Earlier this month there was a small hoo-hah that Oxfam was somehow stealing trade from “proper” and “professional” booksellers:
… the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association … are complaining that the charity sells donated stock, receives 80% business rate reductions – as do other charities – and largely employs volunteers. The smaller running costs, they argue, allow it to undercut rivals. They say it is no surprise that Oxfam, which now has 130 specialist bookshops across the country, has become the biggest retailer of secondhand books in Europe.
On the other hand, Oxfam occupy what could otherwise be empty retail properties. Nor, in Malcolm’s view, is the expertise shown by its bookshop managers greatly adrift from that of the commercial operators.
The trade might complain even louder about Amazon and eBay, both of which seem to have thriving secondhand book markets. Meanwhile, a troll on the web will quickly throw up examples of “professional” booksellers who differ on the value of a particular text by factors of ten and more. Is that ignorance or expertise?
All of that reminds Malcolm of two things:
- the imminence of a flourishing Oxfam bookshop in his home patch; and
- the curious way the secondhand bookshop has spawned a sub-genre of mystery fiction.
Malcolm is to bookshops, new or secondhand, as small insects are to sundew. On occasion, he may have felt he shared the insects’ fate. He does not discriminate between Oxfam and “professionals” in his visiting habits, except for a wry reflection on how one will have a display of the collected works of Alfred Wainwright, another long runs of Wisdens — the common factor being grasping over-pricing.
As for those recent bookshop-based mysteries, did they start with Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Shadow Of The Wind? Malcolm recalls he was not immediately enamoured of that one: the Lady in Malcolm’s Life reckons that the follow-up, The Angel’s Game, is a slicker read.
Malcolm himself is just finishing Mikkel Birkegaard’s The Library of Shadows, acquired in a three-for-two sundew moment. There is always this lurking suspicion that such a book is written to a formula:
Dan Brown + Illuminati Conspiracy + Ruiz Zafon = $$$$$$
However, it’s the summer season for light-reading; so no excess griping allowed.
Anyway, they’ll soon all be discards on the way to Oxfam.