The Rise And Fall Of A Secondhand Bookshop

CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent
Part 1: The Beginning

Many of you will have noticed that secondhand bookshops are now a rarity on the high street. At one time, along with butchers, fishmongers, grocers, greengrocers, toyshops and the like, secondhand bookshops have fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons. Though this is a personal account the main problems involved in the fall will have been experienced by most of those outlets that have now closed.

As a boy growing up in the 60's our family used to go shopping on a Saturday morning visiting the above mentioned outlets for the weekly shop. Supermarkets were in their infancy and even those like Sainsbury's were just large shops nothing like the superstores of today. I remember a Victor Value opening with self-service which was an American innovation and it became very popular but my dad always went to our local grocer who filled a cardboard carton or two from a list that my dad read out to him. A few shops down was a secondhand bookshop and I was allowed to go in there and marvel at the array of titles on display. That smell that can only be found in secondhand bookshops was nectar to me and sometimes I purchased a Famous Five book and my lifelong love affair with books had begun.

Fast forward a few years to 1973 and I had come to the end of my schooldays armed with only a handful of O-Levels and no real idea of what I was going to do. I went for an interview as a printers apprenticeship but the pitiful low wages scuppered that idea. I interviewed to work in a bank but it all looked a bit stuffy to me and my natural resentment at being told what to do (attitude problem, I know :)) ) made me want to do something else so I went to my dad with an idea. I had been left a £500 legacy the previous year from my dad's aunt which was quite a decent sum in those days and I said what did he think about me starting up a secondhand bookshop. Explaining to me that setting up a shop with £500 would be impossible he suggested I looked at renting a stall at the indoor market a few miles away. As I couldn't drive at that time and the stalls were shuttered so the stock was left on the premises, I wouldn't have the problem of transporting my books every day. Anyway there were some stalls vacant so I made a deal to lease one on a monthly basis beginning the following month.

My idea was to concentrate on selling books for collectors as they would keep coming back week after week. So I wanted books that had continuing adventures such as James Bond, The Saint, J.T. Edson's Floating Outfit western series, Nick Carter etc. I also wanted to sell movie/TV tie-ins. So I placed advertisements in the local press expressing the desire to purchase books of that ilk. So I waited at home for the phone calls and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of calls I got from people wanting to offload their books. A friend's brother offered to drive me around in the evening to purchase any suitable books in return for some beer money for the weekend. It was surprising how many people actually gave me the books for nothing or for just a few pence, others I had to pay more but on the whole I managed to get about 1200 books for £100.

I had already paid for about 3 weeks rent before I opened for my first day which I chose to be a Saturday although the market was open 6 days a week (no Sunday trading in those days). I had placed an advertisement in the local press to say I was opening and I always remember that my first days takings were £67. I was a very happy lad :) .

I had opened up a bank account much to the amusement of the manager who said he had never opened up a business account for a 17 year old before and on Monday morning when I made my first deposit I felt very proud. The manager told me I would need an accountant and one of my dad's friends told me to get a Jewish accountant as they would look after my interests well. So looking through the Yellow Pages (remember them?) I picked out a suitable name that was reasonably local and they agreed to take me on as a client. Like the bank manager, there was a slight amusement and curiosity about a young man starting out in business at a young age but they told me they would look after my interests well, I would pay as little tax as was legally possible but if they ever suspected that I was hiding any income they would decline to offer their services with immediate effect.

So that was how it all started. In those days rent was reasonable, outgoings were low, there was little red tape and private businesses flourished. There were at least a dozen secondhand bookshops within walking distance and I got to know them all, we would sell or exchange stock to each other and pass on clients to each other. The good times were beginning and the rise was not far away.

For anyone who loves secondhand bookshops I can recommend watching the movie 84 Charing Cross Road, the ending always reduces me to tears but the joy of books shines clear throughout.

