The Occasional Bookstore Rant

Having been a book dealer, off and on, for the past twenty years or so, I have spent a lot of time in bookstores. Also a lot time in Thrift Stores. Garage Sales, estate sales, and looking in boxes on the curb on trash day. There are slightly different expectations from each of these channels of finding books, but there is one constant when you are looking for items to sale-the books have to be perfect, or as close as possible to perfect.

I am always shocked when I go into an old style book maze type bookshop, where books are stacked here and there, laying this way and that, some upright, some on their sides, some spilled across the floor like a fallen house of cards. This books can’t be in great shape, just the way they are treated makes them junk in very short order.

What is more shocking is that these are often store that have signs proclaiming how they have been in business for fifty years or they are the largest used bookstore in the city. They always make me want to open a used bookstore nearby and do my best to put them out of business.

I visited an old bookstore today with a lot of books, comics, CDs, two restaurants, and a vast array of junk books-some priced at ten for a dollar. Another rule for a good bookstore is that they sell books as their primary business. The trouble with comics, magazines, CDs, DVDs, Computer Games, calendars, bookends, coffee shops, restaurants, and all the other odds and ends that end up for sale in bookstores is that they take space that should be used for, you guessed it, books.

I could have forgiven this bookstore for having all kinds of non-books for sale in their used bookstore if it were not for one cardinal sin-the books were crap. Even if a bookstore follows the rule of having only books for sale-having books that should be resting comfortably in a landfill still makes them a bad bookstore. Among the normal sins here are books that are falling apart. I found I book I would have bought, but the spine was broken and the book was it two large part with a number of loose pages and possible missing pages. A casual look at a few other books showed that none of their stock was in Very Good condition and most was in Poor condition-which would be unsalable condition in a good bookstore.

A friend of mine went to this same bookstore and found a CD she wanted, only the CD wasn’t there, just the Case. I have seen this from time to time as well, often with LPs you’ll find a good cover, but no record to go with it. At least with an LP you can tack it on the wall for decoration, does anyone decorate with CD covers?

Maybe the people who shop at these used bookstores think that all used bookstore are halfway stops to the recycling bin. Or maybe they think its fun to wander around the maze of books without any clue as to what books might be where. Maybe they have never been to a Barnes & Nobel or Borders or a public library-and have never seen a new book.

If you run a used bookstore-organize the books and make sure they are as to close to new condition as possible.

Jon Herrera

Jon Herrera

Writer, Photographer, Blogger.
Jon Herrera

Latest posts by Jon Herrera (see all)

Writer, Photographer, Blogger.

Posted in book sellers, books, bookstores
2 comments on “The Occasional Bookstore Rant
  1. THE DOTTEREL says:

    I’m always amazed at how they manage to stay afloat, especially when their daily sales must average £1.50 if they’re lucky. And in Hay-on-Wye there are hundreds of ’em, all competing for the same business.

  2. DESCARTES says:

    I read a book about Hay-on-Wye and I would like to stop by and just have a look-even it would be stuff that drove me nuts.

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