One does not simply walk into Clouston & Hall Booksellers

To my regular readers, my apologies for missing last week’s post and being late with this one.


The week just past was spent on holiday, partly to take a short break from work and partly to visit family.

First, I spent four nights in Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast where I visited family.

Second, I spent two nights in Canberra, the national capital.

And while I was in Canberra, a plan I’d made for that part of my holiday turned out very well indeed.


It was hundreds of years ago back in 1989-1991 while I was at the University of Canberra that I discovered Clouston & Hall Booksellers in Civic (Canberra City). To a low-income book-junkie like myself, Clouston & Hall was heaven – not only did it sell books at amazing bargain prices, but it also sold a wide range of interesting titles that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

In early 2009, I spent two months working in Canberra – and now I was a modest-income book-junkie. Thus, during those eight weeks I spent hundreds of dollars – and maybe even a thousand – hauling away piles of books from Clouston & Hall. And I mean hauling – after my first couple of visits (I traveled back and forth between Sydney and Canberra each week), I started taking two luggage bags instead of one so that it would be easier to lug my loot back home.

After that heady experience, I resolved that whenever I next visited Canberra, Clouston & Hall would always be a port of call – or if my book addiction couldn’t wait until then, I could always buy from there by mail.


Two years passed.

I never got back to Canberra, and I also never got around to buying anything by mail from Clouston & Hall.

Early this year, I made a major decision about my future – and that involved eventually getting rid of most of my books.

In April, however, I made a life-changing purchase to help me cut back on book-buying but at the same time make my love of books and reading much more manageable – I bought an Amazon Kindle.

And as my recent holiday approached, I came up with an exciting plan for when I’d be in Canberra.

I would still visit Clouston & Hall – but instead of buying lots more books there, I would make a list of any interesting-looking titles and later see if they were available in ebook format at Amazon.

I couldn’t wait for that big day to arrive.


Friday, 22 July, 2011 – after my first night in Canberra, the big day had arrived.

I slept in, eventually headed into Civic, had lunch and then went to Clouston & Hall.

I took out my pocket notepad and pen, and went to work.

Almost three hours later, after patiently making my way around the entirety of the store, I was done.

Just over three notepad pages were filled with the titles and prices of books I had found that seemed very interesting, somewhat interesting and even mildly interesting.

I left Clouston & Hall, grabbed a table at nearby King O’Malley’s, and with a cold jug of heavenly-tasting diet cola at hand I fired up my notebook and went to Amazon…

…where I made many disappointing discoveries.

Most of the titles I had noted down at Clouston & Hall weren’t available in ebook format at Amazon.

I double-checked at The Book Depository.

Nope – there was even less available there.


The dream I’d had of filling up my Kindle with lots more books I’d seen at Clouston & Hall faded…

…although my spirits rose again when, during my searches at Amazon, I spotted a link to the Kindle Big Deal where about 900 titles were on special.

Investigating that 900 would take time, however, and my notebook’s battery was getting low, so that mission would have to wait until later that night back at my hotel room.


Later that night back at my hotel room, I went through all of the titles available at the Kindle Big Deal, selected 23 of them and paid not even $68.

Next, I returned to the list I’d made at Clouston & Hall, looked at the titles that weren’t available as ebooks from Amazon, and once again mulled over something that I’d been thinking about since King O’Malley’s.

Should I return to Clouston & Hall the next day and actually buy some of those books?

It wasn’t a question of money, which I had enough of. As well, I had no issue with Clouston & Hall’s prices, which were very good – and in fact, I felt a little guilty having spent all that time there to make a shopping list for use at an overseas retailer.

It was a question of practicality, though. Not so much adding to my luggage for the trip home, but very much adding to the clutter of books at home.

Ever since I’d bought my Kindle back in early August, I’d only bought two books – and one of them had been the only book I’d read in all that time. Purchasing and reading ebooks on the Kindle had very much become the norm.

Part of me found the idea of buying books rather clumsy and impractical…

…but then another part of me considered the following:

  1. The only way I’d be able to read those books would be to purchase them
  2. Purchasing them would be helping a retailer I liked
  3. After returning home, what would I regret more – buying those books, or not buying those books?
  4. Even if I did buy those books, I could still get rid of them at a future date
  5. Really…so what if you buy those books, you big wanker?

So, I narrowed down my Clouston & Hall list to 11 titles.


The next morning, after checking out from my hotel, I returned to Clouston & Hall, grabbed those 11 titles and added one more (what the hell, it was in hardback for only $4.95).

