To me, a second hand bookshop feels very different than a ‘normal’ bookshop. I prefer second hand bookshops, although I also feel like you should take your time for them: if you’re in a hurry, you better visit another shop.
Now what is it that makes second hand bookshops so special?
A big part of the experience to me is the cozy feeling I get in second hand bookshops. Normal bookshops seem so clean, almost like a hospital compared to these dusty, small shops, with bookcases of dark wood, or sometimes not even bookcases but just piles and piles of books, covering every surface of the shop. It just feels like a warm bath of books that you can dive into.
The collection of a second hand bookshop is also always different. Not only different from the last time you visited, but also from all the other bookshops. This makes them more specialised and they often offer rare books. It also makes sure you never know what you’re going to buy, because you never know what’s in stock. I once went to a second hand bookshop to see if they had a book by David Mitchell I wanted to buy for a friend, and I left the shop with Don Quichote and some poems by Shelley for two different friends!
Which brings me to my next point: in a ‘normal’ bookstore, I feel much more like the object of marketing. I know the way the books are displayed is to boost those sales. I know the people selling me the books are primarily salespeople, and not specifically booklovers. In a second hand bookshop, I run into shopkeepers who forget to help me because they’re so into the books they’re reading, or with whom I get into vivid discussions about the books we’ve read. I feel like they own the bookshop because they feel a need to be around books, instead of just to make money.
That might also be the reason why buying second hand books is really nice for your wallet. If you play it smart, you can buy all your Christmas presents for the price of one new book! This of course doesn’t work for some of the really nice antique shops, or if in your country books are already cheap. I’m used to some pretty high fixed book prices, so for me, buying second hand is a must!
Last but not least, the second hand market is also good for the environment. Buying second hand books makes sure there are no unnecessary reprints. Also make sure to sell books you don’t want any more instead of throwing them away! Not only will you make someone else happy with it, I personally also have a lot of trouble with throwing books away. What if it suddenly turns out to be the last copy? You could have destroyed a complete story!
On my travels, I visit a lot of second hand bookshops, so see if I visited a town near you to find the best bookshop in your area!