Monday, April 1, 2019

Secondhand Bookshops in Britain - Still Rising

In 2017, I reported on The Rise of Secondhand Bookshops in Britain, and in 2018 I updated this, noting that the numbers seemed to be remaining broadly stable.

The news pages at the excellent website The Book Guide report regularly on newly opened or newly discovered bookshops, and also on closures, while customer reviewers provides notes on any that seem to be in peril.

In the first quarter of this year, the guide has reported new second hand bookshops opening in York (Pitch 22), Barnard Castle (Curlews – a reopening), Bath (Fact or Fiction), Eastbourne (Vintage etc), Epping (Oxfam), Shipley (The Children’s Society), Hay-on-Wye (The Story of Books), and Halifax (Brame), and newly discovered ones at Strathcarron (Hospice Bookshop) and Kingcussie (Caberfeidh Horizons): whereas only one closure (Marlow, Oxfam) has been noted.

That’s a net increase of nine second hand bookshops.Two thirds of those are privately owned, so the increase is not being driven mainly by charity bookshops.

Recent reviews by browsers do, however, note several existing bookshops that proved not to be opened when advertised or expected, although that has always been a characteristic in some parts of the trade, particularly in those shops gallantly run by sole owners.

It may well be, therefore, that a few shops are for all practical purposes closed, even if not officially so. But even if this is the case, we can still say that the number of secondhand bookshops in Britain remains at least stable, and more likely the total is continuing to rise slightly. Of course, this is only a picture from one full quarter of a year, but so far the sense that many collectors have of a steep decline continues not to show up in the figures.


  1. Two thoughts: What accounts for the common perception that second-hand bookshops are disappearing in Britain? The same phenomenon is widely thought to be true of the U.S. as well. That is, if you count only open shops. Many online dealers will open their shelves to customers by appointment, but I wouldn't call their operations actual bookshops.
    I also wonder if people think second-hand shops are disappearing because so many seem to emphasize obvious, contemporary books. I'm told by some shop owners that old or "vintage" books don't sell or don't bring in enough profit. To me, it doesn't actually feel like a second-hand shop unless most of the books are hardcovers without dustwrappers.--md

  2. Thanks for these thoughts, Michael. I think part of the perception may be because there is some evidence second hand bookshops are disappearing from high-rent city centres, and are more to be found in lower-profile smaller towns. I do agree that sometimes 'vintage' books are less in evidence but there's still quite a lot that do stock these. Mark