhere. Books have a value – it should never come down to who is selling it cheaper (at least not for me). If I won’t pay what is being charged for it then do I really want it? Do I really need it? Probably not. If I want a book enough then I have no qualms paying full price for it or taking advantage if it so happens to be discounted when I do see it. Personally there are some books which, once read, I will say are worth far more than their cover price because of the enjoyment I got out of them or vice versa. The one thing I can say for sure is that a book must surely be worth more than the price of that coffee in town!

There you go – four points – as I said they won’t change the world but I feel better for acknowledging that they live in my brain, guiding my book shopping habits and I feel quite ok with telling you about them.

If you happen to be in Chiswick over the next three days, pop into The Chiswick Bookshop – show them some solidarity, either through a sale or your words. As I said earlier, we  book people need to stick together.


Publishing With XML: Structure, Enter, Publish by Bernard Prost

Publishing With XML

Publishing With XML: Structure, Enter, Publish

We live in the digital age, even us publishers who still hold a love and respect for the physical book, and that being said I doubt there are many publishers out there fighting against the implementation of XML. XML is said to ‘future proof’ us in the publishing industry. It does this by allowing us to ensure our content is ready to be transformed into whatever medium we may so wish to produce it into.

With this in mind I have been studying XML and HTML to a further degree than my previous experience and I happened upon this book by Bernard Prost (recently translated to English from the original French edition) entitled Publishing With XML: Structure, Enter, Publish. Unlike much of the information out there on the internet, this book directly relates XML to the world of publishing and I would highly recommend it for those wishing to understand both the potential and the deeper workings of XML within the publishing industry. It seems to me a great book for beginners and the more advanced alike as Prost clearly lays out even ideal work flows for those incorporating XML into their process.

Translated from French, there are instances in which the expression of the content doesn’t seem to flow at it’s best. There are also some issues in reading the information boxes that are scattered throughout the book (an issue that I’m sure anyone who has read a textbook on their phone or e-reader has come across before) that makes me cry out for a physical copy of this book. However, you are warned at the outset that the book is optimised for larger screens so I accepted that it was my own fault for attempting to read between my phone and Kindle Paperwhite. As it is I can only find the English version on Kindle and it costs £6.49. If, however, you can read French rather well I would urge you to pick up the physical copy entitled XML Pour L’Edition: Structurer, Saisir, Publier (which currently sells in paperback for about £17.93 on Amazon at the moment. The French Kindle edition also sells for £19.99 on Amazon ).

My key advice – take it slowly. The information starts out slowly and easy to understand but if you are a speedy reader as I am you can suddenly find yourself quite lost of all understanding. This being said, I went back and re-read those pages I raced through and the information really did make more sense than my initial scan.

Chapters in this book:

  • Separating content from format
  • The main structural components
  • Writing/Designing a DTD
  • Entering XML
  • Preparing and managing XML mark-up
  • Proofing your XML
  • Transforming the XML with XSLT
  • Publishing for electronic media
  • Publishing for paper