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Oxfam Bookfest: making good with used books

July 6, 2009 |  1:18 pm

Billnighyoxfam

What's remarkable about the Oxfam Bookshops is not that they are having their first annual Bookfest in hundreds of locations, now through July 18. It's not that the proceeds from the sales of its used books go to the international aid organization Oxfam. It's that, with 130 shops and $2.6 million in monthly sales, Oxfam is the third-largest bookseller in the United Kingdom, according to this article in the Guardian:

Its average selling price for a book is £1.60, but it has twice made £18,000 at auction for titles discovered in its stores....

"Book sales have been helping us in our fight against poverty for more than 50 years, as we've sold everything from the first ever Sherlock Holmes story to the latest Harry Potter novel," said David McCullough, Oxfam's director of trading. "During Bookfest, we want people to donate to and buy from our bookshops so they can really see the impact that buying a book from Oxfam can have on the lives of poor people around the world."

Bookfest's hundreds of events includes everything from actor Bill Nighy and author Monica Ali ringing up books for buyers today in London to an author-heavy Edinburgh launch of "Ox-Tales," a four-book series of short stories from Kate Atkinson, Sebastian Faulks, Helen Fielding, John le Carré and more. But it's all happening in the U.K. -- it's not easy for Americans to participate.

And though I wish we had a chain of Oxfam Bookshops across the U.S., it's hard to imagine that used books would carry such a premium here at home.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Actor Bill Nighy helps out at an Oxfam Books in London on July 6. Credit: Joel Ryan / Associated Press

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