Saturday 23 August 2008

From Pillar to Post

Remember all that talk of the free brochure containing extracts from all twenty titles longlisted for the German Book Prize? Remember me blithely commenting it would be available in bookshops from Saturday? Did you think at the time that I was too naive for this world?

I spent about three hours of my precious time today searching for this mythical publication. I asked in two small independent bookshops, one huge megastore bookshop, one large branch of a chain of bookshops, one book department in a department store and one station book and magazine outlet. The responses varied from a rude "No!" to "Gosh, someone else asked me that earlier on but they haven't sent us any, sorry..." to a very nicely meant suggestion that I just print out the list of titles and go and sit in a bookshop and read a little bit of each one. I assume the problem is that booksellers are reluctant to pay for something they then have to give away for free.

The whole experience made me feel like a complete freak, especially as some of the booksellers treated me like one. Either they thought the German Book Prize was too plebeian an institution to sully their shelves, or they were embarrassed to admit they didn't know what on earth I was talking about. Plus it was a tortuous exercise in self-retraint, as I was determined not to actually buy any books until I had found the fabled reader. The idea was that I would reward the marvellous bookshop that produced the bounty by investing in some paid-for reading material on the side. So I merely lingered by the hardbacks, fondly stroking their covers but unable to splash any cash in case the next shop could deliver the goods.

In the end I settled for a paper in the station newsagents. I still have one potential ace up my sleeve, but if anyone reading this has managed to get their hands on this penny black of the publishing world, please do let me know where you found it.

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