To cope with the despair and pervasive gloom, I find reading novels to be the best form of escape in these surreal times. In my opinion — and that of many other observers — reading is integral to a healthy society, especially in the young. However, even any positive news relating to books and publishing in today’s business environment is bittersweet. For many book buyers, there has never been a better time to snag bargains especially in the used-book market as many people cull their bookshelves, looking to convert printed words into cash. Last week Forbes reported that Portland, Oregon-based Powell’s Books is seeing a huge surge in people selling their old books. While bookselling has never been more challenging and the woes from the United States have started to spread to the United Kingdom, there was a surreal story that The Guardian reported on Saturday of a most bizarre book sale:
In the end it was difficult to say whether it was a book lover’s wildest, happiest dream — or a worst nightmare.
From dawn till dusk yesterday thousands of bibliophiles, not to mention a good few traders who were looking to turn a quick profit, plundered a giant warehouse brimming with free books.
Some loaded up their cars with mostly second-hand novels, biographies, reference books and magazines.
Others, including ones who had travelled hundreds of miles to join in the legal looting, drove vans straight into the heart of the warehouse and crammed in their choice of dog-eared treasures.
Those who had no cars carried books home in sagging bags and crates, pushed them away in shopping trolleys or in prams or wobbled away on bikes.
Tables, chairs, bookshelves were also carted out. The south-west had not seen anything like it since the scenes of plundering on Branscombe Beach in Devon when the container ship Napoli spilled crates of goodies on to the shingle.
The frenzy was the result of a book retailer moving out of a warehouse it leased on a trading estate in Bristol but leaving its books behind — hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of them. The owners of the warehouse, which covers more than an acre, invited local people to help themselves to any books they wanted.
The Daily Mail opted for high drama and shocking photos:
The treasure hunters stand knee-deep in Danielle Steels, Len Deightons and Jeffrey Archers, hoping to find more exotic literary fare.
This is the scene at a huge book warehouse whose contents are being given away after they were abandoned.
Seeing the photographs makes me wonder if the barbarians really are inching over to our gates. The Chinese have a famous proverb which doubles up as a warning “May you live in interesting times.” Seeing those photos reinforces my view that we certainly do.