Part 2: The Rise, will follow soon.
Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
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Comments

  • The Wicker ManThe Wicker Man EnglandPosts: 434MI6 Agent
    Very interesting CHB. It's a shame that second hand bookshops seem to be becoming a thing of the past. I used to enjoy browsing in a second hand bookstore (sadly closed down now) in my local area, buying mainly adventure novels by the likes of Alistair Maclean, Desmond Bagley and of course Ian Fleming. But also American crime writers such as Ed Mcbain, John D Macdonald and Elmore Leonard whose earlier novels were sometimes out of print and not easy to find. I would ask the shop owner if he could acquire certain novels by the likes of Chandler and Hammett and would receive a phone call to let me know when the books had arrived in store. Good times. -{
    1.ohmss 2.cr 3.frwl 4.ltk 5.gf 6.tswlm 7.sf 8.op 9.tld 10.dn 11.lald 12.tb 13.fyeo 14.ge 15.mr 16.yolt 17.tnd 18.avtak 19.sp 20.twine 21.qos 22.tmwtgg 23.daf 24.dad
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 17,766MI6 Agent
    There is a secondhand bookshop in the nearest small town, thank God. I love looking around there and find books I've been looking for or never heard of before. Good times :)
  • Unloved SeasonUnloved Season Denton, TexasPosts: 48MI6 Agent
    I have several around me, though I'm not sure how good of a business they do. There's an independent one close by that's been around as long as I can remember, I think it opened in the 70's before I was born. And there are several of the of the Half Price Books chain stores around. In the States, where I live at least, new book stores seem to be the ones that have gone by the wayside. Probably because of Amazon. The only stores I know of are Barnes & Noble, all the little book stores like Waldenbooks that used to be in the malls are gone. I do have a B&N nearby though, and there's one a town over, but that's all there is for buying new books. B&N or Amazon. But I do know of 4 used book stores nearby though, however two of them are Half Price Books, but the different stores have different selections.
  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 2,951Quartermasters
    Thanks for posting the part 1 of this story, I found it an interesting read. I'm looking forward to 'the rise.'

    Perhaps it's because South Africa is not quite so highly developed as Europe, Britain, America etc, but I have a decent number of second hand bookshops that I frequent in my area. Perhaps they won't be around too much longer, but I sincerely hope that they will. I must have bought at least 80-100 Bond books (and many other non-Bond novels) in these shops over the last decade or so.
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,065MI6 Agent
    Yes, a good read, and I look forward to the next instalment. Of course, we have charity shops these days, and they sell second hand book, clothes, vinyl etc. But I myself would go to 'antique shops' in my teenage years. They were junk shops in a way, but not unlike the kind Winston Smith takes to in Nineteen Eight-Four.

    Secondhand books themselves are not such fun now always because a) The covers went thru a phase of being shiny surfaced, so they looked tatty quicker. Compare the old Pan yellow post-stick covers with those of the 1980s and b) The covers used to be Pop Art really. c) I used to pick them up for 10p or 20p and okay, you get inflation but now it will be £2 or more from charity shops. d) People read less, so the books that pass through are usually the same.
    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,298MI6 Agent
    round my parts, in Toronto most all the used book stores of my youth have long since disappeared
    its gone way beyond gentrification, now any property in the downtown core has potential value as an eighty story condo so why waste it renting it out to a book store owner? soon there will be millions of people living in downtown condos, with nothing to do once they take the elevator down to the street ... why'd they even move downtown then?

    surrounding university towns are much more likely to have good used book stores, London Ontario has two great ones: Attic Books and City Lights, I've found lots of pulpy delights in those two stores
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent
    Part 2: The Rise

    The 1970's were known for industrial strikes and the winter of discontent in 1979 but to be honest it was a great time for me. In the first six months of trading my business had taken off like a rocket and I had scores of regulars who would buy weekly from my ever changing stock. Many people visited me to sell their books or to ask me go round and collect. I continued to advertise for stock in the local press. I learnt to drive and bought a small van so I could go purchase stock in the evenings after work. About a year into trading the stall next to me stopped trading and I rented that as well. There was only a partition wall so that was taken down and I doubled my trading area. I started to advertise in local newspapers a bit farther afield as well and gained several good collections. The following year one of my regular customers asked if I needed any help as Saturday's in particular were manic. He was a couple of years older than me, very knowledgeable about books and had just been made redundant. After a month's trial to see if both sides were happy he became a full time employee and worked for me until I retired.

