Posts Tagged Secondhand books

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

When I was young one of my ambitions was to own a secondhand bookshop. It was an ambition that was never fulfilled but I do still love to wander around shelves full of pre-loved books.

Shaun Bythell owns Scotland’s biggest secondhand bookshop and for a year he kept a diary of life in that shop. The diary was published in book form, The Diary of a Bookseller, a couple of years ago and it makes interesting reading for anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind the mountains of paperbacks and collectables.The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

There are comments on the customers (especially those who spend hours reading by the bookshop fire and then don’t buy anything), the staff (who have a tendency to the eccentric), the people who are selling their lifelong book collections and the way online ordering works in the secondhand industry. Sunny summer days are busy but in winter the takings are meagre.

Two particularly interesting points from the book are worth highlighting. Why not join the shop’s Random Book Club? For £59 a year you will be sent a surprise book every month. Might make a great present for someone who loves to try different genres?

And, if like me, you’ve ever wanted to run your own secondhand bookshop, here is the holiday for you:

Stay in the apartment above another secondhand bookshop, The Open Book, and you get to manage the bookshop (with help from volunteers) during your stay. But you need to plan ahead – the holiday is very popular and booked a couple of years into the future. Get on the waiting list via the Open Book Facebook page or book the apartment via AirBnb.


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Selling Secondhand Books Online

Where do you stand on disposing of secondhand books? Any that I have in perfect condition I usually donate to our cash-strapped libraries because that helps both the library and the author (PLR). The others go to charity

Recently I tried something different:

Simply type an ISBN into the website and you get a monetary offer for the book. It’s not a lot, often just a few pence and the site won’t accept every title. But I found the process of keying in the numbers to get a valuation addictive. They buy DVDs and CDs too. Once you have a collection of goods with a total value of £5 or more there is the facility to print a label giving free postage to WeBuyBooks via the parcel people Hermes. It took a lot of books to reach £5 and then there was the job of parceling up and taking them to my nearest Hermes collection point (or they can collect from you).

A couple of days later I had an email from WeBuyBooks to say my parcel had been received and then, two days later, another to say the payment for my books had been deposited in my bank account.

Was it worth it?

Financially, probably not. My books were mostly novels and didn’t fall into the site’s most sought after categories i.e. cookbooks, travel guides and text books. A charity shop may have netted more for the books than I received.

More broadly, yes it was worth it. I got carried away with wanting to know what my books were worth and sorted through a lot! Many of the books refused by WeBuyBooks I then took to the charity shop anyway. And my mind feels clearer now more clutter is gone. So it was a win-win result!

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The Magic of Secondhand Books

used books

Image by Arun.R via Flickr

What is the allure of secondhand books? Why do so many of us enjoy sorting through other people’s discarded reading material?

If you’re anything like me then you’ll find it impossible to come away from a secondhand bookstall empty-handed. And we’re not alone – more and more charities are opening shops that sell only books. Oxfam also sell them online.

So do these shops attract us because we like a bargain? I think there’s more to it than that – after all I don’t enjoy rooting through the donated blouses and shoes in a charity shop.

Is it because, unlike a slightly used skirt, a secondhand book can give us the same experience as the new version? Possibly, although new books (like a new car or a new carpet) have that unbeatable ‘new’ smell and that’s part of their attraction. Some older pre-read books can have a slightly less attractive odour.

I think the excitement of ferreting through a secondhand book shop is the journey into the unknown that it offers. The books might be jumbled up or loosely grouped – but you never know what you might find! It could be a favourite classic from your childhood, a recipe book used by your grandmother or the latest best-seller. The secondhand book shop experience is totally different to the well organised High Street book chain where everything is in its place and the staff can consult the computer and tell you instantly whether something is in stock. 

I now have a bookcase groaning with books. Those that I’ve really enjoyed I pass onto friends, the others find their way back into the perpetual charity secondhand book cycle. I have sold the odd one on Ebay but found that it wasn’t worth all the hassle for the amount of money generated. But if you have a real mountain of books and would like to try and make some cash out of them (maybe to buy a Kindle?!) have a look here for some tips on how to set up a bookselling business.