It has taken almost two decades but there is once again a bookshop at Oxford’s Covered Market.

Gulp Fiction, which opened on Tuesday, sells paperbacks, beer and coffee.

The new business is being run by Oliver Mason, a former fiction buyer for Blackwell’s, who has also worked for the Missing Bean coffee chain as a barista.

Readers will be able to buy a beer or a coffee while they peruse the paperbacks at the store - all selling for £4.50 each.

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It’s the first time there has been a proper bookshop at the market since The Little Bookshop closed in 2003.

Oxford Mail:

And while The Little Bookshop was in a small retail space, Gulp Fiction feels quite spacious inside, with room for about 20 tables on the ground floor.

There is also the potential to offer more seating upstairs.

Mr Mason, 29, said: “I’ve worked as a buyer for Waterstone’s and as a fiction buyer for Blackwell’s so I think I know what sells and what books people would like to read.

Oxford Mail:

“I have always had a drive to create my own bookshop.

“People have told me how happy they are to see a bookshop back in the Covered Market.”

Mr Mason added that beer would be sourced locally, including from Tap Social, while the coffee will come from Missing Bean, and wine from a wine merchants in Summertown.

He has some experience of the pub trade after working as a supervisor at the Holly Bush on Osney Island.

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He said: “It’s going to be a flat rate of £4.50 for secondhand paperbacks - I’m selecting books myself.

Oxford Mail:

“The price point is exactly half price of most paperbacks selling new.”

Mr Mason said he hoped to attract all different types of adult customers.

He added: “I’m hopeful we are opening at the end of the pandemic at a time when business is getting back to a good level of stability.

“It was almost impossible to find a table at a restaurant at the weekend - it was very busy in Oxford and everywhere we tried was fully booked.”

Once the shop is established, Mr Mason will consider adding more tables upstairs.

“It’s quite a large space - more work needs to be done but it’s possible we could add another 40 tables upstairs,” he added.

While there will be plenty of adult fiction on sale there won’t be any children’s books.

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Mr Mason, who studied English literature at university, explained that one of the conditions of the alcohol licence was that children’s books and alcohol should not be sold on the same premises.

Gulp Fiction will be open six days a week, from 10.30am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

Oxford Mail:

If the Covered Market, which is owned by the city council, extends its opening hours then Mr Mason would consider the possibility of Gulp Fiction staying open later.

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