On Bookshops, Used

January 26th, 2007 · 3 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

In a town like London there are always plenty of not quite certifiable lunatics walking the streets, and they tend to gravitate towards bookshops, because a bookshop is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.

File Under: Quote of the Week

3 responses so far ↓

  • KathyF // Jan 28, 2007 at 5:01 am

    “you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.”

    You can?

    Perhaps he’s confused Foyles with the library.

  • Tim O'Reilly // Jan 30, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I found Bookshop Memories a bit dismal in its outlook. I’m not a bookseller, but I spend a lot of time in used bookshops, and I see much at variance with his experience.

    For example, I had a great experience recently at a fabulous used bookshop in San Francisco. A homeless man came in with a bunch of books. The proprietor bought several, and even gave him additional money on credit for future finds. He noted, “He’s one of my best suppliers. He knows what I like, and he hangs out outside other used bookshops, and when customers come out with the books that they won’t buy, he offers to take them off their hands and then brings the best of them to me.”

    What I love about a good used bookstore is in fact talking with booksellers who know and love books and are excited about them.

    And even bookstores with great selection (like Powells in Portland) can be less satisfying than one that is smaller but has a proprietor who loves to talk about the books you are looking for, or what you find. (For example, how crestfallen I was to talk to a clerk at Powells, saying “Oh my god, this is a copy of Jane Eyre by Currer Bell.” The fact that the clerk had no idea why seeing Currer Bell on the spine rather than Charlotte Bronte was so meaningful to me took away a small part of my pleasure in the find.

    And there I break another of his stereotypes. I love 19th century literature.

  • ktwice // Jan 31, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    I like the story of the homeless man. Very much. Gives me faith in the world. As for the Powell’s clerk who didn’t get the Currer Bell thing? Sad, oh so sad. There ought to be a test, you know? Perhaps Mr Orwell (a favorite around Chez BS) was having a bad day — I can see how he finds a sort of sadness in used bookstores. On one hand, at least those books have a place to go. On the other, how could you allow them to leave your own home?

    There is no shame in admitting you love 19th century literature. Some of my favorite satire came from that era.

    Kathy, ha!