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Defective Copy - Selected Ramblings of a Book Junkie

When we migrated to this new site in late 2015 lots of associated content - big news stories, controversies, opinion pieces, obituaries - lost their links. I'm working to restore the most relevant of these but thought it might be worthwhile bringing some of that content back to life in a more coherent form.

I've added a lot new content and tried to deal with the issues caused by link rot. This is a particular problem with the Book Town controversies, where a large part of the story relied on links to other websites. I've tried to address this with some new pages which attempt to give an overview based on my notes.

Pearls Before ... A Seasonal Tale

Cast iron cold in the grudging early morning light; scenes from Bruegel spring to mind. Figures in ill-fitting clothes, with bad teeth and worrying haircuts, scurry across the grim tarmac. Judging by their stiffness of limb, some must be wearing their entire wardrobes ... more

Moko & Koko in the Jungle

I have always stocked children's books, albeit a rather arbitrary, if not eccentric selection. I'm certainly not a specialist and have little interest in 'Children's Fiction' as a genre. It's picture books that do it for me, in particular, pop-up or movable books ... more

The Eagle Bound

The books I buy have usually had the umbilical cord connecting them to their own particular past severed. They are just books; on a shelf, in a box, or sprawled on the floor. All that is knowable about them lies within. An inscription perhaps, or marginalia, sometimes a bookmark, and rarely, money. But occasionally the past clasps objects so closely that you literally have to cut them from it ... more

Good Bye! Sambo

Not an obscure title by the well-known author Helen Bannerman - but nevertheless largely made of paper - "Good Bye! Sambo" resulted in our bookshop being visited by the police last week ... but I’m getting ahead of myself ... more

An Interview with Mike Goodenough

My passion for paper started in the school playground, swapping comics, cigarette cards and later, ‘naughty’ postcards. In the mid 1960s, swathes of houses in my neighbourhood were being bulldozed to accommodate the motorcar, and these abandoned homes gave up all kinds of printed treasures. Along with the discarded books there were magazines, old documents, photographs, cigarette cards—in fact ephemera of every kind. As a teenager I found books both fascinating and frustrating (I’m mildly Dyslexic) but ephemera opened a window on the past for me, and made it real ...more

A Triumph of Absurdity over Common Sense

It’s the INPRINT bookshop’s twenty-fifth anniversary this year, so we are celebrating a quarter of a century of what a friend once described as, ‘a triumph of absurdity over common sense’ ... more

I Try Not to Moan But ...

Guy, thirty something, comes into the shop at lunchtime and asks if we have anything that might contain old photos of a very specific, but (in historic terms at least) quite unremarkable, and therefore un-photographed, area of town ... more

Ooh What a Lovely Shop!

Yesterday morning a large and very loud woman and her husband erupted into the shop. "Ooh what a lovely shop, just look at all those books!" ... more

After the Gold Rush

At a party the other night I found myself, for the fifth time, trying to patiently answer questions about internet bookselling. I'm afraid I failed and offended my female questioner by telling her that I just didn't have the energy ... more


I must say I'm surprised to discover that I can still be shocked by how bad some of the secondhand bookshops in the UK are. A few of years ago I described the stock of one I visited as 'so dull that I could find nothing to like, let alone buy'. The owner was offended by my comment and said that my attitude would be the death of secondhand bookshops, and we would only be left with charity shops ... more

Robert the Books

I worry I may have left it too late to write about Robert the Books because these addled memories seem too ridiculous to be true. This feeling of unreality is compounded by entries for Robert the Books on Marie Celeste-like Welsh business directory websites, which boldly proclaim his existence at 12 Dillwyn Street, Swansea. This, at least I know to be untrue; number 12 has been a baguette shop for many years. However, it's now or never - so here goes ... more

Bennetto - or the Lure of the Backroom

Ah, backrooms, now there's a subject I could warm to. I remember the pleasure, many years ago, of getting into Bennetto's backroom in Ilfracombe. Bennetto was notoriously difficult to do business with. He hated the trade, wouldn't be included in any of the directories, in fact, he wouldn't let you into his shop! He would stand behind a table, which barricaded the door, and potential customers would have to ask for what they wanted, or point to barely recognisable titles in the dim and chaotic interior ... more