    In 1978 we relocated to a shop on the high street on a 5 year lease. Once again back in those days there was an ease of doing business, none of the endless red tape that happens nowadays. Although the rent was understandably higher than the market and other overheads were now payable the extra space and visibility from the road was invaluable. I was now placing advertisements for stock in other towns and cities outside London and once again was able to secure many excellent collections. Mimicking the market experience the shop next door closed down and I was able to secure a lease to end at the same time as my present lease as it was owned by the same landlord. I took on a school leaver as a second employee and again I am proud to say he stayed with me until I retired. I always thought that an employer needs to treat his workers well, good salary, profit sharing scheme and a nice Christmas bonus. If big business acted the same way there would not have been the endless strife between management and workforce.

    The lease was coming to an end and I met my landlord over a pub lunch and ironed out a new 10-year lease for both properties with the agreement that I could knock the two shops into one at my expense and we shook hands on the deal. He told me afterwards that his solicitor had said that he was renting out too cheaply and also wanted several covenants placed into the lease. He told him that he had shaken my hand and that his word stood and refused to alter anything on what we had agreed. What a gentleman he was, unlike his son, but that part of the story comes in Part 3.

    An American gentleman was in the shop one day and he was taking a great deal of interest in much of the stock. He introduced himself and said he would like to discuss a potential deal. He handed me a business card which stated that he was the owner of a used bookstore in the USA. I arranged to meet him at his hotel that evening for dinner. He explained that British editions sold like hotcakes over there and was after a supplier who would send him stock on a weekly or monthly basis. His store only sold books like my own - character series, good girl art, sleaze, movie/TV tie-ins and pulps. Anyway he asked me to come and visit him so I could view his stock as I had told him that American pulps and paperbacks were also major sellers for me but hard to obtain in the UK although a certain amount were imported by wholesalers. So I made my first trip to the States and what a lovely town it was in Massachusetts. We agreed to send a parcel of books to each other on a weekly basis and before long we were exchanging a hundred books a week. The books he was sending me were flying off the shelves at high prices, things were going from strength to strength.

    It was also around this time that I made the greatest purchase of my career but it's a long story and I will leave it until the final part.

    The 80's went by and then the 90's and in 2001 the internet was growing and I entered the world of Ebay. I have always been a technophobe so I went into selling online on Ebay with a certain amount of trepidation. The younger employee was very keen to expand our sales onto Ebay so he was given the task of opening up the account and running it. I have to say that the first year of Ebay selling was tremendous. We were getting massive prices for certain paperbacks. Edge #61 the final book in the western series went for almost £200 far more than what it was priced in the shop.

    But by 2004 the annual turnover was down for the first time ever since I had opened. There are quite a few reasons for this and all will be explained in Part 3: The Fall.

    Thank you for the responses and PM's they are appreciated and it is nice to see that in certain places the secondhand bookshop is still thriving :)
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent
    Part 3: The Fall

    So now comes the fall and the reasons for it in no particular order as it was a combination of all of these that contributed to it.

    1. Ebay had started off by being a good earner but as it became more popular it was making previously rare items common. Suddenly that one off book that people were chasing was becoming readily available through Ebay, there were many copies being sold at the same time and prices were falling. Great for the customer but not so good for the seller :)) . Genuinely rare books such as Fleming first editions were still holding their prices of course but many books were now going for a couple of pounds whereas before I was getting 5, 10, 20 or more for them. Ebay had become a monster that began devouring the secondhand bookshop.

    2. My client list was decreasing year on year. When I began selling books virtually all my clients were somewhat older than myself and time waits for no man and the news of them passing away was a sadness as most of them had become like friends not customers. We gained some younger new customers over the years but not to the same extent as to replace those we lost. The world was changing and youngsters were more interested in computer games than books.

