Monday, 8 March 2021

How do we get Michael’s Bookshop back open for local history and browsing?

 

Here at Michael’s Bookshop in Ramsgate we have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic back in March 2020. I am beginning to look at how we could get the bookshop back open. I am very conscious of how people are missing our local history and reading and book browsing facilities.

With a large secondhand bookshop there are pandemic related problems that occur both in retail, libraries and hospitably plus a few more that apply to the secondhand part.

The building is old and was The Prince Coburg pub, the earliest written record I have is a document produced in 1821 to transfer ownership of the pub after the landlord Thomas Reed died.
There are pros and cons with this, the main pro being the rent is low. It's a full repairing commercial lease, not something anyone would take on in the current climate.

Trading in the bookshop, where a lot of customers browse for an hour or so, in amongst narrow passages with low ceilings, lined with books, presents social distancing problems. Sterilising the 30,000 books in the bookshop between customers, or waiting 72 hours between customers is not viable either.

There is also the possibility of vaccine passports.

Buying, which involves going through the books people want to sell, either by going to their houses or through the backs of their cars, well that has issues all of its own.

I have various ideas, but would like to know what other people think.

If you were in Ramsgate in the late 1960s or Early 1970s you may remember the bookshop building as Design and Colour paint and wallpaper shop.

I had my vaccine a couple of weeks ago and I think that means I have gone from having a 1 in 20 chance of death if I tested positive for the virus to about a 1 in 50 chance. Around the time we went into the previous lockdown last autumn the Thanet infection rate was the third highest in England and I became very cautious. Now the local virus rate is much lower here, around the national average - which is slowly falling. At the same time my vaccination situation means my survival rate is increasing.

On the whole bookshop customers are reasonably well educated and reasonably intelligent so will either be young or doing all of their shopping online, so there wouldn't be much point in opening until the figures are much better.

I think this maths is roughly right but I would apricate any corrections. Here in the UK about 4,000,000 people have tested positive and about 120,000 people have died. If you knock the zeros off that’s 12 in 400 or 3 in 100. To put it another way for about every 30 people who test positive 1 dies of coronavirus.

If the vaccine is 80% effective that means before the vaccine 10 people would die and after it only 2, or to look it another way instead of 1 in 30 about 1 in 250.

The younger you are the less likely you are to die and of course older not so good, the 1 in 30 applies to people around 55 years old, if you are 65 it’s about 1 in 20 and 45 about 1 in 100. Over 80 it’s about 1 in 5 and under 30 about 1 in a 1,000.

Data published by Public Health England (PHE) based on the UK's vaccine rollout showed protection against symptomatic COVID in those over 70, four weeks after the first jab, ranged between 60-73% and 57-61% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.  


 
      


18 comments:

  1. The Prince Coburg was renamed to the General Joffre in 1917 when I think it was in the hands of Nicholas C Holyer?
    Wonderful old building. I wonder if the cellars are still in use? Best wishes for your future, Michael.
    David Carr - David J Carr Photography, Ramsgate.

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  2. cellars are where we print the local history books and maps

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    1. Thanks, Michael. I hope you manage to find a way to keep on doing what you do! It was thanks to Charlie Busson that I have the keen interest in Ramsgate history that I do. I used to spend hours with him in the Research section of the old library with some of the books, maps and journals that were probably lost in the fire! Again, best wishes

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  3. What about a system similar to the library's current one where someone gives you an idea of the type of book they would like and you pick it or a choice of 3 or something, leave it in a sterile bag 72hrs for covid germs and have a collection time allocated so you don't have loads of people collecting at once. People will appreciate your knowledge and expertise in helping them choose something good too.

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    1. You could take this argument one step further logically and close the shop to visitors, and switch to a mail order service (the stock was routinely photographed for online viewing) or even set up an outdoor market stall. Just a thought.

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  4. Hi Michael, I'm afraid I haven't come up with a suggestion as to how you may re-open in the near future, but seeing the pics of what your premises were before it became 'Michaels Bookshop'. Prior to 'Design & Colour', it was 'Cullen's Pet Supplies' (no pics sorry). A friend of mine who is the nephew of the owners, has told me that they gave the shop up in 1967 (not sure how long they owned it). They are still living in Broadstairs, his uncle is 96 & his aunt is 94. Just thought it would be of interest to know what it was prior to 'Design & Colour'.

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  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00251-4

    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30678-2/fulltext

    Infection from surfaces is very unlikely, any trials that showed it was possible used a highly unusual viral load, no need for sterile bags or 72 hr waits, this was proved many months ago.

