Originally published August 2017.
How going online has restored the value of second-hand books.
As a book dealer, I would like to respond to an article published on the BBC website on 28 December 2018, ‘The booming trade in second-hand books’. The business reporter, Lucy Hooker, poses the question: “The rise of online has helped revive the second-hand book market, but what impact has it had on traditional, second-hand shops?”
In recent years online has, to a large degree, aided the sales of mid-range, second-hand material, but is it really responsible for a “revival” of the market? Certainly, online has opened up book dealers to a more world-wide audience. And it has clearly given the customer more accessibility and control over their purchases. But is it really a “revival”?
If there has been a “revival” in recent years, then it is because the book trade has started to recover from the initial shock to its system that the internet delivered twenty-something years ago. However, as the article points out, it’s hard to pin-point accurate statistics on the general sales of second-hand books; is there even any real evidence that the book shops were struggling to shift stock before the internet arrived? Alas, rising rents and rates, people’s attitudes to browsing and responses to online competition have all meant that traditional shop premises are now in steady decline.