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Emma Smith

Emma Smith is an Editorial Assistant, currently working in trade publishing. When she’s not working, reading or doing other wholesome activities, she helps out with the BookMachine Facebook page and interviews interesting publishing people.
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Sleek lines and celestial voices at Foyles

The long-awaited new flagship Foyles store at 107 Charing Cross Road opened to much fanfare last week. Emma Smith went to the launch party to check it out.

White walls, bright lights, airy spaces, sleek lines and celestial voices (in the form of Foyles Festival Chorus choir) greeted the eager throngs of publishing industry guests at the Foyles launch last Monday. This is the bookshop upon whose brand new shoulders lies the hefty weight of bookselling hope.

Awash with those staples of any book event worth its salt – champagne and canapés – there was a great hum of conversation and curiosity at the former Central St. Martin’s site.  Even Nick from The Apprentice was there. People were hungry to see what this bookshop was capable of delivering. Way back in February 2013, I went along to a Foyles workshop to help re-imagine the store – talk of gin palaces and ‘retail theatre’ buzzed around the room. And now it’s come to life.  But without so much gin.

Light from the central atrium filtered down onto company chairman, Christopher Foyle, as he welcomed the crowd.  Brothers William and Gilbert Foyle opened the Charing Cross branch in the 1920s and it has stood as a pillar of London literary life ever since. Christopher likened the developments in independent bookselling to that of the relationship between electric lighting and candles. Despite new technology, the earlier method sells on. Foyles hopes to be that eternal flame; a source of illumination rekindled to serve book buyers and to continue being ‘the greatest bookshop in the world’.

In reality, everyone knows what Foyles is up against  – referred to graciously as something to do with ‘great rivers’ or ‘female warriors in Greek mythology’ – yet you can’t help but admire what they’ve done and what they might become. Staff working overtime to move half a million books just shows the collective goodwill towards this new venture. And with an ambitious star-studded launch festival (guests include Grayson Perry, Hilary Mantel, Jarvis Cocker and Michael Palin to name a few) there are no signs of momentum wavering. It’s a very human kind of warmth which ultimately pervades this shop; the personal knowledge, the heritage and the sheer drive, culture and spirit of Foyles leaves you with a feeling of optimism, albeit a cautious one for now.

Paring back the whizz-bang ideas of the workshop last year, they’ve created a streamlined and realistic cultural hub – keeping books at its heart, of course. Four miles of shelving is definitely enough to get lost in. Branching out from the standard bookseller remit, Foyles have introduced literary tours, built café space, created an exhibition area and have produced a healthy roster of events and talks to reach out to customers. They are really trying to make books come alive and speak to people.

At the launch, Caitlin Moran declared bookshops ‘the sexiest places’ to hang out in. While I’m not sure I totally agree with her hypothesis, I do think that there is something visceral about being in a bookstore; a physical feeling that isn’t experienced in the same way online. They should be places of excitement, exploration, intimacy and inspiration all at once (and maybe also a place to buy that last minute birthday card). Familiarity and nostalgia is one thing to encompass, but shining a light on a new bookselling path is quite another. Foyles have certainly gone at it all cylinders firing, and I, for one, hope that they will remain as a beacon burning bright.

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Foyles BookShop Workshops [REPORT]

Gin palaces, children’s hidey holes, book delivery chutes and outdoor touchscreens were just some of the ideas that sprung from last week’s Foyles Bookshop Workshops.

On Monday and Friday afternoon, representatives from the publishing industry and beyond ascended to the gallery room of Foyles flagship store to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Come Spring 2014, Foyles will relocate next door to 107-109 Charing Cross Road, the former Central St. Martin’s building, an altogether larger and more ambitious space. Amidst the flapjack, felt tips and blue sky thinking, there was a very real concern of how to make this work – Foyles have been in redundancy talks and the printed book trade is in trouble. To me it almost felt like a great call to arms, an assembly of creative minds to combat the mega-bot juggernaut of online retail – Amazon – and reinvent the high street bookshop.

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6 questions for Adrian Hon of Six to Start [INTERVIEW]

Adrian HonAdrian Hon is the Founder and Chief Creative at Six to Start, an award-winning online games company. Working with the likes of Penguin Books, Disney and the BBC, their transmedia experiences have engaged millions of people in new ways. Adrian originally trained as a neuroscientist at Cambridge and Oxford and also writes for The Telegraph about technology. So, basically, he really knows his stuff! BookMachine has peered into Adrian’s world of augmented reality and this is what we found…

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5 Questions for Ruth Warburton [INTERVIEW]

Ruth WarburtonRuth Warburton is a job-sharing publicity manager for the Vintage imprints Chatto & Windus and Square Peg at Random House. Having won PPC awards for her campaigns, she now mixes her role as a successful publicist with being a young adult author – The Winter Trilogy is published by Hodder Children’s Books. We catch up with Ruth to find out if variety really is the spice of life in publishing…

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5 questions for Rebecca Smart, CEO of Osprey Group [INTERVIEW]

Rebecca Smart

The Osprey Group is an international publishing group with a digital success record that many larger publishers would envy. They publish under three brands: Osprey Publishing, Shire Books and Angry Robot. FutureBook award-winning Rebecca Smart, their CEO, has been recognised for her pioneering attitude and her leadership skills – now she shares some savvy thinking with BookMachine.

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6 Questions for Russell Kerridge of Imagewrite [INTERVIEW]

This week the History of Humanity app was released; a collection of 52 full colour books including more than 7,000 illustrations in both English and Spanish – and it all fits into one app!
 
If you’re wondering how it works, you can download it here, and get 2 of the books for free. Emma Smith interviewed Russell Kerridge, Managing Director of Imagewrite, part of the team who put the app together.
 

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6 Questions for Nikesh Shukla [INTERVIEW]

Nikesh ShuklaNikesh Shukla is the author of the Costa First Novel Award-shortlisted novel, ‘Coconut Unlimited’ (‘…a riot of cringeworthy moments made real by Shukla’s beautifully observed characters and talent for teen banter.’ Metro) and the Channel 4 Comedy Lab ‘Kabadasses’ starring Jack Doolan, Josie Long and Shazad Latif. He also co-authored a book about the riots for Random House/The Bodley Head with Kieran Yates called ‘Generation Vexed’. His writing has featured on BBC2, Radio 4, Esquire, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. We caught up with him for 6 questions…

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