Monday, November 18, 2013

The Future for Charity Book Sales

Charlotte's Book Sales Bouncers post struck a chord with me, since every year our church has a Christmas Fair and the book stall is run by those of us in the choir.  I have to say we haven't had such nasty experiences  but we do have to move in very firmly on the dealers intent on snatching up all the popular ones before anyone else has had a chance and we need to keep an eye on a few who seem to think cheap means free.

Our trade isn't in rare or valuable books, more the sort of 'holiday read' market. I always enjoy it, though, because it's so interesting to see what comes in and what sells.. Previous big successes, like Hilary Mantell's Wolf Hall, turn up in quantity and go quickly, but the really big sellers, like  The Da Vinci Code, keep appearing even years later though it's impossible to sell since everyone already seems to have a copy.

Sometimes if readers have been disappointed in a book it turns up shortly after publication; JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy was one of those last year, presumably because it was disappointingly short of wizards and Quidditch. Often there's a whole collection of a favourite author, obviously lovingly acquired over the years, and you suspect that it's been handed in  for a sad reason - downsizing or death.

Then there are the bags full of books that someone has obviously turned out of the attic and sent along without any selection process at all: the text book circa 1974, the children's book with scribbles on every page, the novel with both covers missing and last year - I swear this is true -  there was actually a book of crosswords with all the puzzles filled in .

There is a book sale, run by one of the churches in Edinburgh, which raises tens of thousands for charity every year, and of course the charity book shops like Oxfam heavily rely on this source of revenue.

However, I visited one recently and noticed that  their shelves were thinner than they used to be, the books stocked older..  Last year at our Fair there were far fewer newish books that there had been in previous years and I wonder how we will find it this year. 

There has been a recession, of course, and perhaps book-buying has been a casualty.  Perhaps more people are using their local library.  But I can't help wondering if the days of the hugely successful secondhand book trade, when it comes to popular paperbacks, may not be coming to an end.

If you're going to buy a book that you're not going to read again, it makes a lot of sense to buy it online, instead of bringing a physical copy back to clutter up the already-groaning bookshelves.  But you can't sell a secondhand ebook,  so Charlotte's library and my church and Oxfam will certainly suffer.. 


Charlotte Hinger said...

Aline--I think a lot of paperback readers have switched to ebooks. But the price for those editions keep rising, so I wonder how long that will last?

Aline Templeton said...

You may be right there, Charlotte. The supermarkets certainly keep the price of paperbacks down.