Monday, 2 July 2012

How do you view books?

There was a really good article in Saturday's Guardian Review section. It was about books and was written by Julian Barnes, the writer. I could identify with so much of it.

He spoke of coming from a household where both his parents valued books and how he began to collect them himself until it became almost an obsession.

I came from a similar household but on a much smaller scale. My parents never had a lot of spare money. Any that he had my father would spend on another poetry book. Every Christmas and birthday we would buy him a poetry book. I still have many of them on my shelves. In the evenings, when he had done his stint in the garden, or been for a game of crown green bowls with his friends, or met for his weekly stint on the billiard table in the local pub (a permanent booking), he would take down a poetry book and read it. And if anyone was willing to sit and listen, he would read it out aloud to them.

If any place in the world was mentioned, he would take out the World Atlas and find the place and point it out to me. I still do that today.

Julian Barnes's book collecting became almost an obsession. I wouldn't say that mine has reached that kind of proportion, but I do find it hard to resist a book. And that brings me to the real point of this blog.

I would hate to see the demise of our local, independent bookshops. There is also a huge second hand bookshop in Sedbergh, where I often go. But, just for a moment, consider two scenarios:
Last Wednesday I read an article by Matthew Parris in which he mentioned a book that I know a friend with a birthday coming up would love. There were two ways in which I could buy it.

1. Drive the seven miles to Richmond, where there is our nearest bookshop. Look for a parking place, put my £2 into the machine, walk the half mile or so to the bookshop. The chances are that they would not have it in stock and would have to order it. I would then return a week or so later, find a parking place, etc.etc.

2 Click on Amazon (their logo is on my tool bar), type the book into search, I already have an account so I would them just have to click 'add to basket', 'place order' and that is that.

I did 2 of course. I ordered it at lunch time on Thursday. It came at 10am in Friday's post. And it was £2 cheaper than the recommended price.
Which would you have done?

25 comments:

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I so love books. I love to hold them in my hand and I can't think of too many places other than a book store that bring me peace. Maybe a greenhouse or sitting by the water or under a tree.

I collect way too many of them and have such great difficulty parting ways with any of them. That said, having a Kindle now, I have read many new books, and often miss that I can't put them on my shelf and gaze at them - satisfied with the read.

Gerry Snape said...

My request as a child was always for a poetry book...I was a bit unusual!!

Gerry Snape said...

just meant to say that I too use Amazon...though to enter a book shop whether new or second hand is still exciting!

Joanne said...

My parents bought us many books, and boods were a major part of my childrens' birthday and Chrismas gifts. One year they ganged up on me and said "No more books, Mom." I guess they wanted more popular stuff. I ignored them, of course. Now they are in their forties, and deny they ever said it. Their kids have libraries and library cards.

Bovey Belle said...

My husband and I have a huge collection of books, and taught our children to read and enjoy books at an early age. They have their own small libraries now.

It is difficult, in the current time when fuel is expensive (and parking) and you don't know if you will find the book you want in your 2nd hand bookshop NOT to go straight to Amazon for it. However, there are any private booksellers listing their books on Amazon and you can chose to buy from them rather Amazon itself (should they be listing the book).

I have collected Antiquarian horse books since I started work at 16 and I have to look wider afield for more unusual titles these days and Abebooks is pretty good. Fortunately we are near enough to Hay-on-Wye for a regular jaunt there too and rarely come home empty-handed.

I think if you are looking for a particular book it might be worth asking your local 2nd hand book dealer (over the phone or e-mail) if they can source it for you. A bit more expensive perhaps, but you are helping to keep them in business.

Pondside said...

For now, as I work in town, it's easy for me to spend my lunch time in Munro's - an independent book shop. I've spent way too much time there! I can see that Amazon is convenient, but I haven't yet used it.

Dominic Rivron said...

For now there are plenty of time-limited places to park for free in Richmond. OK so they're usually full. One could, as a third option, ring the bookshop and get them to obtain it/send it you for a small postage fee.

Must admit, though, that I tend to use Amazon for new and Oxfam for second hand.

Heather said...

I love books too and can remember being asked what I would like for Christmas (or birthday) and saying: 'Can I have a book please'. We do have a book shop in our town but I must confess my favourite place to forage is the Lions' Club charity bookshop where I have found many treasures probably not available anywhere else. And, yes, I buy from Amazon too.

Hildred and Charles said...

After two down sizing moves many of our books have been scattered throughout the family, and I know they have good homes as the children were all great readers, starting young. Now I buy books for great-grandchildren and started off with the classics but am now into more modern books. I would NEVER discard a book but we do donate to various community book shelves and hope that they will end their days sitting on someone else's bookshelf....

Elizabeth said...

I still have Palgrave's Golden Treasury which my father was awarded as a school prize in the 1920's!
My big problem with books is that if I LOVE them I press them upon people (who probably don't want them) so all my best books are MIA.

Though a bookish child, I was NOT impressed by "Book Tokens" as Christmas presents.

My first job was with Blackwell's in Oxford -- I catalogued antiquarian books folio/quarto half calf etc etc. Mostly sermons and deadly dull content.

Of course I'm intoxicated by real life bookshops,
but the blissful ease of Amazon --the speed of it, the not paying postage....

The best part of living in an apartment building: the book shelves in the basement laundry room -- leave one , take one .
So you don't have to get rid of your books you merely recycle them.
Will not rabbit on here......

ps Haven't blogs and computers made bookish people's lives even richer?

