A Visit to the Book Shops of Hay-on-Wye in Wales
Hay-on-Wye is a world famous booktown but is it worth visiting?
I was there recently and can give thoughts from three perspectives . . .
With secondhand and antiquarian bookshops disappearing at an alarming rate the thought of over 20 bookshops in one town is enough to make any book lover salivate. I’ve been to Hay-on-Wye several times over the last 20 years or so but my return trip recently was the first in many a year - so what was it like?
Firstly, I should preface my thoughts by saying I can look at Hay-on-Wye and the booksellers there in 3 ways. As an avid reader always looking for books to buy to read, as a first edition book collector and also as a book dealer so that, I think, makes it a multi-faceted view.
Overall it’s a nice place to visit, a small but nice town on the Welsh border, the downside is the journey, it’s not easy to get to from just about everywhere.
Once there though you should be happy, lovely scenery, the stunning River Wye, an old castle and a real old Market Town feel plus of course over 20 bookshops.
There’s a wide variety of bookshops and overall a huge selection, from the specialist crime fiction shop Murder and Mayhem to antiquarian and collectable bookshops such as Francis Edwards and Boz Books right through to modern remainders and general reading - it all sounds impressive - and indeed it is.
The catch for me was . . . I didn’t buy a single book!
It seems scarcely believable given how keen I was to buy and on the different levels at which I could potentially buy books. In fairness I did mention this beforehand to my brother when I said “I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t get a single book”
I suspect the main issue is popularity, a lot of people are going over the books so much obviously sells and it’s a fact nowadays that replacing decent stock has never been more difficult.
Another aspect could be the internet, I noted in several shops they had stock on the internet, that would obviously take the more interesting books and whilst I understand the need for more sales it feels self-defeating when you travel to Wales, book a hotel then pick up a book only to see an Amazon SKU code pencilled inside!
I think if second-hand bookshops are to survive, outside of big cities, then clustering together like this may be the only way, the number and choice make it worth the journey.
Don’t read too much into my failure to buy, I doubt most others would have a similar experience, that said it was a salutary lesson in what’s happening/happened to the trade in secondhand books.
If you’ve been to Hay-on-Wye or have and thoughts in general on secondhand books and the selling or buying of them then please do share it below, thank you.