Half a Million Books

Mr Fiction Habit and I visited “The Sunshine Coast” in January and while the 2 smaller Fiction Habits were at the panto with Granny (Robin Hood – is was apparently excellent) we happened upon Camilla’s Bookshop.

It was the piles of Penguin orange and green classics shelved outside that lured me in. The assortment at the front didn’t nearly prepare me for the stockpile inside – it has to be seen to be believed really.  Check out the short film made by a student documentary maker.

When we first went into the shop I thought they were having some sort of clear out, but it soon became evident that the piles of books were a permanent feature.  The vertiginous stacks were particularly precarious near the door.  There was a shopper with her small children browsing near the front of the shop telling them not to touch anything for fear of them being squashed by a tumbling heap!  I wondered how on earth anyone was supposed to find anything let alone how the owners knew where anything was.  Having now watched the film I realise that there really is a method in what looks like chaos.  The staff come from either bookselling or library stock, so they can probably lay their hands on any title quite easily.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to spend very long in the shop – I would have loved to peruse the shelves all afternoon, but we had to get back.

I found the place absolutely fascinating and wondered about who would own such a shop. It was heartening to see so many browsers in the place, especially at a time when new and second-hand books are easy and generally cheap to buy online and the number of e-readers is on the rise.  It is sadly pointed out in the film that Camilla’s is the last of 5 second-hand bookshops that were in the town at one time.

The owners and booksellers are clearly book people, this isn’t just a job to them.  Camilla mentions that she finds members of the public much more fascinating than some of her more famous customers because they show a passion for their particular area of bookish interest.  The best description of the sentimentality I sometimes feel about books was made by one of the booksellers; an old book has been a silent witness to 150 or 200 years of history.  The words are still there as they were when it was first printed.

…and that is the beauty of a book you love, whether old or new, it is a constant.  While the world frets away around us, days and weeks rush by, we get sucked into the treadmill that is modern life, the words in our favourite books will be the same on the 100th reading as they were on the 1st.

We need more Camilla’s Bookshops in our world.

9 thoughts on “Half a Million Books”

  1. Note since your post a secondhand bookshop called Tome has opened in Eastbourne. It has an excellent stock, including tons of Penguins.

  2. What a wonderful video! Living in Spain I’ve come to realise that the English eccentric is, well, just that – English. My dad always said that there was something in books and writing in general that still excites us. Despite being around for thousands of years we are still affected by the almost magical quality of printed words that were around before we were and will be around long after we’ve gone. As sad as I will be if bookshops like this die out, with the loss of these wonderful personalities, for me the chaos in them has always been too much to cope with. The beauty of sites such as Albris etc is that I get to the book directly with no browsing!

    Thank you so much for subscribing to me blog. I’m more than happy to return the favour and look forward to reading your musings on all things books!

  3. I haven’t heard of this book shop, but it is fantastic! I actually like the fact it isn’t very organised – I like browsing and the treasure hunt style of finding things 🙂 I’ll have to pop down to Eastbourne at some point over the Summer. What are the prices like?

    1. I’ll be heading straight back next time I visit my in-laws. Prices were difficult to gauge due to the volume and variety of books, but mass market paperbacks were similarly priced to other places I buy 2nd hand titles. Farnham Oxfam Bookshop is my rule of thumb; £1.99 for recent titles.

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