    3. Charity shops were opening up in every vacant property. They were selling children's annuals and the likes of Enid Blyton series for pennies which cut drastically into one section of my shop. Of course they had little overheads with volunteer staff, council tax relief and paying nothing for their goods. Oxfam were even opening shops that only sold books. Of course once they had seen off all their opposition (not just bookshops but gift shops etc.) they put their prices up and today a lot of charity shops are selling new items at RRP but still benefitting from cheap council tax etc.

    4. I had been renewing my lease for 10-year stretches and about 3 years into the lease that would end in 2013 my lovely landlord sadly passed away. I was introduced to his son at the funeral who waved away my condolences and just said he would be in touch. I put it down to grief at the time but when he called upon me sometime after he bluntly told me that all his tenants were underpaying and he was looking into increasing the rents under some clause or another. After months of legal wrangling (and expensive legal fees) it was deemed that he could not do this until the renewal of the lease in 2013.

    5. Overheads were becoming a problem. Council tax was the main problem as the year on year rises were exorbitant and insurance, power etc. were increasing.

    6. The supply of books was drying up as many people used Ebay to sell their items or sold them at car boot sales.

    7. Footfall on the high street was falling drastically what with online shopping being so popular and the high cost of car parking making trips to town too expensive.

    To combat this we had begun to trade on Sunday's and to sell at various book fairs but still the annual turnover was falling year on year. The year crept round to 2013 and the renewal of the lease came up for discussion.

    Part 4: The End Of It.
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/14/ebook-sales-continue-to-fall-nielsen-survey-uk-book-sales
    This may be of interest, apparently the sales of E books are continuing to fall ?
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent
    That's interesting TP. Whereas e-book sales don't really affect secondhand booksellers those that sell new books will be happy to read that news.
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • HigginsHiggins GermanyPosts: 16,376MI6 Agent
    I am following this with interest.
    I've started building my collection in the pre-internet days which meant spending most of the weekend visiting flea- and other collector's markets.
    For example finding a boxed Corgi 336 YOLT Toyota was almost impossible! Fleamarkets where the only chance to find one and I've visited them all.

    Then came ebay and I was one of the first to register with them. In the early days, I was just overjoyed how many formerly inobtainable items where accessible and I've bought a lot back then - for ridiculously high prices jst because of the unique occasion.

    15 years later, you just want an item, type that in the search field and it's there.

    Ebay certainly changed the game and the early buyers sometimes where lucky (lack of competition) but often overpaid because scarce items where not that scarce in the end.
    President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

    Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!
  • Unloved SeasonUnloved Season Denton, TexasPosts: 48MI6 Agent
    Higgins wrote:
    Ebay certainly changed the game and the early buyers sometimes where lucky (lack of competition) but often overpaid because scarce items where not that scarce in the end.

    Yeah, I remember my first eBay purchase. I paid $40 for a few VHS tapes with the complete "Mr. Show with Bob and David", a TV show I really loved but at the time I never would imagine having an official release. Because back then you couldn't find a DVD set or place online to watch just about any show ever. It seemed like I would never see it again if I didn't buy those tapes. So I paid $40 plus shipping (in late 90's money) for a few VHS tapes that a guy recorded off TV when HBO had a Mr. Show marathon, then about 7 years later they released the complete series on DVD and it was cheaper than those crappy tapes.
  • HigginsHiggins GermanyPosts: 16,376MI6 Agent
    I remember buying VHS tapes wih Magnum PI episodes that I haven't had for DM 5/episode
    President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

    Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!
  • Mr_Sable_BasiliskMr_Sable_Basilisk BerlinPosts: 50MI6 Agent
    Higgins wrote:
    I remember buying VHS tapes wih Magnum PI episodes that I haven't had for DM 5/episode
    I did the same with Remington Steele episodes and I still remember 5 DM/ episode was the going rate then (early nineties).
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent
    Part 4: The End Of It

    The new landlord was certainly one to bear a grudge. He wanted to double the rent and on a 21 year lease with no break clauses for starters. There are certain laws in place to protect a tenant and I discussed these with my solicitor. I went for dinner with my two friends (they had long ceased to be considered employees) to discuss the future. We decided that I would offer to take a 10 year lease at a 25% increase with a rent review after 5 years in which if there was a rent increase of over 10% imposed I could walk away with no obligation. We were not hopeful by any means. A few days later the landlord walked into the shop. We went into the office and he said my offer was insulting and how did I have the gall to make it. Coolly and calmly I told him that I had had a great relationship with his late father who was a gentleman, the rent had been paid quarterly on the dot without fail and while shops in the same street had closed and some of them not reopened I had rented the shop for 35 years and caused no problems. I would be 67 after 10 years and I certainly could not commit to another 11 years after that which would make me 78 after a 21 year lease. The offer was refused and my days at the shop would end in a few months time.

