You might well think that…

FX: beat – all together now:

…but I couldn’t possibly comment!

Yes! My family got me the complete Francis Urqhart trilogy on DVD for Xmas, also the Firth-Ehle Pride and Prejudice mini-series, and the 1st season of Black Books. Hugs all around and kisses to the BBC. Merry Christmas, one and all.

Anyone who has to buy me presents now is very greatful for the trend in re-releasing great series on DVD. They’d got sick of buying me book vouchers, because they all knew my favourite thing ever was reading, but they couldn’t keep up with what I’d already read (V is for Voracious). I loved to see the vouchers, because then I had an excuse to go book-browsing guilt-free, but the giver didn’t get the chance to see the reaction to a gift choice lovingly tailored to the recipient, so I understand the shift. And whenever the BBC finally gets around to releasing the recently re-mastered I, Claudius for the Australian DVD region I will be ecstatic.

But the Black Books gift especially reminded me of the joy of browsing in second-hand book stores. You never know what you’re going to find. Some books obviously remaindered, others pristine look-at-my-erudition shelf-fillers now moved on to collect dust amongst the shoddy well-thumbed thrillers and romances. The satisfying rub of the compulsorily enormous store cat against your legs while you examine the SF shelves. The struggle through tottering piles of poorly classified paperbacks in the stores which don’t imperil pusscats thereby. And the very occasional jewel of a pre-loved bookstore where the store is clean, the shelves are clearly labelled and organised, and there is plenty of aisle space to accommodate many browsers.

One such store is in Sydney, in Randwick’s “The Spot”, a small village-style shopping precinct a few blocks south of the main Randwick commercial district – Booked Out is its name. They do gift vouchers! The Spot has lots of cafes, many quirky small businesses, the bookstore and right next-door, The Ritz. The Ritz is one of the few independent cinemas left in town, and is a blocky piece of art deco charm which contrasts delightfully with the multiplexes. And their tickets are cheap! One of my favourite days with friends is to go to lunch and a movie and browse in Booked Out before and after the show.

However, Booked Out’s ease of discovery comes at a premium price for second hand books. It is a premium I am often willing to pay, but the classic second-hand book journey must involve dust, and every now and then the compulsion to trawl the stores with taciturn keepers and faded shelf labels is too strong to resist. It is in the cheaper, more traditional dustbox stores that one finds happy bargains and the occasional thrilling surprise. In one store a friend and I were perusing the shelves, she picked up a book and it fell open to reveal $150 cash. Thinking quick and knowing she was broke, I snatched it out, mimed taking money from my purse, and said, hey, here’s that money I owe you. She bought me lunch with part of it.

After all, the book store had probably bought a box of books from a deceased estate and paid a pittance planning for a small profit on the resale. Found money didn’t factor into their profit/loss statement. And whoever had put that money in that book was either dead or had forgotten about it before selling the book on. My lovely and talented friend was often depressed by her stuttering cash flow, so I judged she needed the money more.

So did I do wrong? What would you have done, dear reader?

Categories: arts & entertainment, ethics & philosophy, law & order, relationships

Tags: , ,

3 replies

  1. That sounds like a law school exam question for Property Law — was the money lost, or abandoned? Did the bookstore acquire title to it?Me, I probably would have done the same as you.

  2. Did you (or she) buy the book?I’d feel a little funny just pocketing the money and walking out — it’s taking something from a store you didn’t pay for. But if you buy the book, you’re buying its contents, too. After all, lots of used books have the odd newspaper clipping or note tucked inside, and this money wasn’t very different from that.And yay! for the Ehle-Firth P&P. I gave it to my sister for Christmas, since it’s her favorite thing ever, even though the gift was also a tacit concession in our ongoing debate as to its relative merits compared with the Garson-Olivier masterpiece from 1940.

  3. Yes, she did buy the book. I wish I could remember the title. I also did my usual leave the store with a stack, so the store did OK.P&P versions – what did you think of the Knightley-McFadyen movie?

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