    Dr Victor Gembala

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  6. I could not agree more with the comment on how unlikely it is to get any infection from surfaces. I would also point out that the extensive use of sanitising products actually pose a risk in themselves (not to mention the huge negative effects on the environment), and I would think particularly in a bookshop with old books this could be detrimental to the books themselves.

    Naturally follow the government guidelines however I cannot see how going above and beyond those adds anything. Relying on people's common sense within those guidelines usually leads to the best outcome and means people can enjoy browsing at their leisure again.

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    1. Yes indeed, I couldn't agree more. Who ever heard of someone contracting Cov-19 from picking up a book or magazine? Let's hold on to our common sense as thinking, rational adults?

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  7. Thanks for the comments. At the moment the main things I am investigating are. 1 Improving the ventilation. 2 Making the till area a separate glazed off area. 3 Insisting on masks and using hand sanitiser before entry (this would involve controlled entry to all or part of the shop) 4 Proof of vaccination. At the moment the percentage of people who die after testing positive is far to high to consider opening, hopefully the vaccine rollout will change this.

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  8. There will come a time, the crunch, when physical bookshops, like clothes retailers, either re-open with government guidelines/ precautions in place to manage risk or close down for good. When the country came out of our 1st lockdown, the majority of UK bookshops opened their doors. There was no evidence that handling books passed on the virus, if there was, most Waterstone's and Sainsbury's staff would have been ill with Cov-19, I don't believe they were. Handling a book in a shop is, to my mind, no different to handling paper money, coupons, leaflets or paper packaged food items in supermarket. Such can't be sterilised each time they're picked up. Indeed there's no need. Shoppers are now trained in personal protection measures, all shops now provide hand sanitisers and many sensibly limit customer numbers on the premises. I understand Michael's physical space is tight, so sensibly only a tiny number of customers should enter the shop at one time with one customer per isle as another measure. Staff and customers could wear disposable latex gloves if they feel the need, although squirts of hand sanitiser would be sufficient. Standard wearing of face coverings will remain mandatory for sometime to come. Plastic screens between customers and staff are pretty standard these days so could easily be put in place. As for taking in stock, sellers could be asked leave their books with the shop for a day for staff (suitably protected) to consider a value, although the Lancet say Cov-19 could only survive on paper for 3 hours. Ventilation is a recommended precaution,so keeping doors and any windows open would be sufficient. Asking for proof of vaccination could be unlawful, certainly discriminatory. Besides which vaccination is not a guarantee of not carrying the virus. Proof of a recent negative test could deter many customers, however the owner could advise regular customers of such a requirement in advance if felt necessary. Bearing in mind, percentage wise, just 1% of those infected require hospitalisation and tend to be over 70 years old and/or have pre-existing health problems. The crunch is making a decision to avoid all risk, ie continue to remain shut in lock down or manage/reduce the risk. Personally, I say there's no life without risk. For those bookbuyers who wouldn't accept any risk, they have the option to use mail order and online shopping.

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  11. Charlie I am not sure all of your comments published. A ghost in the machine perhaps. I think the main problems at the moment are 1 Most of the books we sell are much cheaper than they could be bought online. 2 I don't completely trust the government to restrict activities enough to protect the staff and customers.

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  13. Hi Michael - hope that you are well. My name is Clare and I am the Production Manager working on a program called Underground Worlds. We recently filmed at the Ramsgate Tunnels for the second series and we are now editing this together. To uphold the history of this fantastic location we are looking for archive stills and on searching we have found your name and some wonderful pictures that we would love to include in the program. I wonder if you could contact us on so we may be able to chat with you. My mail is clare.beasley@Phoenixtelevision.co.uk.
    I read your article also, Covid 19 has really taken retail to a very different space. So hard for small spaces and businesses to be Covid compliant and I wish you the best in being able to open your shop soon with some of following guidance from customers and government. Kind regards - Clare

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  14. I don't have a magic answer but I love your bookshop and do hope you will be able to open again soon. As the doctor responding to this blog has rightly said, the science suggests that fomite (ie touching inanimate objects) transmission is thought to be very rare and most shops are now opening simply with masks, social distancing and using hand steriliser. So I'd hope you might soon be able to do the same.

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    1. Unknown. Today April 21st we are running at about a 1 in 100 chance of dying if you test positive aprox. 2,000 new cases and 20 deaths, I would say in the narrow passageways of the bookshop browsing for an hour if one of the other customers has got then some others others have a good chance of catching it. My advice at the moment is to buy your books online. We will open when I calculate that it is reasonably safe to do so.

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Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.