Saturday, 19 February 2011

I Would Like Some History Books, Would You Like Some Money?

One question that I am often asked as a secondhand bookseller is, what type of books do you buy? As I have a general bookshop with somewhere around 25,000 titles on the shelves, this can be a difficult question to answer.

Additional note if you are viewing this with Internet explorer you may get a message when you try to click on some of the pictures to enlarge them saying that is a dodgy site.

As this is one of the web addresses that blogger uses to host images and therefore about as likely to be a dodgy website as Amazon, eBay or indeed Microsoft there isn’t much I can do about this.

Good ones, isn’t necessarily helpful, this suggests a group of bad bokos that face the great paper recycling plant never to be read again and this is a sort of half truth.
Anyway I am going to do answering this one with lots of pictures, that should expand if you click on them, I hope this will make it easier to understand.
For the most part the problem isn’t so much one of bad books, but one of books that there are more copies of, than people to buy them
This used to be less of a problem when most people bought their books from independent bookshops, most people had different titles and the only area where one had a glut of the same titles was where people had joined book clubs.

As I am using history as an example here, then the history book club is a good example although it would serve for other subjects, in a year when about 10,000 history titles came out about 400 of these were available through the history book club, as these were cheaper lots of people bought them and in subsequent years these titles were a lot more common, bad books if you like.
In the book trade at that time one mostly overcame the problem by not buying history book club titles, for the most part the club editions were inferior quality – suck together instead of stitched together, linson instead of bookcloth ,type of job – saving the extra embarrassment of having them fall apart on the shelf.
Now of course we live in a world gone mad and proper independent new bookshops have for the most part gone, so selecting the good books, the ones that people will want to buy is a lot trickier.
If you go round the charity shops and bootfairs looking say for books on The Gunpowder Plot, the various wives and mistresses of Henry VIII, or some such thing, you probably won’t get very far.
If you are looking for a large general book on British history you will probably find one, the problem here is that if you once mentioned that you were interested in history, then large general books on the history of the world or the history of Britain turn up in droves on your birthday and at Christmas.
I do get, in the course of buying large history book collections usually after someone has died, a lot of very general history books far more that I can sell and for the most part they go in the 10p sale and if they don’t sell there they go off for pulp.
I should add here that if you go off to the large chain booksellers, you can probably get your Gunpowder Plot book or whatnot at a price and of course or you can buy one off the internet without seeing it first, this can have unexpected results.
The greatest demand for history in Ramsgate is the history of Ramsgate itself and as you can see from this area I have overcome this problem mostly by printing local history books myself.
This works up to a point and does mean that we usually have something suitable about Thanet in stock.
Some of you probably knew Mr Kemp who used to run Albion Secondhand bookshop in Broadstairs but unfortunately died last year, not long before he died we were speculating about where all the Isle of Thanet history books go to.
At that point I had more that 100 Thanet books in print and he had hardly managed buy any of them secondhand even from probate, he suggested that people were possibly taking them with them. As you can see from three shelves of Kent history books published by other people I could certainly do with some more.
History doesn’t just extend to British history, I didn’t put my world history books in as it would have been too many pictures, there is also military history.
And more military history.
Maritime history, I am always short of this because of the harbour, although not usually The Big Book of Ships.
Aviation history this also sells well, maybe because of Manston.

Transport history especially books on individual makes of car and motorbike

Incidentally the pictures are of books on the selves in my bookshop today, so if you see one you want to buy, email me or ring me up 01843 589500 if you want me to reserve any of them for you.


  1. I like the fact you care about the history Michae. When I first movedd to Ramsgate thirty years ago there was nowt. well done .

  2. To be honest Don I didn’t until Ramsgate Library burnt down taking a lot of our local history collection away forever.


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