Christmas should mean books – it certainly did as a child and for many years it would have been unthinkable not to have at least one book lurking under the tree – all those annuals as a child. But books for children as presents seem to have lost their way. Did you read the list recently published in the papers? A list of electronic items and not e-readers either.
This year we have again bought books, but have eschewed traditional shops and even Amazon and scoured the charity shops in our high street – of which there are many. The range is immense: blockbusters, Man-booker winners and short lists, romance, classics and an abundance of biography and quite beautiful coffee table books in decent order. Several years ago I would have baulked at giving and receiving second hand books. But this year we have embraced austerity in this way. Thus my son has two Booker short lists winging their way to Oz, my beloved has Herodotus in larger friendly print than my classics original and my baby girl has a lovely art book about the Impressionists with beautiful illustrations. Alas, I am yet to find something for myself. But I did receive Michael Caine’s The Elephant to Hollywood for my recent birthday.
It seems to be me, as we cruise the charity shops that books are big sellers. Every shop has a books section – some more usefully organised than others, some more frugally priced than others. (Pricing seems to have little to do with quality.) It seems too that books are a big earner. So many donated (ie free) to be sold for anything between £1 – £4 means good margins. But, as with the second hand video shelves, charity shops need to keep a weather eye on Amazon and the many other internet book sites out there, whose prices are exceptionally low in some cases and with the bonus of free delivery for new books.
The big chains may be dying and the small bookshops dim recollections of the past, but charity shops and on-line represent the bargain hot spots for book buyers across the country this Christmas. Have you finished shopping yet, are there books there for friends and loved ones?
Get into your high street, go on-line buy a book for someone this festive season – books go on giving for years to come. Who knows where your gift will end up – cherished forever and travelling the world as my books do, given to friends as ‘must reads’ or on the charity shop shelves for someone else to enjoy in a never-ending grown up version of pass the parcel?