Hope your weather has improved!

John Gray said...

I love books but I am afraid I dont read as much as I did ( blame the internet) however.... I adore bookshops and I love having books and bookshelves in a home

ArcticFox said...

i have to confess that most books I read are from charity shops!! I can't resist a bargain!

anorthcumbriangarden said...

I always said that I would rather be penniless and on the streets than sell my old books.
I love books and I think that came from my mum, and my auntie. Though there were never that many books around the house. Once I was old enough to have some money of my own, my friend and I would sneak out of uni and head to Brough to the specialist plant and natural history bookshop that used to be there. They had a "£5 and under" section, I'm sure that's where most of my wages went. Either that or the one in Keswick!
You can never have too many books, I buy lots for my friend's son, my Godson, to encourage him in his reading.
You really can't beat the smell and atmosphere of a good second hand bookshop, my idea of heaven. Though as you say, for new books Amazon is just so easy. Click, click, click and it's on it's way.

Dartford Warbler said...

Our house is full of books and we are on the look out for yet another bookcase. There are piles collecting beside chairs again..... For me the passion began in childhood and the books I have loved over a lifetime are still with me, like old friends. So are most of the children`s books that my sons had, or which I collected when I was teaching young children.

I do try to buy some new books from our local independent bookshop but others come from Amazon, from charity shops or as gifts/ swaps from friends. As BB mentioned, Abebooks are an excellent source of older, out of print books.

Sandy said...

Oh, yes, we have lots of books...everywhere! We finally purchased more book cases from IKEA as our living room bookcases were overflowing. I'm not so much into poetry but I've loved to read since I was a little girl. Hubby is a reader too. There aren't many book stores left here in The States. Barnes & Nobles (last big chain of book stores here) has turned 1/3 of their store over to kids toys. I asked them why and they said it's because research shows that product as a big seller and they have to do what they can to stay in business. I said it's a shame that toys are replacing books. I have to mention - Every time I open your blog your header photo of the cows makes me smile. I think cows are beautiful...such big, brown eyes.

cloudia charters said...

Books, old ones found in book stalls, made me who I am. I can't seem to read a book now, unless it is 1919 or earlier - then I devour it on Google Play (up there on the Google page with the other choices) for free! Yes, parents who read is important. . .



Have a GREAT Week!

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H said...

Sadly, I would have used Amazon too. Having said that, we have a few of bookshops in town and I do like to go and browse from time to time.

acornmoon said...

The difficulty in small book shops and their survival can be traced back to one very significant event and that was the demise of net book agreement. When this went we had discounting on a huge scale. It meant cheaper books, it put power in the hands of a few giants. It meant that the independent bookshops could not compete and so many of them closed. These smaller retail outlets where very important to publishers, they could be relied upon to order a wider selection of books including back lists. When they went publishers had to print larger volumes of fewer titles. Many authors and illustrators found their books were no longer viable. I know, I am one of those! Look in a high street bookshop now and you will see TV celebs, fewer choices, stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap.

Having said all that, I do what everyone else does, I buy from Amazon and now publish with them. I wish I could turn back the clock but I can't. I also buy from small bookshops whenever possible and find great treasures in charity shops.

Em Parkinson said...

I'm ashamed to say I do the same. We had a bookshop in our small town but it closed and now I would have to travel 30 miles. I do try and use the independent sellers on Amazon as much as possible too. My eight year old son is a great reader which I'm delighted about but we're running our of space!

MorningAJ said...

I don't use Amazon because they tried to monopolise the arrival of e-books by making the Kindle read only their type of file.

I do, however, use Waterstone's. (I refuse to remove the apostrophe - even if they have.)

The worryng thing is, if it's a popular book, you probably could have found it even cheaper in Tesco. Sad, but I think the days of the old independent bookshop are numbered.

Mo and Steve said...

It's a dilemma isn't it?
I love nothing more than browsing a book shop, any kind of book shop. The simple of pleasure of taking a book from the shelf, hefting it in your hand and taking time to appreciate the cover. Or, if it's an old book, to appreciate the way it has been made. To open the book and see what jumps out at you.
But then comes the dilemma. Do I buy? Usually yes, if the book in my hand has spoken to me. Sometimes no, if I really can't afford the price, then I will stalk it on Amazon until it comes within my price range.
Yes, I use Amazon, but I'd hate to see bookshops go. It's a dilemma.
Not a helpul comment, and too long, but I understand where you're coming from :)Mo

ArtPropelled said...

I love book shops but the selection is meagre in comparison to Kalahari and Amazon (especially the art books). If I order through the book shop it can take a month and is usually quite a bit more expensive. If the book is in I will buy it from the bookshop otherwise I will order from Kalahari who deliver it to my door within 2 weeks.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love books and bookshops. I've got a lot of books on my shelves!

I've never used Amazon, but then a lot of writers would criticise me for buying second hand books a lot of the time....

The Weaver of Grass said...

I don't feel quite so guilty now that I know that many of you do the same, although I think Dominic's suggestion is also a good one.
Thanks for taking the time to think about this one and leave a comment.

Mac n' Janet said...

I'm 10 miles from a bookstore, that's a local used one and I tried using it, but it was heavy on "chick lit" books and similar fare, whereas I like older books.
I have an Amazon prime account that I pay one fee a year and get free shipping on any Amazon Prime item. That mixed with the fact you don't pay tax makes for a very good deal.