Our final Bookshop of the Month for 2020 is Aye-Aye Books, located in the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. This independent contemporary art bookshop stocks photography, architecture, art history, cultural theory, film, fiction and poetry books as well as artist’s books, exhibition catalogues, magazines, pamphlets, CDs, DVDs and zines. We spoke to the store’s manager, Martin, about the latest artbook trends and what it’s like to sell books in such a cutting-edge space.
1. The Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) is such a vibrant space for showcasing today’s art! What do you most enjoy about your shop being located there? How have you found running an independent bookshop based within a larger arts centre?
CCA plays host to so many different things, exhibitions, film festivals, music and performance of all kinds, there’s a whole ecosystem grown up around this building and the folk who work here, which also stretches out across the city, and indeed the globe. It’s good to be close to the centre of that.
Being independent means we are not directly answerable to anyone and don’t have the bureaucratic and marketing pressures you might get as an in-house bookshop. Of course, if CCA thought we weren’t fitting in things might change, but the Director is a regular customer, and usually seems very pleased with the books he finds here, so that’s good enough feedback for us.
There are frustrations of course, the main one recently being that because we don’t have our own entrance, when the building is closed due to lockdown it’s not straightforward to our access our stock.
2. How does the CCA’s on-going open source programming inform your book buying?
It allows us to be open source in our book buying. We pursue our own interests, and sometimes they align closely with what else is going on in the building, and we can get input into what we should be getting in, which can be very useful.
3. In normal times, what sort of books do you find your customers are most interested in? Do they generally correlate with the CCA’s featured exhibitions and performances or are your readers interested in a range of genres?
It’s interesting how audiences for different events behave. For example, there’s a documentary film festival where we always sell many books relating to social issues. On the other hand there are occasionally events that attract lots people who barely buy books at all, which is very puzzling.
Our readers are interested in our areas of specialisation, which are, broadly, the arts and changing the world!
4. What types of books have your customers been buying this past year? Have you noticed any interesting trends of late?
This year we’ve been selling a lot of books addressing racism, looking at the legacies of colonialism, and black history. Books about different economic systems, books about gender issues. Our children’s section is dedicated to diversity and that’s been very popular.
It feels like people are trying to make sense of a troubled world.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop in the coming months that you’d like to share with us?
Staying open would be pretty exciting! We’re finding creative ways to deal with the continued uncertainty – doing some local deliveries by hand, getting books out of the shop and into the world in any way we can, while we can. We’ve got a new website coming online soon. We’re also signed up to bookshop.org, and it will be interesting to see how that changes the landscape of bookselling. For its somewhere we can tell people about all the books we’d like to stock if the shop was bigger.