After studying History & Philosophy, I found the demand for philosophers was shockingly low, so I went to a local bookshop to find a job. That was more than 30 years ago, and I’ve been a bookseller ever since. My wife and I bought the Kew & Sheen Bookshops in 2016. They were already great bookshops when we got them, and we have made them better and better. At Hewson Books, it is our marvellous team of booksellers that make both our shops the great independent and local places we want them to be.
Bookshop Day invites people to choose bookshops on October 3rd. How are you planning on celebrating?
We are going to champion great books and great authors, and let people know how wonderful reading is… wait, we do that every day!
What was the last book you read?
An absolutely fascinating account of a not very well known part of British History, the loss of a Royal Heir, the Queen we never had and the dawn of the Plantagenets… Charles Spencer’s The White Ship.
Which bookshop did you buy your last book from?
The Kew Bookshop, of course!
You’re stranded on a desert island. What three books would you want with you?
Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars because it is outrageous, shocking and frankly unbelievable! Bulgakov’s The Master & Margarita because it is fascinating, and it will take a couple more reads to understand it! And finally, probably a P.G. Wodehouse (or two) – just for fun.
What was your first job in the book industry?
An enthusiastic but bewildered baby bookseller, who obviously caught the bug on the very first day.
What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting out in publishing today?
Do your research: Learn how the book trade works; make sure you are going to publish what bookshops want to sell; don’t use the self-publishing route!
What’s your reading platform of choice? Paper, eBooks or audio?
Paper all the way.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
The Book That Will Never Be Written
What impact has the recent changing world had on bookshops, and what are your predictions for their future?
In our case, it forced us to have an online bookshop, which proved very helpful and gave us another opportunity to sell books, particularly when we were closed.
Local bookshops have benefitted from having people working at home, since people need to get out of the house, they often pop into the shops. We are seeing many new customers right now. Sadly, there has been a negative effect for other booksellers.
People will always need books, and during a recession, people will still need books. I just hope more people have the sense to support the UK economy by supporting local shops rather than letting a tax-avoiding company be the biggest beneficiary.
Has a book ever changed your life?
Nope. Some opinions have been changed by books… but not my life!
What was your favourite book when you were a child?
The Wind in the Willows. It is a book that grows up with you. At the youngest level, it is about the excitement of Toad and his crazy ways, a little older, the friendship of Ratty and Mole seems to be more interesting, and reading as an even older child, the whole book becomes more rounded and deeper and less about messing about in boats.