Some authors might complain that books shouldn’t be sold on the secondary market since authors don’t earn royalties on used books. I understand that sense of loss, but as is the case with libraries, used book stores are a great place to discover authors and their work.
Our town has two used book stores, though I tend to favor one with convenient parking. Here, a customer can’t go in and say, “Do you have a copy of Such and Such book?” and expect them to look it up on the computer and find it. You have to go to the stacks yourself, find the category, and poke around. At least the books are sorted alphabetically by the author’s last name, so finding a particular book isn’t impossible, if it’s available.
I don’t tend to be much of a treasure hunter, but when I do have some time to devote to perusing their selection of used books, I find that this book store gives glimpses of our area’s current activities. For instance, I recently found three identical copies of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I surmise that either a book club or a class – perhaps an AP high school course or local college – assigned this modern classic.
Sometimes books offer a sense of their personal history. “To Jane, August 1975” makes me wonder about Jane, what her relationship was to the giver, and about her opinion of the book. Our store clerks seem to be picky about the books they buy, because I never see a book with lots of highlighting and comments in the margins.
The Religion section is always interesting, with books offering insight into many faith traditions. Our store can be counted on to present an assortment of Bibles. I often wonder why a Bible would be handed off to a used book store, though one clue is that most of the Bibles here are made from inexpensive materials. Presumably leather-bound editions are keepers. But was the Bible from an estate? Or a version its owner didn’t especially like? Or did the Bible end up in the hands of someone who simply wasn’t interested in Christianity, or had fallen away from the faith? Or maybe a devout Christian just had too many Bibles. I know my children will become owners of a plethora of Bibles upon my death. I wonder if they’ll keep them all…
We have a lot of commuters in our area, so I’m not surprised by the thousands of available novels. Surely these stories helped many a commuter pass the time on a long train ride. Our store labels Christian fiction as “Religious Fiction.” To me, that sounds like a snooze-inducing category my grandmothers might read. I wish the label made our books sound more exciting. Oh, and on my last excursion I found The Thrill of the Hunt, one of my old Heartsong Presents titles, in the Religious Fiction section. I won’t make a cent, but I certainly hope someone buys it!
Do you like to shop at used book stores? Does my description remind you of your local store?
What is your favorite book you have bought secondhand?
Have you discovered authors through secondhand books?