Over this semester, we have all enjoyed learning at the collective knees of visiting speakers. They have represented all sectors of the publishing industry – bar one. Best represented by the chaotic, Bernard Black of Channel 4 TV’s Black Books I confess a deep and abiding love for the mostly unkempt and tatty world of the preloved book. Every place associated with a book is sacred and has the air of a temple. For me, there is no other book buying experience to top the emotional pull of a second-hand bookshop.
Crossing the hallowed threshold, it’s best to be in a state of mindfulness – open to the calls and vibrations coming your way from the waifs and strays on shelves, on tables or piled high in columns around you. “What a load of tosh!” I can hear some of you cry out. But others will agree with me.
You will discover exactly the book you didn’t know you needed or wanted on that day and at that time you ambled into the shop. We behave quite differently depending on the reading material we require at any one time and, while a bricks/clicks-and mortar bookshop, or Amazon and others, can supply you with exactly what you know you want, their book shelf categories and algorithms cannot hope to compete with the happy discoveries which occur when the infinite random variables in your brain meet the ideas and thoughts bounding off the shelves, tables and columns.
If you are concerned about the ‘dark’, second-hand book economy, with authors, publishers and agents missing out on remuneration, as long as you remember to sing the praises of the books on sites like Goodreads, you will be playing your part in the book selling process, encouraging others to buy and read the books. You may even replace the preloved one with a new copy, if it’s a bit too tatty and it’s captured your heart. In the photograph, there are some titles which called to me from shelves in Wigtown, Galloway; Arklow, Wicklow; Glasgow and Dunlop. They have found their ‘forever home’ with me.
Go on. Find your local ‘Black Books’. Bernard may even have a glass of wine waiting for you.
By Morven Gow