farewell to the bookshops

farewell to the bookshops

They’ve spruced up the bookshop on North St. and part of me feels a little sad. I have been a frequent visitor for the past 4 years and enjoyed the challenge of finding books in the chaos of it all.
Not that it was chaos to me mind you, but chaos to other customers who liked their bookshop neatly kept and organised, who wanted to pop in without a rummage and pop out again. Now they have been tidying it up a bit and things are becoming a little more organised. For me it is a good time to be saying farewell as I will miss things the way they used to be if I keep on shopping there. Not that it’s changed that much, just in the idealistic bookshop of my imagination. It was easily my favourite bookshop in Northern Ireland especially in the days when the older guy behind the counter (Jim?) would add up the total a knock a couple of quid of if you had bought a few books. There have always been good used books there as well or something of interest, provided you where/are prepared to have a look.

While I’m on bookshops an honorable mention should go out to the War on Want bookshop on Botanic Avenue for being (in my opinion) the friendliest littlest bookshop around Belfast. There is usually a little box of 50p Penguin books on the floor or bargains to be had on the table, so I have enjoyed popping in there most weeks. They usually have classical music on as well, which has the effect of calming me down a little.

I think I could have grown to like the Stacks bookshop in Dundonald as well, but it was a little out of the way over there in east Belfast so I didn’t get to explore it that much.

It feels bit petty to complain about a charity shop, but the Oxfam bookshop on Botanic Avenue could do a bit better on the customer service front in my opinion. Say hello to me, have a bit of crack, smile. There is a interesting selection of books but they never seem that happy to see you or appreciative of the custom. I find it annoying when they stick  paper price stickers on paperback books, then peel them off, with some of the back of your book.
Oxfam seems to be a little too powerful for my liking, perhaps like the Starbucks of charity shops? Everything is a little too slick for my liking. I’m not saying that the stuff they do isn’t great, but a little too organized nationally or something for the ramshackle image I have of an ideal used bookshop.
On the other hand, the guy who is usually behind the counter in the Oxfam bookshop on Rosemary St is cheery and helpful

Which brings me on to my least favourite bookshop, the one in Bangor. In fairness it is probably the neatest and tidiest local bookshop and there is good stuff in it. And I certainly don’t want to be negative about bookshops as many of them are struggling in these days when we can pick up books for £2.81 on Amazon. But I have found it a little cold and unfriendly anytime I’ve been in. At one time they had a clearance shop when you could pick up 5 books for £4 or something, which was great. But when I took it up to the counter the guy nonchalantly scored the prices out on my book with a blue biro which wasn’t great and put that particular bookshop in my bad books. I find some of the books a little bit expensive, but that may have something to do with being broke. I am used to paying about £2-3 for a decent Penguin paperback, but in this shop it might be £5. I think that £5 is a pretty fair price for a good book that you can keep and looks beautiful. So I’m reluctant to say that I think my least favourite bookshop was overpriced. I think that the other bookshops had their Penguin/Pelican books underpriced. But I’m glad they did or else I wouldn’t have been able to afford to buy any while I lived in Belfast.

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2 thoughts on “farewell to the bookshops”

  1. I called in the North Street bookshop yesterday – spruced up you say? I can barely squeeze through some of the aisles – if I tilted my head back to look up at the higher shelves I was likely to bump into the books behind! Would have like to have seen inside before its facelift.

    Next time I’m bringing my camera – it reminded me of a great bookshop like that in Boston that had a great volume of books than air!

    1. I think ‘spruced up’ may have been to strong a term. By spruced up a mean new sign and books tidied into tidier piles. But the shelves are still sky high and narrow. I think I got used to it over the years. At the same time the Penguin books I was interested in happened to be in the worst place, right in front of the counter and on the main aisle.

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