    So Plan B which had been discussed with my friends that night when we went to dinner was put into operation. I was going to take early retirement and sell the stock (less some very prized items) to my friends at a very preferential rate and they would continue to trade at book fairs. The last day of trading was a poignant affair and when the doors closed for the final time we had a group hug with tears streaming down our faces. Almost 40 years to the day after I had started work as a bookseller and this was the end of it.

    I have one more story to tell which I mentioned in part 2. I have often been asked what was my best ever deal and it goes like this:

    For a number of years I had advertised in the local press in many parts of the country for books, some journeys were a success others were a waste of time. I had always wanted to see Loch Ness so in the very early 1980's I placed an advert in a local paper in Inverness, Scotland. I took a phone call at the shop from a lady with a lovely Scottish accent. She said that her brother had passed away recently and had left a very large collection of books and ephemera. She gave me a short rundown of some of the items which sounded interesting. She was a bit perturbed that it was a long journey for me but I said I wanted to see the loch anyway and it was as good an excuse as any to make the trip. One of my good poker friends had a few days to spare so he came along with me in the trusty Transit van. Anyway it took longer than we expected to drive up and it was dark by the time we reached the hotel so had no view of the loch. The following morning we found the lady's house, it was actually a mansion with about 7 bedrooms and what a lovely person she was. She said that her brother and herself had lived in the house since birth and had never married, both parents had passed away - I suppose she was about 50 and her older brother had been taken by a terminal illness. She was now on her own and was selling the house to emigrate to Canada to live with family. Anyway she showed us into a bedroom which had been converted into a kind of library and oh my gosh it was filled with hardbacks and paperbacks dating from the early 1900's to the 70's.
    She said she would go downstairs while I inspected the books. Her brother was obviously a keen collector of first editions and paperbacks of the kind that I sold, there were dozens of complete sets of character series and loads of movie/TV tie-ins. About an hour later she said that coffee was served and we went downstairs to the kitchen. She asked what I thought and I said that I had looked at about a third of the room and we would be talking about at least two thousand pounds for that lot alone. She looked surprised as she said that a local dealer had only offered her fifty pounds for the lot and he would be doing her a favour at that! Anyway, after looking at everything she said make me an offer and I said £7000 as there were several rare hardbacks complete with dustcovers. She nodded and then said how about this room? and showed us into another converted bedroom which was full of comics, magazines, movie posters and toys. There were huge runs of Beano, Dandy, Beezer etc from the first issues, Marvel and DC comics, movie magazines, Corgi cars and much more. I was staggered. I told her to tell me what she wanted for everything and as I had only £3000 cash on me I would have to go to town to draw more or get a bankers draft whichever she would prefer. She told us to start getting the goods onto the van and she wrote an amount on a slip of paper and said she would show it to me after the van was loaded and promised it would not be more than £10,000 if that was acceptable. I leapt into action and about three hours later we had filled the van with everything. I was getting concerned that it was getting near to bank closing time when she handed me the slip and it had £1000 written on it. After much protest from myself she said that I was an honest man in offering such a large sum earlier and she really did not need the money as she was very wealthy and it was all going to a good home. Anyway by the time we started our journey home it was dark again and I still didn't see the loch but I have promised myself I will get there one day.

    So that is it, I am enjoying my early retirement in the homeland of Mrs CHB where we now have three beauty salons and two boutiques with more planned. I oversaw the operation at the start but have handed over the reins now to Mrs CHB while I enjoy volunteering at a Help Center and relaxing in my rocking chair on the balcony with a drink or two.

