Outside of the internet it is now very difficult to find any source of secondhand theology books in southeast England.
SPCK Mowbray in Canterbury High Street used to have a secondhand department upstairs, the SPCK chain of general bookshops with large religious sections were a victim of their charitable status. At one time they only had to get 25% religious sales to maintain their existence and as they the supplied churches in the diocese they were situated in, with hymnals, service books, candles, incense, communion wine and so this wasn’t too difficult to maintain.
It also meant that they provided general bookshops to towns that wouldn’t have had them. A mixture of the charity commissioners raising this percentage and the secularisation of the UK ended this happy state of affairs.
I try to maintain a reasonable selection of secondhand religious books, focused more on theology than sentimental devotional books and customers come from considerable distances to buy the books in it.
I have spent today working on the first of two bookcases of them. Frankly there was little there that was cheaper on the internet, but there was a considerable amount that had been on the shelf since before the beginning of 2012 and most of this got its price reduced considerably.
We are closed tomorrow as it is Thursday but I expect to finish of this mammoth task of checking the stock early next week, I have to go over some of the first sections I did, as I don’t think I was ruthless enough. It was only by doing it that I came to understand the effect that modern technology has had on secondhand book prices.
I think one of the key aspects here is that many general reference books have been completely replaced by the internet, the telephone book being a prime example, with Halliwells being replaced with the imdb, biographical dictionaries being replaced by Wikipedia and so on.
One does wonder, when doing the theology books, if hymnals will be replaced with the tablet. Will the bishop sing mass from his Kindle? Will there be a plainsong app?
From the perspective of having three children in full time education, I am convinced that we risk considerable future problems from moving too quickly from academic paper books to academic e-books. Without much in the way of research into the way people absorb information.