The Reading Industry Change: A Look Into Secondhand Bookstores

Featured Illustration: Daria Danilova

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The pandemic renewed my love for reading.

In elementary school, I was the kid who signed out 6 books from the library and returned them within a week. When high school came around, reading lost its priority in my life in replacement of academics and volunteering.

Looking to escape the dark realities of a novel virus, e-books, audiobooks, and movies replaced the busy life I once lived. Slowly, I began to purchase books from Indigo and Book Outlet until my wallet could not catch up with my book obsession. Yes, free e-books are everywhere but the feeling of holding a book in your hand, turning its crisp pages, and writing along its margins cannot be accomplished with a screen.

My favourite books are often classic and contemporary romances — Austens, Brontes, Gaskells etc. I began to check out my local thrift store and despite my book-buying addiction spiraling even further with this newfound haven, the cost was far better than purchasing from major booksellers.

I had never taken a moment to reflect on who was writing these books, where they were from, and what issues they discussed. If the book was of the genre or trope I enjoyed, I read it. As simple as that.

Part of the reason why people enjoy reading so much is because it is an escape. We leave our adversities behind as we enter into a dystopian world or a Regency-era ballroom or a dark forest. We take on the gaze of the author as we become more observant of rustling leaves and twinkling eyes. Reading exposes us to issues beyond our own lives and that is precisely why the dominance of literature written by white authors should be alarming.

As I entered the thrift store every few weeks, I was surrounded by inexpensive and well-kept books. For those who cannot afford to purchase new books but still require that physical book feeling, this leaves us with a selection of well-known classics and contemporaries. The books that have become classics are usually written by white authors, as evident in your English class syllabus or the New York Times’ book reviews. As these books became more popular, they find their way in discount book stores where the cycle of promoting limited voices continues.

By promoting books written by BIPOC voices in our schools, newsrooms, and advertisements, our worldview will become more synonymous with the beauty that exists in intersectionality. These books do exist, but their inability to reach the popular stage due to the dominance of literature written by white people prevents them from landing in thrift stores like mine. Reading books from diverse voices should not be confined to those who can afford new books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indigo. Rather, through expanding our promotion of different authors, book stores will reflect the lives of more people.

Connecting to characters and ideas is why you may read in the first place — we want to be understood and that cannot occur with our present book industry.