The Stairway to Heaven was Closed

A few short weeks after my return from dampest Cornwall and I'm struggling with failing recall. I tell myself to make notes while away but I'm obviously deaf. Anyway, it was supposed to be a holiday, with only occasional forays in search of printed treasure ... Well, that was the plan but there's a limit to the amount of time one can spend purposefully striding into a gale, or enduring yet another deluge ... more

Tales from the Belfast Bookshops

The Arcade and Harry Hall's are the last vestiges of the many bookshops in the old Smithfield, the covered Victorian market which burnt down in 1974 ... more

Desultory Book Buying in Cornwall

The western tip of Cornwall is a brilliant antidote to living and working in our part of the Cotswolds, which a friend routinely refers to as "The Smug Hills." And I find the brutal beauty of the Penwith peninsula enjoyable in almost any weather, but having resigned myself to an autumn holiday, it was an unexpected delight to find that the Cornish weather still thought it was summer ... more

A Few Norfolk Bookshops

Although the days of axle bending loads of books, hoovered up on regular forays to the more distant parts of the UK, are long gone, we still manage to buy a book or two on holiday. And the fond hope remains that the profits from our purchases will go some way to covering our meager expenses ... more

Not Quite Heaven - Book Fuddling in North Devon

Following my four day absence, Rufus, my youngest grandson, sidles up to me and asks "Where you bin?" Devon, I tell him. "Heaven" he replies, "You bin camping in Heaven. Was it good?" Well, yes, it was good. Not quite heavenly; but when both the weather and the books are decent, heaven doesn't seem that far away ... more

Book Hunting in Corwall

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is the ability to combine business with pleasure, and what could be more pleasurable than book hunting in Cornwall. Remote moors, golden beaches, dramatic cliff-top walks; scenically Cornwall has it all, but does it have any books? ... more

RIP Simon's Books 1978 - 2009

Learning of the death of Bryan Ives the owner of Simon’s Books in Somerton was a poignant moment for me. He was the last of a generation of truly eccentric West Country bookshop keepers, which included such off-the-wall practitioners as Robert the Books in Swansea, Sidney Martin in Cheltenham, and Thomas Bennetto in Ilfracombe ... more

Michael Rayner Bookseller 1988 - 2005

For me, Michael Rayner's bookshop was a small oasis in the increasingly barren landscape of twenty-first century book hunting and I will sorely miss the refuge it offered ... more

Richard Valentine Remembered

It seems to have fallen to me to belatedly report the death of bookdealer, Richard Valentine, who died peacefully at home on Easter Sunday. I was lucky enough to be able to remember Richard and celebrate his life with many of his friends at his funeral. However, for some reason I had assumed that from within the ranks of the book trade, someone more 'qualified' than I would mark his passing ... more

Oxfam Killed My Bookshop

August is traditionally the 'silly season' for the national press but nevertheless, the number of column inches generated by Marc Harrison’s assertion that Oxfam killed his bookshop has been prodigious. The subject even got an airing on breakfast TV and resulted in people stopping me in the street to talk about it ... more

Dalmellington Book Town - On the Road to Nowhere

From far and wide the road signs boldly proclaim 'Dalmellington Book Town'. There's only one problem - it doesn't exist ... more

Harry Bell's Wigtown Trip

Dear Mike

Bill Burns passed on your message about using my Wigtown report. I have to say that, as one new to the Web, I was kinda thrown by the speed with which my little piece went round the world and up Ming's back. However, I stand by what I wrote (having one's tongue in one's cheek does not prevent one standing) and have no objections to your using it. Nor do I see any reason not to have my name appended to it. Ming does not know where I live. (Does he?) ... more

Wigtown Booksellers Respond

I've just been reading Harry Bell's description of his trip to Wigtown and there are a couple of comments I wish to make ... more

1.6 MILLION Euros for European Book Town Project

A couple of days ago Hans Loef wrote drawing my attention to a piece in Ibookcollector Newsletter 139 entitled "News from Sedbergh". As well as reporting that the "Book Town" has lost Sandell’s Book Shop to the town of Kirkby, it touches on a Spanish proposal to throw more money at Book Towns ... more