    When I think back to that young 17 year old starting out it seems like another world and I could not have imagined the journey I would take but I have been blessed with two lovely children, two lovely grandchildren and the beautiful Mrs CHB and many fine friends, I would not change a single minute of a very fortunate life.

    Thank you for indulging me with my reminisces and I hope I have shed a little light on the secondhand bookshop. -{
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 7,615MI6 Agent
    edited May 19

    I read the posts by @CoolHandBond in this thread telling the fascinating story of his time as a secondhand bookshop owner with very great interest at the time they were first made in 2017 and again when I reread it earlier this month. I meant to comment on this thread at that time back in 2017 but for some reason I didn't get around to it. Better late than never, I suppose. I've been perusing and buying from secondhand bookshops and the like since the mid-1990s so this topic was of especial interest to me and I'm sure many others here too.

    I wanted to ask @CoolHandBond about his experiences with the now historic Net Book Agreement, a form of restrictive trade practice in the bookselling arena. I was wondering if you could tell me more about how the Net Book Agreement worked in practical terms for the secondhand bookseller. I understand that it applied to both new books and secondhand books, especially when price reductions were being made to stock. Of course I may be totally wrong on this as I have no real idea how it worked in practical terms. That's why I'd really like to know some more about this aspect of the book trade from someone "in the know" and I can think of no one better to ask than yourself in this thread.

    Below I've quoted in full (the italics were in the original text and are not my addition) the text that appeared on the fourth page of a 1969 Panther paperback edition of James Hadley Chase's Figure it out for Yourself (1950) for illustrative purposes:

    "This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

    This book is published at a net price and is supplied subject to the Publishers Association Standard Conditions of Sale registered under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956."

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent

    The Net Book Agreement didn’t apply secondhand books so didn’t apply to me. I only sold very few new books which were at RRP prices. I think it was stopped in the ‘90’s and discounted books were then allowed.

    I didn’t want to get into the “cheap” books market anyway, supplying “series” books to collectors was my main aim (and profit of course)!!!

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,077Chief of Staff

    This has reminded me how good this thread was. Thanks, CHB!

  • JoshuaJoshua Posts: 1,003MI6 Agent

    An interesting thread indeed. I have never seen a second hand bookshop. The only place I see such books for sale are in charity shops or on car boot sales and, even then, they do not get much shelf space.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,298MI6 Agent

    I forget where you live Joshua, is it London?

    Wherever you live, try a Google Maps search with the search term "used books"

    here for example are the Used Book stores near me in Toronto (and I know of more than what google has found)

    Such stores may be closed right now due to the pandemic, depending on the restrictions where you live. But round here they are doing curbside pickup and I think getting lots of business because people are bored and appreciate a book to read more than ever.

  • JoshuaJoshua Posts: 1,003MI6 Agent

    I tried a search and indeed there is a second hand book shop only a few miles away from where I live!

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 7,615MI6 Agent
    edited May 21

    Ah, I see. Thanks for your reply, @CoolHandBond. I kind of suspected that that was the case but I wanted to ask someone with experience in the bookselling business just to be sure. I believe the Net Book Agreement had strict rules governing the reductions in price of new books and that this could only happen in stages after a set amount of time. I recall a bookseller of some vintage telling me this once.

    As you say the Net Book Agreement was done away with by 1997 when it was ruled illegal and against the public interest by the Restrictive Trade Practices Court. It's a big difference from today when supermarkets sell newly published hardback and paperback books at large discounts from the RRP. As the stand-up comedian Stewart Lee said about the inappropriateness of supermarkets selling books and putting independent publishers and bookshops out of business: "Get a multipack of books. Why not take an extra book home? Put it in the freezer."

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent

    Cheap prices are good for the consumer but not so good for specialist retailers. I was lucky to have a large and loyal base of customers, but even then as I have described above, a combination of events led to it ending. I had a good run and as things have turned out it was for the best in the long run.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 7,615MI6 Agent
    edited May 21

    Yes, and you definitely found your niche in the secondhand book trade and made a successful business out of it for many years. I'm very glad to hear that things worked out for the best for you in the end.

