Chapter and verse on second-hand bookshops

Today's Information Special is all about second-hand bookshops. Yes, all you need to know about buying the kind of book that has already been read and rejected by other people!

What is the difference between an antiquarian bookshop and a second- hand bookshop?

Antiquarian books are books that are collected for their oddity, rarity, beauty, binding and so on. Second-hand books are much superior, because they have to be read. There is nothing much else to do with them.

So a second-hand bookseller is superior to an antiquarian bookseller?

In every respect but price, yes.

Are second-hand books cheaper than antiquarian books?

Generally, they are cheaper than any kind of book. It is usually cheaper to buy a good second-hand hardback of a book than a new paperback.

Good heavens. So why don't people always go for second-hand books?

The only plausible explanation is that they are afraid of getting diseases from second-hand books.

Good heavens again. Is it possible to get diseases from second-hand books?

Certainly. An exhaustive study of second-hand booksellers shows that they are more prone than other people to deafness, coughing, frowning, unwillingness to make eye contact, and inability to remember if they have a Humour section or not.

In what way does this deafness show itself?

When you go into a second-hand bookshop and try, but fail, to make eye contact with the owner, you then start looking through the books until you find one that you want. You then look for the price, but either you can't find it or you find three different prices pencilled in, two of which were levied on the last two times the book changed hands, so you say loudly: "What's the actual price of this book?" to which the owner does not reply.

Because he is a deaf git?

Sometimes, but generally the real answer is that if the bookseller preserves a discreet silence, you might agree to pay the higher price out of impatience or sheer embarrassment.

If there are so many second-hand bookshops, why are there no second-hand video tape shops? Surely videos are, for many people, what books used to be. So why isn't there an equivalent resale sector?

Books and videos occupy an entirely different culture. For instance, a book borrowed from a library is something you take home and enjoy at leisure, for two or three weeks. A video is borrowed overnight. It is a cultural one-night stand. Video shops do sell second-hand videos, but they're not called "second-hand", they're called, rather unattractively, "ex-rental". Everything in a video shop is geared up to an evening at home, which is why they also sell sweets, crisps, soft drinks and basic groceries. Everything in a second-hand bookshop is geared to the belief that people have no existence outside bookshops. This may, incidentally, be true. However well you know your local second-hand bookseller, you never bump into him in the street. Maybe he only exists in his shop ...

Why do some second-hand bookshops mark the prices in a strange code, so that instead of it saying pounds 3.50, it might say B/TQ? Is this to make it harder for the customer to haggle, or is it because the bookseller can't decide what to charge?

No, it's so that the bookseller can look at the customer and decide how much he can sting him. We recommend that whenever you find such a coded price pencilled in, you rub it out and write X/BT instead.

What does that mean?

Haven't the faintest idea. But nor will the bookseller.

Why is the music in second-hand bookshops always Mozart?

Because he is out of copyright.

Finally, why do second-hand bookshops sell books that nobody in their right minds could possibly want to buy?

Such as?

I am always seeing copies of `The Good Pub Guide 1983' for sale. Why, for heaven's sake, would anyone want to have a 13-year-old pub guide?

Let me ask you a question. I am always passing pubs that have stickers in the window reading: "We are in The 1983 Good Pub Guide," and nothing later. Why haven't they taken them down?

I don't know. Why?

To cater for all the people who don't buy pub guides unless they're over 10 years old.

Copies of this guide to second-hand bookshops available from me, only 30p ... OK, 20p. Or 10p? OK, free, then. But that's my final offer.

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices