My story about the next 150 years of bookselling: The Right Book

For the 150th anniversary issue of The Bookseller (the world's oldest publishing trade magazine), the editors commissioned me to write a short-short story about the next 150 years of book sales. The result is called The Right Book, and it's out in the current edition and online as well.
The thing that Arthur liked best about owning his own shop was that he could stock whatever he pleased, and if you didn't like it, you could just shop somewhere else. So there in the window were four ancient Cluedo sets rescued from a car-boot sale in Sussex; a pair of trousers sewn from a salvaged WWII bivouac tent; a small card advertising the availability of artisanal truffles hand made by an autistically gifted chocolatier in Islington; a brick of Pu'er tea that had been made in Guyana by a Chinese family who'd emigrated a full century previous; and, just as of now, six small, handsomely made books.

The books were a first for Arthur. He'd always loved reading the things, but he'd worked at bookshops before opening his own little place in Bow, and he knew the book-trade well enough to stay well away. They were bulky, these books, and low-margin (Low margin? Two-for-three titles actually *lost* money!), and honestly, practically no one read books anymore and what they did read was mostly rubbish. Selling books depressed Arthur.

These little buggers were different, though. He reached into the window -- the shop was so small he could reach it without leaving his stool behind the till -- and plucked one out and handed it to the kid who'd just asked for it. She was about 15, with awkward hair and skin and posture and so on, but the gleam in her eye that said, "Where have you been all my life?" as he handed her the book.

Link to page 1/2, Link to page 3

Update: You asked, they listened! Here's the story in text form!



  1. Looks like a good story, but unless I’m missing something the only way to read it is on a horrible flash-based site – which takes ages to load each page (I’m on a slow connection, yes) and loads one page at a time (if my boss is monitoring my internet useage, I’d rather load one or two big pages than 50 small ones).

  2. An interesting story. In a way, it kind of reminds me of Christopher Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels or The Haunted Bookshop (find ’em on Gutenberg), except in the opposite direction.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you!

    #1 – You can click the PDF icon and wait for it to load, the select pages 116, 117, and 119.

  4. Ironic? that a story about ‘future’ books, in a book sellers magazine is on a site which is about as unbookish and unusable as they can make it? Great story though, the kind of teaser that makes you want a novellete about the same chrs instead :)

  5. Wow, this must have been the absolutely least enjoyable way to read anything ever. And I don’t quite get how anyone could like pu’er tea.

    But the story’s good, that’s all that counts.

    Cory: please coer^h^h^convince them to publish it as a plain text somewhere. This reader is ridiculous.

  6. U.S. Patent 2,026,329
    It’s awesome. I think it’s even in the public domain at this point.

  7. Agreed… I gave up rather than trying to load that lame flash abomination. Another reader lost to content-provider paranoia.

  8. Maybe if I’d have the large screen connected and wouldn’t need to use the extremely badly implemented zoom function, that interface would be bearable, but on my small notebook it’s so bad it hurts. I hope some time I’ll come across the story in a sane format … as it is I won’t read it :-(

  9. So, I liked the reader, but looking past that, the content is great. I always thought the new zines would be the best cut-and-pasted from the web and left hiding around schools, *spoiler warning* so the handcrafted books from a social-networking-cum-lj-fanfic-wank makes perfect sense to me

  10. Use this link to get a 3 page, 1.89MB PDF containing only Cory’s story.

    It’s still an indirect link to a PDF, but at least there’s no Flash. A rather neat dynamic PDF generator, actually.

  11. I roll back into my shared feeds quite often and when I saw that little link for the text version of the story my heart skipped a beat, a chill ran up my back and I was flush with a small type of love.

    There is very little to compare with the feeling of being listened to, to know that you were heard and accounted for in any medium.

    Three cheers for and those that listen and act.

    This is what is must have felt like to be in that first generation of those in the free colonies.

  12. I chuckled. Learning to bind my down books, and learning some minor photoshop skills, and buying a laser printer are now all on my to-do list.

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