Many moons ago I wrote about my efforts to be listed on the Nielsen catalogue, so that my books could be ordered through – and supplied to – any bookshop in the land. The Nielsen people were lovely and helpful but the system was convoluted, and in the faceof its ongoing silence I have never quite had faith that it is working for me – perhaps the emails are going into a spam folder. Every couple of months I log in to check that there isn’t a queue of dozens of orders waiting for me, unloved and unfulfilled, but of course, nothing.
And then this morning – there it was! An email from Nielsen BookNet with the subject line “New Book Order”! With trembling fingers I opened it. Someone wanted a single copy of “Heir Apparent” – so not exactly a bulk order, but someone out there, somewhere in this fair nation of ours, had taken the trouble to request, nay, demand that their bookshop acquire my book for them. And which shop is it? In which distant county does it sit, serving customers I shall never meet and of whose lives I know nothing? Well, it’s Heffers. Yes, the bookshop only seven minutes’ walk from my own front door. The bookshop that already stocks my books, and has done from the very start. It’s a mystery, but I have clicked the button that says that I shall attend to the order forthwith, and in about an hour I shall walk briskly into town and hand over the book. I’ll save on postage and – if feedback is encouraged from the bookshops – I should get a top rating for speediest order fulfilment ever: five hours from placing the order to receiving the book. Amazon, eat your heart out.