Radical bookshop planned for New Cross

BCers always say they'd love a local bookshop. Well now you're going to get one... Book Bloc promises to open London's first radical bookshop in 20 years in New Cross. Here's what they say:

Book Bloc is South London’s youngest radical bookshop. Originally conceived in the seditious underbelly of Milan, We Have our own Concept of Time and Motion will host the first manifestation of this new and novel bookseller. Writer-led, Book Bloc embraces the much vaunted end of print, the rise in book piracy and the explosion in self-publishing as a catalyst for new forms of publishing and bookselling. Book Bloc will run events as a cornerstone of its approach, providing a platform for, and criticism of the most pressing issues, movements, writers and thinkers from around the world.

A workers co-operative, Book Bloc will be the first radical bookshop to open in London for 20 years. It will exist to provide material from the struggles of the past to aid those of the present, to disseminate the best of contemporary thought forged in the fire of events which have only just begun. Book Bloc will disappear at the end of this four day event, waiting to appear again where you least expect it.

Only Joking. It will be in New Cross. Sometime soon.

The location's not confirmed yet, but Transpontine says:

They are currently finalising negotiations with Goldsmiths for the use of a shop front owned by the college in New Cross Road - I believe on the corner of Laurie Grove opposite the New Cross House (same row as Cafe Crema and Prangsta).

With thanks to Oli for the story.


mk said...

Cool! Does this mean it will be a Housmans for SE London, or radical in the sense that it will stock more local, self-published work?

Anonymous said...

hmm, you almost beat Transpontine to the story, but not quite...

Anonymous said...

Is this another type of Bookies.

Hugh said...

Thanks, I'll stick with Amazon. Cheaper and no need to visit New Cross.

NXG_Resident said...

It looks like the new venture will incorporate a cafe too.

@bookbloclondon's Twitter description reads "Forthcoming radical bookshop/cafe in South London!

Looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...

Those retail units are owned by Goldsmiths Student Union, which is still independent from the College (last I heard).

Monkeyboy said...

How will "Come the Revolution cafe" deal with the "Radical Cafe" just down the road? If you've ever read Homage to Catalonia you may have a clue.

Hope it works out though, I like the idea of a radical bookshop even if I may never visit.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Hugh on this one. Imagine the crusties you'll see in this place, it'll be vegetarian everything.

doctor jibber jabber said...

How's the scurvy these days, anon?

Anonymous said...

I do believe it's possible to avoid scurvy and still refrain from being a ginger vegetarian who smells of wee.

NAT said...

@anon 12.55, Hugh is bound to comment in the way he has, being a running dog of capitalism.

I would expect a greater degree of reflection and analysis by others, yourself included.

Anonymous said...

But Amazon is cheaper. For those who aren't fans of conscpicious consumerism, it's a great service.

For those who prefer homebuilt crafts and such, you can always find somewhere to pay extra and tell everyone about it afterwards.

NAT said...

Inconspicious consumerism in other words anon 13.25?

Matt-Z said...

@ Anon 12:39. Those shops aren't owned by the Student Union, they're part of the Goldsmiths' estate. The shop in question was formerly Cookers Corner, and at times after that a squat and illicit bar/night club. I seem to remember the University spent a lot of time and money getting the inhabitants out.

doctor jibber jabber said...

I do believe it's possible to avoid scurvy and still refrain from being a ginger vegetarian who smells of wee.

Though not so easy to avoid being an insipid toerag, clearly.

Ian on the Hill said...

Oh goody, maybe they can put it next to the loony religious 'book shops'. Radical? We had one of those in Lewisham library, nobody anything from it. Can't we just have a proper bookshop somewhere in Lewisham?

Tressilliana said...

Of course you could have a bookshop in Lewisham (there is in fact one in Sydenham and there's more than one in Blackheath) if people buy books there and not from Amazon.

There was a secondhand bookshop in Brockley some years ago. It closed.

Independent booksellers can barely scratch a living because they can't compete with Waterstone's and Amazon when it comes to price. Increasingly even Waterstone's can't compete with Amazon on price.

My dad was a bookseller. The firm he worked for went out of business when Waterstone's and Border's arrived in his city. Border's has gone bust since.

People love browsing in bookshops but unless that translates into actually buying the books the bookshops will not be viable.

Transpontine said...

@ 'Ian from the Hill' in my fantasy world there would be lots of bookshops of all kinds all over Lewisham, but I'm not going to criticise people for opening one particular kind as opposed to all the others.

