Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Oxfam shops set the pace in selling secondhand books
Charity is accused of taking away trade from professional booksellers
Steven Morris writing in The Guardian, Tuesday 4 August 2009
A family in Salisbury's large Oxfam bookshop yesterday. Booksellers say that Oxfam is taking their bread and butter business, leaving them with only the antiquarian trade.
Photograph: Sam Frost
Simon Tozer walks out clutching two copies of Dick Francis thrillers. "They're good holiday reading," he says. "And I've gone for hardback because we're only going to Devon this time so weight isn't an issue."
The next customer is Joanna Underwood, who is pleased to have unearthed a copy of Dogwatching by Desmond Morris. It's a present for her husband and looks as good as new. No canine hairs poking out and certainly not dog-eared.
The Oxfam bookshop in Catherine Street, Salisbury, was doing roaring business on Monday. Too well, as far as the owners of other secondhand bookshops in the Wiltshire cathedral city are concerned.
Only last week another secondhand shop, Ellwood Books, closed its doors for the final time, its owner, Marc Harrison, complaining that it could not compete with the charity shop up the road.
Harrison said that when Oxfam opened 18 months ago his income halved overnight. Two other shops moved out or closed. "I held on until now but just couldn't keep going. Oxfam is the Tesco of the secondhand book world. It is destroying the industry. Half our business is rare old editions but in a recession people aren't buying so many. So we pay our bills from the sale of £2 paperbacks or hardbacks for under £5, and Oxfam has destroyed that."
Harrison claimed Oxfam targeted towns and cities such as Salisbury with a thriving secondhand book trade. "It knows there's a ready market. It's unfair competition."
The picture is the same across the country, according to the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association, which represents almost 600 secondhand booksellers.
The full story at The Guardian online.

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