Thursday, 23 July 2009

Second hand bookshopping

I don't often post links to things, but I did enjoy reading this article last night about the purchase of second hand books and second hand bookshops and what one can get for £10.

The Oxfam bookshop in Oxford is one of my haunts (although I prefer the one in Thame as it tends to have more interesting things - perhaps because it has less traffic?), and I picked up an Angela Carter in there earlier in the week for my VVV. I'm interested that they say that people won't find a bargain; I do find their books to be at the expensive end of the charity shop market, but I am happy to pay £2.99 for a paperback even if I can get it marginally cheaper on Amazon because I know that the money is going to charity.

(I'm also intrigued that the Glasgow branch takes more money - do the Scottish buy more expensive books?!)

(Afraid I'll be posting my book review over on VVV again today as I read Novel on yellow paper last night...)

**edit** I've just heard that I've got money to go to a conference in Cambridge this September. Including a reception at Heffers bookshop! Which sounds good, even though I don't yet know what sort of books they sell. But I wondered if anyone can recommend good second hand bookshops in Cambridge. Particularly ones which might help me with the VVV).


  1. Ah, you're speaking to the right person when you ask a (rhetorical) question about the Glasgow branch of Oxfam books! I know it well and will always hold it dear to my heart because that is where I found a green Virago edition of The Brontes Went to Woolworths for £2.49.

    Anyway, I digress. Oxfam books is on Byres Road in the west-end of Glasgow, which is a popular/trendy/cult/affluent/student area and is very close to Glasgow University (my alma mater) so you find a lot of course texts there as well as a lot of classics and popular fiction. It is a popular haunt of students, professors, and area residents.

  2. P.S. I adore Billy Nighy :).

    Oh, and us Glaswegians are a charitable lot!

  3. I was hoping that you'd be able to fill us in Claire! I'm afraid to confess that I went to the Oxford Oxfam bookshop at lunchtime, and came out with 2 VMCs, and an intriguingly titled book "The child that books built". It sounded a bit like me so I had to buy it.

  4. Oh that's a book I've been wanting to read for some time! Looking forward to your review and to finding out which VMCs you purchased.

  5. When I was in London I met another woman from Vermont that had bought 40 books in various Oxfam shops, lucky lady. I e-mailed her later and she made it through customs no problem. Your conference sounds like one to really look forward to!

  6. I'm an expert in finding charity shop bargains - It is what I do for a living! I freqently find £1 books which I sell on for £20 - £50.

    I have to admit to not being a fan of Oxfam - they dump 100s of books each day, just because they don't sell quickly enough or don't look right. They refuse to sell/pass their rejects on to others. Other charity shops seem to be much more loving of books and not so keen to dump them.

  7. The Charity 2nd Hand Bookshop market in Australia isn't that good - people mainly rid themselves of cheap thrillers there. We do have some very fine commercial 2nd Hand Bookshops though.

  8. Loved that article! There is nothing I enjoy more than sniffing around Oxfam Books. We used to have one in my local high street but it closed about five years ago. I think I was its only customer. They used to keep books aside for me. Then I went off to university, came home for Christmas...and it was gone. Replaced by an organic cafe, which closed two months later. We don't do organic in Sarf East Landan.
    In my experience the best Oxfam bookshops are the obscure London ones - Strutton Ground in Westminster, Gloucester Road in Kensington, and the big one off New Oxford Street. I also like the one in Canterbury and there is an excellent one in Tunbridge Wells. And there is a good book section in the regular Oxfam in Sevenoaks.

    I don't get out of London/Kent much so can't comment on elsewhere in the country! Though I do totally agree with the whole ethos of buying from's not buying, it's donating..and being rewarded for your generosity.

  9. Rachel - you put that so well, it makes it sound like a positive duty for us to get out and acquire books :)

    Jackie - I guess that is your work! I did once espy a rare chalet school book for 50p which I then sold onto a bookseller for about £20. It's a question of knowing your market.

    Claire - goodness knows when I will read The child that books built...everything is a bit out of hand right now...

    Darlene - I think there will be internet at the conference so I will be able to blog! If you google "CILIP Rare books conference" you can see the programme..

  10. I read The Child that Books Built earlier this year and it was very interesting, if different from what I was expecting (I expected it to be more personal and less scholarly - not that there's anything wrong with the latter). I look forward to your thoughts on it.

  11. Ah, Cambridge bookshops! Heffer's is the equivalent of Blackwell's (which now owns them), but not quite so vast. There is an Oxfam Bookshop, also smaller than Oxford's, and I used to volunteer in Books for Amnesty a little way out of the centre.

    For your trip in September, though, you must visit The Haunted Bookshop, tucked down an alley and full of school stories. Unfortunately, they know how much they're worth, so afterwards you should go to Galloway and Porter, a remainder bookshop on three floors.

    I thoroughly enjoyed "The Child That Books Built" despite - no, because - the author's doubts about whether being a passionate reader is wholly good.

  12. Excellent Owen, can't wait for my book-shopping adventures in Cambridge. All very exciting.

    The haunted bookshop sounds great and I am happy to pore over school stories even if they are unaffordable! I take it you've been there with J!


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