The Duke of Sussex’s highly anticipated memoir, Spare, has finally hit bookshelves around the world. But for Americans, it was just another day.
Across the pond, some bookstores opened at midnight to meet the demand for Prince Harry’s new book, which was released on Tuesday 10 January. At Waterstones, booksellers opened their London locations early on Tuesday in expectation of high customer demand. Over at WHSmith, the store’s Euston, Victoria, Heathrow and Gatwick branches all extended their opening times.
Just hours after its release, Spare has already been named the fastest-selling non-fiction book ever – according to its publisher, Penguin Random House – having already sold 400,000 copies in the UK across hardback, ebook and audio formats on its first day of publication.
It’s a surprising feat that Spare has maintained public interest, considering much of the book’s contents were leaked to the press after it accidentally went on sale in Spain five days before its official release. Its bombshell claims were straight out of a soap opera: an alleged physical fight between two brothers that led to a broken dog bowl; an evil stepmother turning her stepson’s bedroom into her dressing room; and its author losing his virginity to an older woman behind a pub.
That’s why when The Independent embarked on a mission to search for Spare in New York City, it was somewhat surprising – yet not at all shocking – to find that in the city’s most popular bookstores, it was just business as usual.
I began my search where every hero’s Journey begins: the Union Square Barnes and Noble on East 17th Street. As I walked through the doors of the Barnes and Noble, famously known by my friends for its top-notch public bathroom, I was met with a relatively moderate display of Spare at the entrance. Just that morning, employees had stacked copies of Spare on top of each other. But one Barnes and Noble bookseller, who preferred to be nameless, spoke of no lines out the door or midnight openings. Rather, at 10am on a Tuesday, it was as busy as it usually gets at midday during the work week – with a few tourists, retirees and NYU students on spring break loitering in the third floor café.
Next, I ventured to the city’s quintessential independent bookshop, the Strand Bookstore on East 12th Street. The indoor display for Spare was significantly smaller than major bookstores like Barnes and Noble. Instead, it was overshadowed by Strand’s “Pick of The Month” – The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff, for those who are wondering.
One Strand employee named Georgina couldn’t speak much about the book’s sales so far, seeing as they just got it that morning. However, there was one patron waiting to get their hands on Spare before it was even unboxed, she said.
Georgina, who grew up in London, said she doesn’t consider herself to be a royalist but was very much interested in the contents of the book. But until then, customers were far more focused on reading Station Eleven or The Vanishing Half.
During my travels – if you consider taking the 5 train uptown to Grand Central Terminal a trek (it is) – the two people I saw purchasing Spare were in fact two middle-aged women from the United Kingdom visiting New York City on holiday.
The women, who asked not to be named, were aware that Prince Harry’s book had “caused quite a controversy,” and added how they don’t think the royal has a lot of fans back home. But when I asked if the women planned on buying the book, they said no. They wished there was a paperback version available to take on the plane ride home.
While Spare has caused quite a stir among UK booksellers, its impact on American readers remains to be seen.