Jan Smedh is co-owner of The English Bookshop in Uppsala. Asked for his job title, Jan answered "I like 'Bookseller', but 'Book lover' is good, too." Here he tells us a little about his beautiful shop, one of the few all-English bookshops in Scandinavia.
How long have you owned the shop? Me and my colleague Christer founded the shop in 1995.
Where is the shop? The shop is in the historic town of Uppsala, which is like Oxbridge and Canterbury rolled up into one! In 2008 we opened a second shop in a town about 30 minutes away by train called Stockholm.
Why did you become a bookseller? In two ways – first gradually, then suddenly. I guess it was always in the stars – I love reading and writing, and talking to people about what they should be reading. (The Christmas lantern photo of Jan and Christer, below, is by Sarah Thorén.)
What do you enjoy most about the job? The best thing is when you put the right book in the right hand at the right moment.
How many books do you have on display at any one time? We have 14,000+ titles in the Uppsala shop!
What type of events do you hold? We do loads of events – reading groups, storytelling, Doctor Who and other themed evenings, literary afternoon teas, author events where we fly in authors, put them up at my family home, show them the town, throw them a party and have audience events at the shop. These days it’s all digital, but we’re still keeping busy – and people are joining in from all over the world!
What are the key things that make a good bookshop? A well-curated stock, staff who love and know books and can’t stop talking about them, a strong connection to your community.
What have been your best-selling titles so far this year? In 2020 we’ve sold really well books of philosophy, fiction, gender studies and BLM titles.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the book trade? There’s no place at all in the world like a good bookshop. It simply cannot be replaced. So I’m optimistic.
What advice would you give to someone considering opening a new bookshop? You have to love books and people and be really well read. And you have to be a bit of a smug preacher – tell people how good you are. And tell them about what matters.
What has been your best/worst bookselling decision? Overbuying is always a possibility… There have been times early on when paying the publishers had to take precedence over paying ourselves…
Which shops give you bookseller-envy? There are so many wonderful shops around – and more opening every day! To me personally John Sandoe by Sloane Square is a yardstick. [And another Batch user!]
What are you reading at the moment? I’m finishing up JM Alvey’s second historical mystery set in ancient Greece. They’re really enjoyable and she was a guest here last year.
What is the strangest thing a customer has asked for? I have procured a quite expensive collector’s teddy bear for a customer who didn’t know where else to turn. Never say no.
Can you explain how using Batch helps your business? When we first joined Batch it was such a relief – making our payments so much easier to handle.
The English Bookshop, Uppsala
Telephone: +46 18-10 05 10
Facebook: Uppsala English Bookshop