The closure of Book and Magazine Collector sends a terrible message about book collecting; all the more so as it is false news. The magazine was not, in fact, making a loss, and it could have made a lot more profit it had not been tied into an expensive print deal with the owners, Warners. The loss of our last remaining ‘old book’ magazine suggests that there is no market for a magazine catering to book collectors in the UK. This is not true. It may well be true that BMC was looking tired and had failed to move with the times but that is all.
I am sure that another magazine will appear and take its place. After all, book mags come and go, as this month’s book shows. The History of the Works of the Learned. Or, An Impartial Account of Books Lately Printed in all Parts of Europe was the first ever magazine about books. This copy is bound in workman-like parchment over card boards, and looks like a scholar’s copy rather than a work bound for a wealthy man’s library. It was published by Rhodes in London and ran in 12 parts a year between 1699 and 1708.
The Campaign For Real Books is the latest in a long line of ventures designed to spread the word about paper books and to support booksellers and readers. Three hundred years on the enemy is not ignorance or the difficulty of disseminating information; quite the opposite. Humans have become so clever we have found a way to do away with books completely and replace them with ebooks. But is this really such a clever idea?
There are many arguments against ebooks and from our point of view a big concern is their effect on the collecting habits of future generations. If people are not exposed to real books then they will not have a cultural or emotional tie to them and will find no reason to collect them later in life. These wonderful machines (for paper books are machines, they have moving parts) that have carried us through a millennium of development might vanish in the decade ahead.
Well, not if I can help it. I formed Cambo to help independent bookshops stay open. I also intend to speak out against ebooks, to promote paper books and to sponsor book fairs and other literary events. In the future we may even publish paper books ourselves. The main thing is to make sure that paper books are not sidelined by huge media concerns and that the book-buying public are not bulldozed into thinking that ebooks are a better choice.
Cambo members get 10% discount from participating bookshops whenever they spend over £10. There are 125 at the time of writing, selling both old and new books, with more joining us each day. They are all independent sellers, all passionately believe in paper books and all deserve your support. What’s more Cambo is thinking big: in time our newsletter could well become a magazine catering to the needs of book collectors as well as our cousins who prefer new books. Certainly, it will always contain news and articles aimed at collectors. Whether it starts as a few pages or a full size colour magazine depends entirely on how many members we recruit. Our fighting fund will come directly from those £15 subscriptions and the more members we have the more good we can do. That is why I urge readers to sign up today, not just for the discount in your favourite shops but also to be part of a strong, visible and voluble group working to protect, preserve and promote paper books and book shops. Books are the single most important invention in human history and their continued existence is worth fighting for. It has fallen to our generation to make sure they survive, so join Cambo today and make a difference.
Now that I am a company director(!) I may not have time for as much writing but I will do my best to put up an article a month in the new year. That’s it for 2010, however. Thank you very much for reading and please do join Cambo – it’s a great Christmas present for yourself, you family and your friends…