@ mk - I think maybe more like Housmans to start with, but they are interested in developing local
self-publishing and other stuff if there's support for it.

@anon 10:16 - Brockley Central and Transpontine like to give the impression of friendly competition but are in fact two pincers of an illuminati conspiracy encompassing pseudo-radical critique of SE London life and pseudo-bourgeois enthusiasm for it. or something.

@anon 12:55 - yawn, people who go on about crusties and mungsters clearly haven't been out much in the last 20 years. Actually I was in a meeting of 200 impeccably dressed under-25 radicals the other day and I found myself secretly wondering 'can people this clean and smart really be the new face of the revolution? Whatever happened to crusties?'.

Hugh said...

NAT would expect 'a greater degree of reflection and analysis' from others here than is apparently contained in my own view that Amazon is cheaper and more convenient.

Perhaps NAT could let us know why we need more 'reflection and analysis'. I tend to think choosing to ignore pointless shops requires very little intellectual effort.

No biggie, yeah. Some bookshops are ace, but they are generally large, airy and have lush caffs inside, and perhaps somewhere like Bloomsbury outside. Can't imagine the New Cross one meets those tests.

Oh, and what is a 'radical' bookshop? Anyone with half an ounce of brain can make up their own mind as to preferred reading matter. No need to don a parka with a CND logo daubed on the back and make a scene of it. Unless, that is, you're a bit of a pseud.

TM said...

There used to be a Waterstones in Goldsmith's.

Is it still there? And if so is it open to the public?

Just wondered.

TM said...

I should do more research.

Its a Blackwells not a Waterstones.

Its shut until the new term starts.

NAT said...

@Hugh. The reflective bit might start. 'Bookshops were an unalloyed good thing. They furnished our high streets and provided a focus for exchange of information, places where there was no time limit on browsing and plenty of human contact.

And then the analysis bit see :'If the internet has made them less viable what can be done to support them?'

No quibbles with Amazon, it's efficient in what it does but buying stuff off it isn't really much of a boast unless you're all for a more atomised society.

I'm delighted for our new 'radical' bookshop, Hell I'm even glad the religious ones exist.
Who knows there may even be a place one day for a 'Fly fishing by JR Hartley' type one.

And Hugh, you really do need to get out of the house if you think there are still folk out here with CND logos on the back of their parkas!

Hugh said...

NAT, your reflection and analysis doesn't exactly dignify those words.

Crap bookshops died out because they weren't wanted. The whole reading public reflected and analysed to the effect that they would rather buy books elsewhere.

Subtle, I know, and easily missed, but I hope that clarifies.

As for furnishing high streets and an atomised society: do what? Less Guardianballs and more precision is what you need.

Tressilliana said...

'Crap bookshops died out because they weren't wanted.'

Scintillating stuff, Hugh! Bookshops are struggling because Amazon is an enormous company, very well-run and with unmatched purchasing power. Bookshops have closed not because they were 'crap', whatever that may mean, but because the owners can't make money out of running them in the old way. Many secondhand booksellers are surviving by selling through Amazon, Alibris and the like. But the high street bookshops that used to get along by selling a mix of children's books, reference books, popular textbooks, gift books, classics and bestsellers are really struggling now that Amazon is the first stop for so many purchasers.

NAT said...

@Hugh Of course the inexorable logic of the market ordains that a business with fewer overheads and greater economies of scale trumps one with greater overheads. It doesn't have to be particularly 'crap'

That was not at issue.

Besides 'I like Amazon' was there something else?

patrick1971 said...

"But the high street bookshops that used to get along by selling a mix of children's books, reference books, popular textbooks, gift books, classics and bestsellers are really struggling now that Amazon is the first stop for so many purchasers."

Isn't this a bit like saying "the horse and cart is really struggling now the train has arrived"? Amazon is a far more comprehensive and convenient service for most people, and whilst that means that we lose bookshops, I think it's trying to hold back the tide to stop this. The bookshops that survive will be ones that cater to a particular niche in a geographic area. Sad but true.

I'm not really a fan of the "big bad Amazon" attitude; someone has come along and exploited new technology to improve how a service is delivered for the vast majority of people. It's been happening all through history. There are obvious issues around market dominance, etc. which legislators will have to deal with, it's true, but the day of the bookshop on every high street has gone, I'm afraid.

patrick1971 said...

