21 January 2015

Bookshops: Canada vs Britain!

Hello everyone,

So i'm currently on a five month trip around Canada and America. So after spending a week in Toronto without visiting a single bookstore, on my first full day in Ottawa I stumbled into something amazing... The Canadian bookstore (Chapter's on Rideau Street to be specific). Now I'll be honest I mainly wandered in due to the cold rather than any real need to buy books, of course being a self-confessed bookoholic I always want them but rarely need them.

Also just for complete disclosure that picture isn't mine and is actually of the Chapters in Dublin not Ottawa but it was the best I could do. Anyway back to the main reason I'm writing this post despite planning on writing a completely different one today. When I went into this bookstore I was expecting it too be fairly similar to a large Waterstones back home. A large selection of general fiction, a whole floor for non-fiction in varying sub-genres, a children's section etc etc. If I was lucky this store might even have a reasonable sized romance section. Potentially even a whole shelf. I was not prepared for what I saw once I went up the stairs.

Shelves upon shelves of romance books, five whole ailses dedicated to my favourite genre. I couldn't comprehend it, normally in the UK even in the large stores they only have romance books in other sections. Either mixed in with the general fiction resulting in a prolonged and thorough search or the paranormal romance would be labelled under dark fantasy.

I actually ended up with a happy little grin on my face when I saw the endless books that I would actually want to read. Of course with so much unexpected choice I sort of browsed the books in a daze, not really able to progress. Now I know what you're thinking is this girl a complete country-bumpkin? Has she never been in a big city bookstore before? Well the answer to the first question is no I'm not a country bumpkin and yes I have been in a big bookstore before. London, Oxford, Sheffield to name a few. I am one of those people who can't go shopping without visiting a bookshop, much to the dismay of my family and friends.

Therefore I conclude this is a cultural rather than a size difference and I have two theories about why this difference could exist. Firstly Canada from what I have been able to gather has many more publishing houses that publish romance books (either exclusively or alongside other genres). Surely having more books being produced within the country means that getting the books to the nation's bookstores is easier and cheaper. Again these are just theories based mainly on conjecture rather than hard facts. Yet to me it seems only logial, in the UK I can think of only one publishing house (Mills and Boon) that produces so-called 'physical books'. Sure some companies have small printing houses in the UK or even a UK branch but as far as I know Mills and Boon is the only large-scale publishing house dedicated to the romance genre. Of course other publishing houses do produce romance books in the UK, but this is alongside numerous other genres.

My second theory, and again this is pure conjecture, is two pronged: firstly there must be more demand in Canada for romance books and secondly perhaps the British are still too reserved to openly sell romance books on a large scale. These are not theories I can prove of course but one thing I do know is that while am travelling I will be buying as many romance books as I can possibly carry!

Happy reading everyone and see you next time!