Saturday, 21 July 2012

Art Bookshop Review: Foyles (Charing Cross Road)

This is a review of the Art Bookshop area on the second floor within Foyles Flagship book store at 113-117 Charing Cross Road in central London. Below you will find a review including photographs of the bookshop.

Foyles Art Books
about half of the shelving in the art section on the 2nd floor of this bookshop
First a note for those who know the Foyles of old and have not visited for some time.

I first started going to Foyles when I was a student in the 70s when it was ran by Christina Foyle.  It was a complete and utter maze interspersed by book stacks on the floor as well as the shelves.  It had the most books of any bookshop in London but finding them wasn't easy and the process of paying for them was completely antiquated and very slow.  As a result, it's one of the few bookshops that has made it into Wikipedia.
Foyles was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest bookshop in terms of shelf area (30 miles/50 kilometres) and number of titles on display.[1] In the past, it was famed for its anachronistic, eccentric and sometimes infuriating business practices, so much that they made it a tourist attraction.[2]Wikipedia - Foyles Bookshop
However all that was swept away and the shop has enjoyed a complete and comprehensive makeover.  The shelving is now exemplary and shopping for books is a complete pleasure.

RECOMMENDED:  I'd go so far as to say this is probably my bookshop of choice for art books.  The only improvement I can think of would be the addition of a few comfy chairs and a rethink of the location of books on shelves relative to the demographics of its customers!

Name of Art Bookshop: Foyles Bookshop
(Branch) Address: 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0EB
  • conveniently located for people visiting Oxford Street / Tottenham Court Road / Covent Garden / Leicester Square area. 
  • Two minutes from Tottenham Road Tube station (involves a walk around the CrossRail development between Centre Point and Tottenham Court Road Tube Station
Shop hours:
  • Monday - Saturday 9.30am - 9.00pm
  • Sundays 11.30am* - 6.00pm (*11.30am - 12.00pm browsing only)
  • Public holidays 11.00am - 8.00pm: Closed on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day
  • Easter Good Friday and Easter Saturday, normal hours apply; Easter Sunday, closed; Easter Monday, 11am - 8pm
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7437 5660
Of interest to:
  • art students (beginners through to Higher Education);
  • amateur artists;
  • professional artists;
  • art lovers;
  • graphic designers; illustrators; typographers
Major section on Art Theory and Aesthetics
  • very well laid out with good labelling; 
  • includes a “new books” section specifically for art plus a section on catalogues for current exhibitions
  • absolutely huge section devoted to art history and artists
  • biggest selection of books on art theory that I’ve seen in a long time (this shop is close to a leading art school)
  • good selection of books relating to art instruction targeted at amateur artists
  • very extensive sections devoted to graphics, design, type, illustration and photography
  • a selection of art DVDs - including fictionalised films about artists
  • very wide range of specialist art journals
  • lots of knowledgeable assistants and speedy processing of purchases
  • a very good bookshop for other books as well (the music and history sections kept my other half absorbed for over two hours!)
ART DVDs and Catalogues for Current and Future Art Exhibitions
specialist shelving features not often seen in art bookshops
Think Again?
  • not for those who like their art “dumbed down”
  • you have to be able to bend down to see the art instruction books - Foyles might like to think about the fact that a lot of (less bendy) older people take up art in their retirement
  • a visit could get expensive - because you see so many books you want!
Art Instruction books a little too low for my liking
A bit too low for those whose backs and knees don't bend as well as they used to
Art Instruction: Anatomy for Drawing and Portrait/Figure Drawing section
Summary: This is the bookshop to go for art books if you like a good selection and you enjoy a better quality art book. I’ve got a very good awareness of art books in print and on offer and I was generally very impressed with the books they’d chosen to stock.  This is a very good place to start if looking for books on a particular art topic.

A New Bookshop and a Move for Foyles

Foyles is due to move to a purpose-built bookshop in the adjacent former Central St Martins building in late 2013 or early 2014. They are now actively involved in planning the design of the new bookshop.

Their leasehold for site of this original bookshop is and other adjacent properties are being marketed for a very considerable sum. One can only surmise that this relates to taking advantage of the development of the new Crossrail station and retail hub at Tottenham Court Road

Other art bookshops

You can read other reviews of Art Bookshops in London in the following posts:
Plus good art bookshops in the UK are listed in Art Bookshops - Resources for Artists

Monday, 9 July 2012

Ning's abysmal communication on billing

I use Ning to provide a framework for online discussion groups about art. The framework they offer and the service they provide is great.

However I have one MAJOR complaint about Ning. I complained about it last year - to Ning.  The situation is no better this year so I'm going to complain about it again - and this time I'm doing it in public.

Ning's communication with respect to annual subscription billing is absolutely APPALLING!

ABYSMAL is another word I would quite happily use.

Communication is limited to a pop-up message on entry to the network.
  • There are no emails to the network owner prior to payment becoming due
  • There are no invoices delivered via email to the owner's inbox - PRIOR to payment.
  • Continued subscription is assumed and revisions to existing arrangements are made difficult for network owners due to the lack of information on the network dashboard
  • Payment can be made BEFORE an owner has had a chance to review the payment.
Now as it happens I don't want to revise my current arrangements.  However if I did Ning doesn't give me much of a chance to do something about it.

 However as somebody who is very familiar with the proper statutory requirements and other good practice standards applied to systems for billing accounts I know that Ning's arrangements fall far short of what's required.

 I conclude that Ning's communication on invoices is very poor and below all reasonable expectations of standards for online payments.

 It made me think last year that there's a need for some sort of online financial systems ombudsman. I'm thinking the same thing again this year.

This is the online billing enquiry they're receiving from me today.
Please answer the following questions:
  1. Why does a responsible company not have a setting for account details and payments of invoices linked to an individual's personal account and/or the network account.
  3. Why do you not communicate with the site owner via email in advance of the billing date with respect to annual billings.  I do not in any way regard a flash-up message when logging in as any sort of adequate substitute for proper communication.  For one thing there is no online record which is accessible to me that it has occurred.
  5. Are your billing arrangements fully transparent and completely compliant with all statutory legislation and prevailing good accounting practice relating to the payment of bills for online services?
I'd be very interested to hear about other people's experiences of Ning's Billing arrangements.

UPDATE:  Here's the automated response which completely fails to address any of the questions asked. Like I said - their communication is abysmal!

Hi there,

Thanks for contacting us. You can view all of your account information, including your complete billing and invoice history, by signing in directly to using the email address you used to create your network. You can also access your account from the dashboard of your network by clicking "My Account." For any questions, please refer to our Help Center article located here:
We hope this helps.

The Ning Team

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