    I suppose the start down the slippery slope of discounted prices for goods (including books) in the UK began with the passing of the Resale Prices Act 1964 which considered all resale price agreements to be against the public interest unless it could be proven otherwise and abolished the existing system of Minimum resale price maintenance (MRPM). It was quite a controversial piece of legislation at the time with Conservative backbenchers (who had businessmen as voters and constituents) and among some members of the Cabinet. However the short-lived Douglas-Home government pushed it through despite the opposition as the prime minister felt that backing the President of the Board of Trade Edward Heath's bill was the right thing to do for the country.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Charmed & DangerousCharmed & Dangerous Posts: 7,118MI6 Agent

    I can't believe I haven't read this thread before, but it's one of the most enjoyable threads I've read on AJB 🍸 I can also remember how prevalent second-hand bookshops were, and the joy of finding a book that appealed. Over the years I must have bought hundreds of books: Fleming of course and other 007/spy related books such as the Man from UNCLE paperbacks, Alistair Maclean, movie books, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and so many others. There are very few such bookshops left now, sadly, but I always look out for them whenever I visit somewhere new.

    "How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,077Chief of Staff

    Obviously your shop should have been called "Cool Hand Books"....

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent

    It should have been, Barbel!

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,106MI6 Agent

    @CoolHandBond

    This is a lovely thread. It was touching to read your memories of the book trade and the people you met. Two things struck me as I read the article.

    The first was how you referred to your team members at the shop as 'friends'. I've always worked for large businesses and the idea of friendship at work has virtually disappeared. People work together, sure, but there has been an ongoing trend since the early 1990s to separate work from play, to not account for the lives of individuals outside of the work environment. Despite the proliferation of 'human resources' there has definitely been an inability on the part of owners / managers / supervisors to practice, develop and nurture empathy and understanding with work colleagues. It's a tremendously formal place. Developing active friendships within work has almost died out, so concerned are individuals about bullying and harassment, people are scared to even make one another cups of coffee. The workplace I initially encountered was a driver for much of my social life and I formed some good friendships and a network system which aided my career progression. Now, such is the claustrophobic atmosphere of most work places, colleagues usually want to go straight home.

    The second was the attitude of your landlord's son when he took over the estate. Another blight on our modern society has been the misunderstanding of value. This person told you he could charge a higher rent by comparing the worth of his property only in monetary terms to what other businesses charge. What he failed to grasp is that a property's intrinsic value increases if it is well looked after, has good tenants and maintains a reputation in the local area. As a landlord he has a responsibility to the land and the value of that land; by effectively forcing out good and productive tenants, he devalues his property even if his rental income increases. This attitude has taken over the housing / rental / landlord relationship in the UK where the only value a property has is based on its monetary use, its worth, not in the physical use it may have for the community and / or individuals. Hence every year rent rises come in to effect. Yet, in many continental countries, as a landlord's mortgage payments decrease, they will stabilise or even decrease the rent for a sitting and productive tenant as this is a reward for adding value to their property / the community by caring and promoting it.

    I am sure you must be happy beyond dreams to have escaped this kind of sniping money-beats all attitude which has crept into British life. Sadly, I will probably have to live with it until I depart this mortal coil.

    Thanks once again for your memories.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 3,908MI6 Agent

    Thank you for your comments, chrisno1. I know you’re from the same part of the world as me in South London, and it’s a world away from the place I grew up in.

    Just as an update, my two colleagues have now also retired, the COVID situation scuppered the book fairs last year and they decided enough was enough.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 7,615MI6 Agent
    edited May 23

    I'm sorry to hear that your two colleagues had to retire from bookselling. I just hope they weren't too far off their respective retirement ages. That's the dreadful thing about the Covid-19 pandemic besides the obvious loss of life and the serious illness it can bring. One wonders how many secondhand bookshops and the like will go under because of the effects and the aftereffects of this awful virus. And there were getting to be few enough of such bookshops around as it was before the virus struck. Luckily I still have a few secondhand bookshops in my local area but I do worry about their future. We need to be supporting these types of businesses now more than ever to see them through this time of trial.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
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