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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 3 July, 2020

'It's this year's Buzz Lightyear': Why we flock to bookshops to buy gifts at Christmas time

Bookshops do nearly half their annual trade in the run up to Christmas as stock flies off the shelves.

Image: Shutterstock/George Rudy

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING CAN be a difficult thing. Finding the right thing to buy a loved one, a friend or that work colleague you don’t really know but got them in the kris kindle is often very tricky.

Buying a book for someone is usually a quick fix which can also be seen as a thoughtful present so it’s little wonder that so many of us head to bookshops to buy presents at this time of year.

“Christmas is a huge time for us,” Maria Dickenson, MD of Dubray Books told “We do around 40% of our annual trade in the weeks coming up to Christmas.”

Walk into any book shop and you’re sure to see various cookery books, sports books (including this one from the fine people at, and various humour books.

Dickenson said: “We have to get lots of extra stock in, because these areas perform so strongly. Gift hardbacks fly off the shelves.”

She said that as early as October, parents and grandparents come in looking for children’s books to make the perfect stocking fillers.

For those a bit older, the humourous Ladybird “how it works” books are also very in demand, said Dickenson.

“Christmas is also a time when Irish publishing really comes into its own,” she said. “We have a very strong home-grown publishing industry here and their stuff is all over the shelves at Christmas time.”

One Irish book that was predicted to be the ideal, albeit extremely large, stocking filler is the mammoth tome Atlas of the Irish Revolution.

Vinny Browne, from Charlie Byrnes bookshop in Galway, told that it has been the must-buy book in the run up to Christmas.

He said: “It’s the Buzz Lightyear of adult books this year. Our present stocks only lasted a few weeks, and it’s near ungettable now.”

As Dickenson puts it, every year there is that book that takes sellers by surprise as everybody scrambles to buy it.

“We always need to make sure that we have the right stock in because you never know what’ll be the most popular in the run up to christmas,” she said.

There’s always that one dark horse that gets a review 10 days before Christmas and suddenly everyone wants it. A few years ago, Ryan Tubridy has Anthony Horowitz on the radio about his book Magpie Murders. In the few days before Christmas, then, everybody wanted it.

Why we buy books at Christmas time

As reflected by the yearly surge in business, Christmas is a time when people flock to buy presents and gifts with a book meaning a lot more than a bath set or a candle.

Dickenson said: “We get people coming in who may not know what they’re looking for. They may just know they want to get something for a particular person.

But if you get it right, it can be such a thoughtful thing. Everyone remembers who bought you that book and when they did it. You always remember the person that gave it to you.

She added that, particularly in recent years, customers have turned away from e-books in part due to the great lengths book designers are going to.

“It’s one thing that has been really nice in publishing,” she said. “It’s like the antithesis to e-books. Books have become really beautiful things. It’s no wonder people think they’d make a good present for people.”

Read: ‘Everyone predicted the end’: How Ireland’s Indie Bookshops are surviving in the Amazon age

Read: Colombian bin man finds book in garbage. 20 years on, he has library with 25,000 discarded books

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Sean Murray

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