Thursday, September 25, 2008

Once again, the Bookseller chose the Natural History Museum for its annual Retail Awards, with guests dining beneath the snout of the magnificent diplodocus which dominates the famous, cathedral-like entrance hall. One could almost imagine him glancing down and thinking, “Christ, not you lot again….”

Of course, choosing this venue allows the emcee – this year it was the actor and comedian Alexander Armstrong – to make all those ‘This is the first time I’ve performed a gig into a dinosaur’s backside…” remarks. Or barbed comments about “dinosaurs of the industry” etc etc. But in fact, this year it was one of the presenters, the writer George Monbiot, who made reference to the location.

Presenting the Penguin Award for Green Retail Initiative of the Year, which went to the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre in Erpingham (don’t worry, English people don’t know where it is either), he noted: “Unless we take green issues seriously it will be the skeletons of publishers that we will be sitting beneath in future years…”. He then praised Penguin (his publisher) for being “ahead of the curve” on these issues and for having cut its carbon emissions by 9%.

One of the best speeches of the evening belonged to Waterstone’s MD Gerry Johnson. On accepting the award for Headline Bookselling Company of the Year, he said: “This isn’t a brilliant company just because of the people – it’s a brilliant company because of the heritage we have inherited. And that heritage is not just Waterstone’s, but also Dillons’, Ottakar’s, Town and Country’s, Hammick’s….It’s the heritage that comes with bookselling.”

Only one unfortunate mishap took the edge off the evening. Some guests had already seen the results, which had inadvertently been put up on the Bookseller’s website before the dinner. No point poking fun here. After all, how many times have we all sent an e-mail before we meant to, or to the wrong person, or without the attachment? In this click-and-it’s-gone world in which we all live, it is so easily done.