On Saturday 14th September, amidst a cloud of orange and white balloons, the Books Are My Bag campaign was launched. The campaign was propelled by publishers, booksellers, authors and booklovers to promote the traditional bookshop.
Inspired by Lord Maurice Saatchi’s ‘Brutal Simplicity of Thought’, in which he expressed the belief that the simplest idea can change the world, the campaign organises events in bookshops. They have competitions online and give away tote bags for free from various bookshops nationwide.
The need for the campaign began because, according to research commissioned by the Booksellers Association, 88% of British book buyers were concerned that there are fewer bookshops on high streets than five years ago and that action needed to be taken.
88% of British book buyers are concerned that there are fewer bookshops on high streets than five years ago.
In a press statement, the campaign group stated: “The core message is that bookshops do more physically to let people enjoy books”.
We asked the students at UoN what they thought about the campaign. On the whole, students at Nottingham seem to share this love of bookshops: 77% said they would ideally like to buy books from a bookshop instead of online.
77% of Nottingham students said they would ideally like to buy books from a bookshop instead of online.
However, on a student’s budget and with time constraints it is sometimes easier to buy books online. The same group of students admitted that, although they wished the opposite was true, 84% of them bought the majority of their books online. That being the case, does it mean students cannot support the campaign? Online offers practical pros that the bookshops can’t.
The campaign itself seems to have had a relatively minimal effect in Nottingham. 79% of the students we surveyed had not heard of the campaign. Wandering into Waterstones in the city centre, there isn’t a bag in sight. A Waterstones staff member told us they’d run out of bags and their publicity officer didn’t have as much time to promote the campaign as they would have liked.
The campaign itself seems to have had a relatively minimal effect in Nottingham.
On campus, Blackwell’s shop manager, Natasha Hensaw, said their stock of bags (approximately 500) flew off the shelves. However, looking around the University there is very little evidence of students wearing their bags out and about. Books Are My Bag has definitely fizzled in Nottingham.
Natasha told me that the majority of students who picked up the Books Are My Bag bags had no idea what they were promoting: “Some just wanted a free bag”.
Booksellers in Nottingham are still positive about the campaign. Natasha said that it was a decidedly positive campaign – it was a chance for the booksellers to give thanks to their customers. Paul, a member of staff at Waterstones, said “anything that gets people talking about books is a good thing”.
The campaign cannot be criticised on its aims but its execution is far from faultless.
But are people talking about it? The campaign cannot be criticised on its aims but its execution is far from faultless: judging from their website the only people talking about it are do-good celebs and literary eccentrics.
But the failings in Nottingham should perhaps be a cry to bookshop-loving students to take up the spirit and mantra of Books Are My Bag; to exercise some of that good-old-fashioned student protest fever and raise their voices with love of those childhood memories of bookshop adventures, present enjoyments of best-seller browsing and secrets yet to be discovered within the walls of the bookshop.
Eve Wersocki Morris