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Shades of optimism for Gravesend book store

PUBLISHED: 10:00 16 November 2012

Pictures of Julia

Pictures of Julia

Archant

Independent book shops are a rare breed these days as the Internet, one by one, has brought their shutters down.

Booksharp in Gravesend’s Parrock Street is one of the few remaining in north Kent and owner Julie Sharp insists she isn’t going anywhere.

“There’s something about the printed book, the texture and smell of it, people will always want that. I have friends who have e-readers and for going on holiday they’re brilliant but some downloads aren’t so cheap anymore and not everything is available online.”

Her business is half second-hand books, half new, and when people return a book they bought in the shop they can put half of what they paid towards a new book, which helps to get people coming back for more.

Sitting in her chair surrounded by towers of books all day long, Julie reels off authors’ names and can recommend a book at the slightest inkling of your interests.

It is this knowledge, she says, that will keep her doors open.

“I have something to pass on. People like recommend-ations and sharing books with their friends.

“Fifty Shades of Grey took off by word of mouth and that’s how I sell a lot of my books.”

For those who have somehow missed the furore, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey tells the story of Anastasia Steele and her love for a man who enjoys bondage and domination.

It is the explosion of this sex novel onto the shelves that has led to a surge in customers visiting one section of Julie’s shop.

As well as the thrillers, fantasy and sci-fi stacked up in the bookcases, a significant proportion of the shop is dedicated to contemporary romance, historical romance...and erotic fiction.

Julie knows her authors in this genre and she challenges the perception that she thinks many people have of it.

“In England we seem to have this snobbish attitude that unless it has won the Man Booker Prize it isn’t worth it, but I sell bucket loads of this stuff. As long as you are reading, it doesn’t matter what book it is.”

In the world of erotic fiction, it is a naked torso that sells. “I sell books by their jackets,” she says.

Julie says her customers are “aged from their 20s to their 70s” and numbers have been on the up since E. L. James brought out her best seller, becoming the fastest-selling paperback of all time.

Julie understands the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, but isn’t bowled over by it.

“There isn’t much done in this country for women and that’s why it made such an impact.

“I have read it but I skipped it a lot. It did have a story to it but my authors here have more in-depth stories.”

Fifty Shades has no doubt been a phenomenon. Though generally dismissed by critics as poor writing and having cringeworthy dialogue, Julie believes it has opened up a genre of fiction that many women haven’t considered before.

“This has all challenged what people think about romance. It is liberating for women.”

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