Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Finnish used book stores and their demise

The Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, recently published an article about how the Finnish used book trade is going through a crisis. There's no new generation coming along to keep the stores up and running and the costumers aren't buying their books from the used book stores ("divarit" or "antikvariaatit", as they are known in Finland). It was said in the article that people especially don't want to buy their bestsellers used and that the stores won't even take them in.

While there's some truth in this - several used book stores have ceased during the last ten years - you might want to note that it's really been a fault of their own. During the last fifteen or twenty years the used book stores have tried to maintain a level of cultural dignity and have kept a very high-brow attitude and been neglecting the costumers who just want to read something light or popular. Hence there is no generation at the moment who would know to seek latest door-stoppers at the used book stores. It's no wonder no one comes asking for them, because they are used to the fact that there are only some obscure collectibles and dusty piles of books no one's ever heard of.

(Now that I mentioned obscure collectibles and dusty piles of books no one's ever heard of it makes want to to go out to do some book-hunting. Luckily all the shops are closed - it's over nine p.m.)

One might also want to note that there are whole new venues for buying old books: the web (especially Huuto.net, the Finnish equivalent of eBay) and the flea markets where there are usually several traders shopping used books (usually with ridiculously high prices, higher than the used book stores). It's been said that people are getting bored to shopping on-line, but I don't think that's the case with used books.


Anonymous said...

For those who want to buy old books online, there's also Antikka.net. Contains books from about 50 used book stores around Finland.

Juri said...

Yes, you're right, but I've had a feeling it's somewhat, unfinished. I remember checking Raymond Chandler and Joel Lehtonen (one of the most important pre-WWII Finnish writers; not very actively sseked now, to be exact) and coming up with nothing! This was three or four years ago, though. Since that I've made same orders through them. As for me, I really like to feel the book before buying it and I've bought only some books online.