Book lovers, which do you prefer: old battered charity shop books or the classic clean nice-smelling Waterstones editions? Impact Arts goes head to head to debate this crucial issue in any bookworm’s life!
In the red corner: Emma Pallen – New books are better!
While I will admit second hand books do have a certain charm, buying new books from a bookshop is as least equally, if not more, delightful for several reasons. Firstly, in a book shop, you’re almost guaranteed to find the book you’re looking for. They have a much wider selection than charity shops or second hand book shops, ranging from hot-off-the-press bestsellers to niche subject-specific manuals. This means whether you’ve got a specific book in mind, or are just having a browse, you’re likely to come away feeling satisfied with your purchase. As well as this, new book shops have fancy electronic systems and knowledgeable booksellers that will always be able to guide you in your choice.
”The quiet hush of a Waterstones filled with browsing book lovers is an atmosphere unlike any other shop on the high street’’
The second reason why buying new books is such a delightful experience is the atmosphere of bookshops themselves. The quiet hush of a Waterstones filled with browsing book lovers is an atmosphere unlike any other shop on the high street, and now with many of them also having coffee shops, you can spend a whole afternoon reading and relaxing surrounding by books. This magic doesn’t just end when you leave the bookshop. While there is something rather nice about a battered pre-loved book, new books allow you to make your own memories. There’s the first few chapters, where you are so concerned about keeping your new book neat and pristine. Then you get sucked into the story and suddenly the book follows you everywhere – in the bath, at the dinner table, under the covers until late at night. Bookmarks get replaced by folded corners and spines get bent as you get so absorbed in the story that you no longer care about the physical appearance of the book. Every food stain and wet page adds to the story, like when you were so shocked at the red wedding that you dropped the book in the bath.
”Buying new means you’re directly contributing to more books being published’’
The final reason why buying new books is better is that it supports the publishing industry. Of course buying from a charity shop also supports a good cause, and so should definitely be encouraged, but buying new means you’re directly contributing to more books being published. The publishing industry has been at threat in recent years, with the advent of Kindles and online books. But the dedication of British book buyers has meant booksellers have bounced back, with 2016 being Waterstones’ first year of profit since the financial crash in 2008.
In the yellow corner: Ellen Smithies – You can’t beat a charity shop bargain!
”I, for one, buy probably 90% of my books from charity shops’’
Charity shops are often renowned for their wide selections of lightly-used clothes, and perhaps as somewhere to dump unwanted presents without the guilt of simply throwing them in the bin, but it isn’t often they’re considered as an excellent source of books, despite several of the more famous charity shop chains having entire shops dedicated to them. I, for one, buy probably 90% of my books from charity shops – I only buy ‘new’ if I can’t find the book I want anywhere second-hand, if I have a voucher to spend in Waterstones or a similar shop, or if there’s an edition of a book I particularly want.
”As far as appearance goes… Surely (with books, at least) it’s literally what’s inside that counts, rather than the appearance of the books?’’
Some of my love for second-hand books comes from a general attitude of not really caring if something has been pre-owned – most of my wardrobe is hand-me-downs or charity-shop finds, and I have been known to salvage nice plant pots or mugs from skips if they look as though they’re going to waste. And as far as appearance goes… surely (with books, at least) it’s literally what’s inside that counts, rather than the appearance of the books? Who cares if the cover’s a bit dog-eared; it’s just a sign that the book has been enjoyed, and surely is a testament of the quality of what is contained between the covers?
”When you’re a student, every saved penny counts?’’
Perhaps the biggest argument in favour of second-hand books, though, is the cost. I bought a book last week that would have been £6.99 at Waterstones, but a used copy of the same edition came to a mere £3.57 – who doesn’t love a 49% saving? Same goes for books for my course – one of the recommended reading books is £13.99 new, but was only £4.50 from good ol’ Oxfam books. And surely, when you’re a student, every saved penny counts?
Emma Pallen and Ellen Smithies
Image credit: Serena Tam