And I’m glad I did, especially as the first book I’ve started reading from that lot is already engrossing – Frank Owen’s No Speed Limit: The Highs And Lows Of Meth.

To paraphrase a quote that is often used for the subject of love, better to have bought a pile of books and read them and eventually given them away than to have not bought and read them at all.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

About blackandblueman

Black and Blue Man lives in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
This entry was posted in Action, Bibliophilia, Happiness, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Life Strategies. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to One does not simply walk into Clouston & Hall Booksellers

  1. Podsnap says:

    I am in exactly the same situation as you. For years I have struggled with the pangs of guilt caused by buying 2nd hand books and having no room for them. A few months ago decided to stop buying more (too many moves, not enough room in our current house) and bought a Kindle (before this I got rid of all my CDs and I am now digitising my DVDs and getting rid of them).

    I have bought a few books on Kindle, but also try to economise by getting freebies (ie out of copyright) off Gutenberg etc. The main problem with the freebies is formatting/unable to search/typos etc. I find them of extremely variable quality.

    I can say I just read ‘The Shallows’ BY Nicholas Carr (from Amazon) which was pretty good, and in a similar vein ‘You Are Not A Gadget’ was a POS. Reading “The Road To Oxiana’ now – classic.

    Not sure the meth book is for me, any other recommendations ?

    • I recently liked the following books.

      ‘Dead Funny: Humor In Hitler’s Germany’ – a fascinating and at times very sad history of how humour was used for both defense and offense against Nazism:

      ‘Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man’ – a grim but compelling account of one man’s involvement in the secret history of the latter 20th Century:

      ‘Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill’ – even more grim, and at times horrifying, but also compelling nonetheless :

      ‘Leisureville: Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias’ – a hilarious, moving and thought-provoking look at an amazing retirement super-community in Florida:

      Do you read fiction as well? If so, what do you like?

      • Podsnap says:

        Fiction ?
        Hard to make recommendations as it really depends what sort of thing you like.

        But – here are some ideas of the top of my head –
        Riding The Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux
        Father and Son by Edmund Gosse
        The Demon Princes series by Jack Vance
        The Possessed by Dostoyevsky
        Catch 22 by Heller
        1988 by Andrew McGahan

        And you ?

      • Podsnap says:

        Hard to give a recommendation without knowing what sort of thing you like.

        But off the top of my head – Father And Son by Gosse, Catch 22 by Heller, Lucky Jim by Amis, The Possessed by Dostoyevsky, The Demon Princes series by Jack Vance, 1988 by McGahan.

        How about you ?

  2. Kirk says:

    Yell for Cadel, dude!

    Sorry for the non-sequitur, but you’re the only Aussie I know.

  3. georgec says:

    Try and for titles for Kindle that Amazon doesnt carry. They often have them.

    Also, try the UK site for Amazon – very often books not available on the US site for Kindle will be available there. Often its a copyright issue – the rights for a particular country have not been granted yet. I get a ton of Kindle books from the UK site that are not listed on the US site.

    Trick is, get a random UK address off the web and change your country settings on the manage your kindle page on your account. You can change back and forth repeatedly.

    • (Bookmarks and

      Thanks very much for telling me about those 🙂

      A month or so ago, I tried joining Amazon UK to buy ebooks from there – but with my Aussie address, so that ended before it began. Ah, well.

  4. georgec says:

    You can still buy from the UK site, heres how. Simply go to manage your kindle and the *change country settings* and choose UK, and provide a UK address (easily obtainable off the web randomly). At some point it might ask you to migrate your books to the UK site. Do it, you wont lose any already acquired books, and you can switch back anytime.

    You MIGHT get a confusing email asking you to provide some kind of ID, but the email is carefully worded to make it clear that you dont have to and it wont affect your buying ability. I simply ignored the email and had no issues, and not everyone gets these emails. Amazon just seems to be covering their ass.


    • Podsnap says:

      I do this with the US (I’m an Aussie). Not sure which is a better bet for quantity and price – UK or US. Any thoughts ? Australia at any rate is a loser.

  5. johnnymilfquest says:

    Fellow book junkie here.

    I recently got an Elonex e-reader and put all my PDFs on it. With everyone switching to ebooks, there might be a mini-bonanza in cheap second-hand books on the horizon. Fingers crossed.

    I used to like hanging out at Borders even though I hardly ever bought anything there. Jeez. No wonder they went bust 😉

    Love the sneaky LOTR reference btw.

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