Jozi Loves Books

Welcome to 2Summers blog post #200! Thanks for reading.

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New books are expensive in South Africa. Walk into an average retail bookstore and an average paperback will set you back R150-R200 ($20-$26). Hardbacks and new releases cost much more.

So when I heard that Friends of Johannesburg Public Libraries was putting on a huge sale of used books at the Mark’s Park Sports Club, just around the corner from Melville, I decided to check it out.

The book sale began this morning at 9:00 a.m. I arrived a few minutes before 10:00, and drove around for 10 minutes before finding a parking space.

I was astonished at what I found inside.

The whole city was there.

I’m told that the crowd at 10:00 a.m. paled in comparison to the crowd when the sale opened at 9:00. One guy described the opening as a “rugby scrum”, consisting mainly of book dealers trying to get their hands on the best collectibles.

Most of the paperbacks at the sale were priced at R10 ($1.50), and the majority of the hardbacks were R20. Some of the special books cost more, but I didn’t see any books priced higher than R100.

Books books books books.

I love to read, but I must confess that I’ve done a lot less of it since moving to Joburg. I can’t seem to find time anymore, now that I no longer have a daily two-hour commute. These days, it seems like all my free time is eaten up by blogging and reading other blogs. No offense to my fellow bloggers, but I don’t consider reading blogs to be “real” reading.

Today’s sale has motivated me to change. I spent R90 (less than $12) on three books from the Africana section, including a fascinating-looking volume called Tales From the Cape Malay Quarter, by I.D. Du Plessis. I’ve been wanting to learn more about South Africa’s Cape Malay history ever since I visited Bo-Kaap in Cape Town last year. Here is my chance.

My favorite new (old) book. It has beautiful illustrations and it’s hand-signed by the author. It cost R50 (about $6.50).

This book sale made me happy. iPads and Kindles are taking over the world, but people still love books. Especially people in Joburg.

This lady couldn’t even wait to get home. She plopped down right outside the door of the club and started reading.

The longer I live in Joburg, the more I grow to respect old things. I used to want everything in my life to be new. But now I realize that older is often better.

Note: This observation does not apply to the old pipes in the Lucky 5 Star, which are currently leaking smelly brown water on my kitchen counter. But it does apply to old books.

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  • Reply Howlin' Mad Heather March 4, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Just add the booze and gambling from that other bookstore, and you have perfection.

    • Reply 2summers March 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      So true! I can’t believe I didn’t think to suggest that in my post.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish March 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    There’s just nothing like a real arm-full of real books.

    • Reply 2summers March 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

      Yeah! Now I just have to find time to read them.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough March 5, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Damn, that looks like my kind of event! Hard to beat books. Congrats on post 200, my friend!

    • Reply 2summers March 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

      Thanks Kathy. Here’s to 200 more.

  • Reply eremophila March 5, 2012 at 5:13 am

    I used to LOVE going to Library Sales! The Lions Clubs have excellent shops for books also – . Great chance to get out-of-print books, as well as bargains.
    Love your photos! Help tell the story marvellously!

    • Reply 2summers March 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

      Thanks. I need to do more of this.

  • Reply Sally March 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Loved this post! The pictures are great. Though it does make me sad to learn that books are so pricey in South Africa, I may have to rethink my day dream of living there.

    • Reply 2summers March 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Yes, books along with clothing, electronics, cars, and many other things. South Africa is surprisingly expensive in many ways.

  • Reply Lu March 6, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Books really are expensive here in SA… I’ve found that shopping on does help alleviate the bill if there is a brand new book that you just can’t wait to get your hands on.
    There also used to be a couple of stalls at Rosebank Market that trade second-hand books… but it’s been so long since I’ve been there that I’m not even sure they are still there!
    I recently learned that everything imported into South Africa is subject to a 40% tax… the evil reason for everything being so pricey. What I don’t understand is when a car is manufactured in SA it is still more expensive than the exact same model – from the same factory – but sold in Australia. Go figure..

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 8:51 am

      Yes, prices here are very perplexing. Shopping for books (and other things) second-hand is definitely the way to go.

  • Reply Sine March 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I would have loved to come. I’m a reading addict. Which I agree with you is hard to do when you also write (and read) a blog. How many of these events do they have?

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      I’m pretty sure this event is annual.

  • Reply Claire Gillis March 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I spent 4 weeks in S.Africa over christmas and new year and did notice the price of books! I didn’t have much luck with the book swops in backpackers (too many German travellers :0)

    Love the country, love Bo Kaap, would love to wirte and live in the beautiful country….enjoy!

    • Reply 2summers March 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks for the comment and thanks so much for reading. Yes, I think a good piece of travel advice for people coming to SA is to stock up on books before leaving, get a Kindle/iPad, or research used book shops in the areas you’re going to visit.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed your visit to SA.

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