British booksellers combat Black Friday chaos with 'Civilized Saturday'

A woman reads a book while drinking tea in a bookstore. (Thinkstock)
A woman reads a book while drinking tea in a bookstore. (Thinkstock)

The Booksellers Association in Britain is looking to combat the hustle and bustle that is Black Friday by introducing its own version of the event, Civilized Saturday. The inaugural event launches this weekend and features hundreds of small local bookshops offering book worms a chance to relax, kick back and read a good piece of literature, often with a discount, tea or complementary hand massage.

At the moment more than 100 bookshops across the country have signed up to participate in the event, but unlike major retailers such as Amazon and Walmart who want people tripping all over each other both virtually and in person to get the biggest discount possible, Civilized Saturday is meant to reinvigorate one’s passion for reading without the stress. While some of the participating stores are offering discounts on select titles, they are each finding their own unique way to bring customers in.

The whole idea is actually part of a broader campaign run by the association called Books Are My Bag. Its aim is to celebrate books and bookshops, and as the campaign’s website points out, approximately 56 per cent of buying decisions related to books are still made inside of bookshops. That just serves to show that while a large number of readers around the world love the idea of downloading digital books to an electronic device or having physical copies shipped right to their door, the great majority of readers still enjoy the atmosphere that going to a shop provides. There really is nothing like the feel of a new book in your hand!

If you happen to be across the pond right now yourself, you can find a participating bookshop whether you’re in London, Leicester or beyond. Civilized Saturday is cool like that: locally focused, but still widely available throughout Britain. Perhaps if the concept is really successful, it will spread right here to our home and native land. Kind of like the way Black Friday has invaded the Western world since the concept was first introduced to Americans back in the 1960 (although all of this retail hoopla didn’t really catch on in Canada until the early 2000’s).

Fortunately for us Canadians, Toronto artist Dave Meslin and London professor Sam Machlin have already joined forces on an anti-Black Friday campaign called Buy Nothing Friday. The Facebook page features over 31,000 fans and counting who have committed to buying nothing during the infamous pre-holiday shopping spree. See? It’s only a matter of time before the madness ends!

Until then, you’ll probably have to go to your local coffee shop and massage parlour before you sit down to read. Of course, you could always bring a book to Starbucks and sit in your own massage chair – but that would be rather uncivilized, wouldn’t it?