Blaenafon Book Town - A Book Buyer's View

James Hanna is the first to admit that press coverage of the opening of the world's latest book town has been uniformly positive and uncritical. For anyone visiting the town it's not hard to see why. Blaenafon must be one of the most battered and bruised casualties of the post-industrial revolution ... more

Blaenafon Book Town Revisited

I thought I'd take another look at Blaenfon Book Town as I was passing, in a manner of speaking. For those who don't know the area, everywhere in this part of Wales is a long way from everywhere else, mainly because of all the lumpy bits and the roads that mostly don't go over them. Because of this you have to pass quite a lot of places in order to get to where you really want to be ... more

Blaenavon - Now We Are (Nearly) Two

The journey up the valley from Newport to Blaenavon simply saps my spirit. The communities that line the road melancholically mimic the colours that were once their substance, the wealth that created and sustained them. Even the pure brightness of an early May morning is no match for the bone chilling miles of colour-drained pebbledash ... more

Blaenafon - The Book Town Experiment Fails

It took most of the morning to nerve myself to phone Joanna Chambers of Broadleaf Books in Blaenavon. I'd heard reports that more shops had closed, which had to be bad news - but Joanna sounded amazingly bright ... more

Atherstone Book Town Critic Censored

Atherstone resident and Book Town critic James Holdaway emailed us because his comments are being banned from the Atherstone Forum website ...�more

Atherstone Book Town meeting – How Many Books a Month?

I was unable to attend the Atherstone Book Town meeting but I’m led to believe by several correspondents that James Hanna suggested that sales of 500 books per month from an online stock of 5,000 titles were not only possible but were being achieved ... more

Atherstone Book Town Opening Delayed

The plan was to visit Atherstone a couple of weeks after the Book Town’s official launch on May 14th and although this had been postponed, I was still keen to make the trip to this corner of Warwickshire ... more

James Hanna - The Emperor has no Clothes

When I first met James Hanna in Blaenavon two days after the Book Town's opening, I confess I was impressed by his drive and seemingly endless optimism. On leaving his shop I asked my wife and business partner (who had been observing our exchange) what she made of him: "snake oil salesman", was her simple reply ... more

James Hanna Jailed in US for Child Pornography and Rape

James Hanna and his failed attempts to turn Blaenavon and Atherstone into Book Towns were all but forgotten in September 2012 when I received a call from a BBC Wales reporter. He asked if I knew anything about Hanna and child pornography? ... more

Is The New Site OK?

This might seem like a strange question to ask, but the new site has been live for 4 months and I’m surprised by the lack of feedback. Alice, who knows about these things, says I shouldn’t be: “If it was crap, dad, they would have told you" ... more

TheBookGuide@fourteen - Where Are We Now?

It’s two years since I wrote ‘An end of term report’ about the state of the UK’s secondhand and antiquarian bookshops and TheBookGuide’s role in promoting them - so where are we now? ... more

2012 - An End of Term Report

This seems like a good moment to round up what's been going on with TheBookGuide since I wrote Now We Are Ten, last year. I've touched on a few of the site developments in the news sections, but I know that at least some of you are more broadly interested in what we are trying to do ... more

TheBookGuide - Now We Are Ten

TheBookGuide turned ten in 2011 but for some reason I've found myself uncharacteristically lost for words. I feel I should say something but where to begin? The question I'm most frequently asked is 'why do you do it'? - So perhaps that's the place to start ... more

The Writing on the Wall

The writing may be on the wall for the UK's secondhand bookshops, but what does it actually say? Mike Goodenough, long-time bookshop owner and editor of, tries to make some sense of it ... more

Rumours of the Secondhand Bookshop's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

A growing number of stories have appeared in the media in recent months claiming that the UK’s secondhand bookshops are in a state of terminal decline. The one thing they all share in common, is the claim that the number of secondhand bookshops in the UK has fallen by half in the past three years, from 1200 to 600. This would be nothing short of a catastrophic collapse if it were true. But is it? ... more

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