While travelling through Bacchus Marsh with Tiki we found a secondhand bookshop. I love bookshops, but I love secondhand ones even more. The one we found had a fair range with good prices ($1.50 - $2.00 paperback, $3 hardcover), and used to be the blacksmith's workshop.
It reminded me how much I love secondhand bookshops - they are wonderful places. You can find books there that you've been searching for for years, you can discover books and authors you never knew existed, and usually at a reasonable price. Every shop has its own feel, its own flavour. Sometimes the person behind the counter is just a staff-member, sometimes it's the owner. Many are friendly folks, who have a great love of books, some are grumpy, finding customers a necessary evil.
There's almost always a copy of the novelisation of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by William Kotzwinkle to be found on the SF shelves, sitting there like an old friend, waiting to be rediscovered. In many of the secondhand shops around Melbourne, you can find books stamped to show that the previous owner was Alan Stewart.
I wish I had the time and money to browse through them more often.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks that book prices have gotten a bit silly. $20 for a brand new paperback? I used to be able to afford to buy extra copies of favourite books to give people, but not any more. It's just too damned expensive!
Now, I wouldn't mind if a bit more of that money was finding its way to the authors. I'd be quite cool with that. Writing ain't easy, it's underpaid and under-appreciated. I know authors, people who have proper books out, and none of them are swimming in cash. Well, Sean Williams is - in his mansion there's a swimming pool of money - he said he got the idea from an old Scrooge McDuck comic. But even he only manages because he's cloned himself, and has had the artificially aged and educated clones helping him meet the various deadlines.
But most other writers, well, they are out selling matchsticks on the street between published stories.
I wouldn't mind if wages had kept up with the price of books, but they haven't. And it's not just new books, either. There are secondhand shops out there charging $10 for ratty old paperbacks! Okay, that's half the price, but it still seems excessive.
And let's face it, the high price tag isn't exactly translating to better quality books, either. What happened to proof-readers? Editors who actually edit? One of the reasons for big thick books is that the cost of producing a giant doorstop is only a little more that producing a 120 page novel. People perceive (or so the publishers think) that a thicker book is better value for money.
Of course I'm speaking here for big publishers - small press have to charge a bit.
Personally, I'd prefer a story to be well-edited and as long as it needs to be, and pay my money for something well-crafted, than to have to trudge through an extra 300 pages of crap. It's not worth my time, and it's certainly not worth my cash.