Facebook and Twitter get a bad press. I am often ridiculed, or at least receive puzzled looks, when I say how much I love them both. But The Tree House has shown me how invaluable these new ways of communicating are.
It’s a meeting of cultures really – I am trying to set up an old-fashioned little bookshop, selling items that many people think are becoming obsolete (books, obsolete? Never…but some people think they are), but I am not a luddite. (Well, maybe there is a corner of my soul that is…a wistful corner…) I even own a Kindle. Technology is fabulous. Not only have I met some wonderful people through both media, but they have been an incredible means of spreading the word – Twitter is especially good for this, as it is so easy for people to retweet a message, no one minds doing it, and there is much mutual benefit as we retweet each other’s messages. So I can post a Tree House message, and it gets forwarded to hundreds of people, and so the support grows, well beyond the local region. I have had literary luminaries such as poet Ian McMillan retweeting things for me, Simon Halsey, one of the leading choral conductors in the world, has retweeted and replied to me this morning, and these people have thousands of followers on Twitter. The word gets out – lots of those followers have now retweeted the same information. It’s an amazing thing, so easy to use, so productive as publicity, and it’s free.
People out there are very keen to support a project like this (and many others) that is trying to sustain high street commerce and keep shops open as a means of enhancing the community (how bleak would it be if we all shopped only from the isolation of our own homes?), and also keen to keep bookshops as a feature on the high street. The other thing that Twitter has shown me is how many fabulous independent bookshops there are around the country, all seemingly doing well, in complete contrast to the doomsellers’ predictions. Books are amazing things; they are relatively cheap; they are recyclable; they enrich our leisure time and promote social intercourse as well as feeding our own minds and souls.
And hand in hand with the internet and the increase in social media, they are still very much alive and well in our society. Yesterday The Tree House was featured in the local newspaper, and the PleaseFund.Us pledges have now risen to a fabulous £730; today dozens of retweets to thousands of people, spreading the word and supporting the project – it’s all marvellous.
I believe secondhand bookshops are just as vital as new bookshops, given the pressures on publishing and the deletion of many back catalogues. That’s another great thing about books, and one of their advantages over computer technology – they never go out of date!