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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Where do I buy books?

I live in a small village but nevertheless it has plenty of places for me to indulge my passion for books.

The first is the ubiquitous chain store. This is a photo of the shop window of my local branch which is full of garish posters of the TV Book Club books and Mother's Day special promotions. It is certainly attention-grabbing, as it focuses on cut-price offers and doesn't display the actual books except stacked one on top of the other so you have to crane your neck and peer sideways down through the window to get a glimpse of the stock they are selling. It seems vaguely insulting to just stack them this way. The least they could do is stand the top one up! As a book buyer it doesn't tempt me to stop in front of the window. A fair percentage of these piles in the window are celebrity hardbacks. I mostly use this shop to buy magazines, the local paper, and guide books to holiday destinations. Last week I bought some files and envelopes here.

The second is the Fireside Bookshop which displays rare and collectible second hand books in its bay window. The window often features highly visual books on Arts, Antiques or lost cultures, and the display shifts and changes regularly. Inside it is like a cosy parlour with a real fire burning, and second-hand books on every subject all neatly shelved and labelled. In here I have found a lovely old copy of "Mayhew's London" and quite a few other non-fiction gems about my favourite period, the 17th century. When I go in, I inevitably come out with a parcel under my arm. Part of it is the attraction of it having a varied stock, not just the ones on the TV book club lists. Mostly I buy non-ficion here, though it does have a good selection of novels.

The third is my local charity shop. Actually there are three, all within a half mile of my house. This morning I bought Emma Donohue's "Room" from this one for £2. Not bad for a hardback. I asked the woman at the counter if I could take this picture and she apologised for the state of the shelves. Actually the untidy and random nature of it is part of its charm, I think. As you can see I could have come away with a bedside lamp or any amount of bric-a-brac as well, so I think I have been quite restrained.

None of these bookshops stock my book - the chain won't stock it till it's out in paperback, and even then, might not - "it depends on central office". And the second-hand ones haven't yet hit the charity shop shelves!

And of course, like most people, I buy books (too many books!) online.

Where do you buy books? What sort of bookshop do you like best?


  1. I miss the Fireside Bookshop so much. As I'm rather poor, I'm usually forced into buying on Amazon or foraging in charity shops, but cosy little book shops, with higgledy-piggledy shelves, staff who know what they're talking about, and stock that's been bought because the manager likes it - that's my sort of place.

    The best bookshop I've ever visited is this place:

  2. Hi Rebecca,The Fireside Bookshop had a gigantic sale last year where they hired the village hall. My arms were twice as long by the time I had got all the carrier backs back home up the hill from Bowness! I'll go check out your link.

  3. Lovely post - and actually rather important. Bookselling has never been tougher, and it is amazing how you look at bookshops completely differently when your work is on the shelves. And, as you say, the things you find out...

    (Like the new blog design, by the way.)

  4. Hi Deborah, yes the bookselling world is in flux as shops decide how to cope with the digital revolution where second-hand books will be a thing of the past...

  5. There are only two (non-second hand) bookshops in Canterbury and both are owned by Waterstones!! (One used to be an Ottakars) so I tend to buy my books there. Or on Amazon. For out of print books I rely on Amazon marketplace or our local Oxfam bookshop.

  6. Hi Alis, we have a Waterstones in the nearest town, but I don't often get there - too busy writing at the moent trying to wrestle the wip into submission!

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