"Those shops aren't owned by the Student Union, they're part of the Goldsmiths' estate...I seem to remember the University spent a lot of time and money getting the inhabitants out."

Does anyone know what on earth Goldsmith's issue with this parade of shops is? As long as I've been in the area (since 1998) it's been run down with shops moving in and out. Goldsmith's does nothing with it, seems to have no strategy, hands out a few short leases for a while and then takes them back (I think they threatened to evict Prangsta and Cafe Crema a few years ago!). What is so hard about working out what to do with a property asset you own? It really stops the north side of the road from developing.

Tressilliana said...

I agree, Patrick. It's sad in some ways but that's how it is now. I was reacting to the attitude you get on here all the time: 'I'd love it if Brockley had a bookshop!' Wouldn't we all, but unless people actually bought all their books there as opposed to browsing there and buying on Amazon it wouldn't get through the first month. That was my point.

Same goes for greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers - it gives us all a nice warm glow to see them there but you have to actually buy stuff there regularly and in larger quantities than two carrots a year if the proprietors are going to make a living out of it. When I was first in Brockley in the mid-80s there were two or three greengrocers on Brockley Road. There are none now. Tesco and Sainsbury's between them have seen to that.

It is a two-way thing - the independent shops have to offer something the big chains don't. But if people don't buy the stuff that's that.

Hugh said...

I take no one here shops at Tesco.

The market isn't a big bad thing, by the way. It's just the sum of what people, including you, actually do.

Call it economic democracy: you get what you vote for. Funny people here resist this when they get all right-on about matters of political representation.

TM said...

I don't shop at Tescos. For some reason I don't like the atmosphere in their shops can't define it more accurately.

Doesn't stop me shopping at Waitrose, Sainoes, M&S Food and F&M on occasion.

I usually go into Taylors Food and Wine two or three times a week as well.

Headhunter said...

The web is a threat to all sorts of specialist shops. In the cycling and running worlds, many people will browse and try stuff on in physical shops (trainers, cycle clothing and bikes) and then shop online for the best deal after they have benefitted from the knowledge of the salesperson/advisor at their local shop.

Many moons ago before net retailers, there was the same threat from chain shops, I used to work in a small, specialist camera shop and quite frequently you would get couples coming in, asking for advice on what camera to buy. You would spend 30-40 mins with them getting cameras out, explaining the features and advising them on what they needed and then they would go away "to think about it", but this usually meant "thanks for the advice, now we're off to Dixons where the salespeople are completely clueless but the price is right"

In the cycling and running world however, some small retailers have really taken off by developing their own websites. Firms like Ribble Cycles which were a local bike builder and gear retailer up north are now large national business able to undercut the likes of Evans. However Evans have also begun to get aggressive online and now offer to match any price anywhere be it online or in a shop somewhere...

Anonymous said...

If you're not a mung who only eats organic dishonest fare you might find these chickens tempting...


NAT said...

Hugh, Economic democracy-more like an elective dictatorship.

There are analogies to be drawn between the way we vote and vote with our feet.

Consider the P.R. versus First past the post debate where one of the concerns, the enfranchisement of minorities in the PR system might be a mirror of concerns of smaller stores in face of the behemoths.

Thats all a bit abstruse for you though isn't it?

Your point as I undestand it is a simple one.

Everything is alright as it is.

Anonymous said...

Their press release sounds like it was written by Private Eye's very own Dave Spart. Another vote for amazon from me.

Hugh said...

NAT, that is exactly my point. To which I might add: and we made things the way they are.

Yearning for a local amenity which represents an extinct business model and justifying it on the basis it would be good for society is flabby thinking of the worst, Guardian-addled, kind. It's extinct for a good reason - unless you think society doesn't know what's good for it. And if you do think that, you have to choose between allowing society to make up its own mind and forcing the new bookshop on it.

Guess which everyone prefers.

Hugh said...

PS The analogy you draw is a poor one. It isn't an important principle, under any view, that unwanted goods and services should nevertheless have their supply secured.

NAT said...

@Hugh, I can't see where anyone has called for 'unwanted goods and services to have their supply secured'

I take it that you think the reason certain banks would be extinct without public subsidy isn't a good one?

NAT said...

Might I suggest thats a little 'flabby thinking' from the free market fetishist.

Oh I know markets are an awesome engine, delivering to each and all according to their consumer power.

Except when they're not

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