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The 40th and last McGill Book Fair will be held this week, starting Tuesday.
Kate, Michael Black, Snowpea, and 1 other are discussing. Toggle Comments
Wait, the last book fair ever? Have that many people stopped reading? (reads the article): Oh, no one wants to volunteer. Weird.
Michel, most of the volunteers are quite elderly, but there is no new crop of book lovers.
Of course, a decade ago there was talk of it ending. Back in 2000, the McGill Tribune
had an editorial about it.
Oddly, I thought that talk was a decade earlier, so perhaps it had come up before.
There have been some subtle changes in recent years, I started noticing them and then learned that the woman who had been in charge for a long time had died, so the changes came with the new leader. I had such a bad time last year I didn’t buy anything, and was seriously thinking about not going this year.
In streamlining, it seems like they’ve taken away some of the parts I liked best. This same five year period or so has also coincided with the arrival of the barcode skimmers, people incapable of knowing a book unless they check a source, just rifling through the books for the barcodes, grabbing the books they can resell for maximum profit. That seems to have affected prices, “well if they are reselling, why shouldn’t we raise prices?” Except, it only works if someone was willing to pay the higher price. But I suspect that is impacting on the decision to shut down, if they can’t get new volunteers but have to keep hauling those books, it can’t be that appealing when some kid that doesn’t even know the books is profiting off the book fair.
I’m not sure what about McGill is keeping them from finding new volunteers. The South Shore University Women’s Club book sale is almost as old as McGill’s, yet they have newer volunteers. The University of Toronto has four used book sales within a month, said to be among the best in Canada, and nobody is talking about them shutting down.
There is a near endless supply of books for used book sales, and while the line at McGill hasn’t been as long in recent years (and I doubt I’m the only one feeling alienated by the recent changes, so that could account for the shorter lineup), there is still a large number of people who attend. The book buyers aren’t all as old as the volunteers, I’ve been to every McGill Book Fair since 1976, and I was 16 that year, so there will be considerable time before we stop reading books.
And it’s the 41st this year, the first was 1971.
When I posted this, I knew Michael Black would respond : )
Thanks for all the background info, Michael. It draws a much more detailed picture of the situation.
Sometimes we forget that long-term events which become part of the scenery rely on the efforts or charisma of one person, and when they go away the event can vanish, or morph into something nobody likes.
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