I have fond memories of the school book fairs when I was younger. Rummaging through the bins of books, searching the shelves, adoring the posters, figuring out how much I can buy. The school library was transformed from a place to study and required classes to a place of magic. I’m not sure what the difference was, they were still books. This was a long time ago, when I would read any and every book that was authored or starred by anyone with the variation of the name “Meghan,” the spelling was never the same but for some reason I felt connected and a desire to read books by or about them. Or at least own them.
When I moved to Sweden I left most of my books behind. Thankfully my kindle is here for withdrawals, but it’s not the same as looking at my bookshelves filled with such history, wisdom, adventure, fantasy, tragedy, and culture. Side effect of being a literature major I guess. I know that hubby and I will rebuild and create a collection of books together, but I didn’t count of prices of books to be so high in Sweden.
The other day I noticed book sale signs in the window of one of the bookstores, assuming it was an average sale I thought nothing of it. A couple of days later I saw a book sale in a department store, which seemed abnormal. Then when walking with hubby I spotted another book sale with a huge colorful sign at the other book sale. I asked what the heck is going on. He explained the book sale phenomenon and we went to check it out. Apparently he had told me about this before but I didn’t understand that it was every year, country wide, or such a big deal.
The book sale was so large that it took place in another building, where a store next door had just closed 4 or 5 months ago. We assume that Bokia (the bookstore) rented the space since the Bokrea was coming up soon. Hubby said that the book store used to hold it’s Bokrea at this location before another store opened there- about ten years ago. He was disappointed as soon as he walked in and saw how much smaller the sale is now, remembering when he was younger when this sale was a much bigger deal (Although, it was already a week into the sale). He compared it to “Black Friday” in the U.S., stores opening early, people waiting on long lines early in the morning, and the sale being packed with people searching for books. The discounts are still very good, but the demand and popularity has decreased over the years pushing this from the largest sale date to the second largest next to Christmas sale. In this age of technology, e-books are replacing the need for frantically purchasing books at the bokrea every year. Additionally, people are ordering online instead of going to the sales.
Bokreans started in the end of the 1920’s, as a way to sell a large surplus of old books. Since then bokrea has become regulated by the Swedish Booksellers Association, creating rules and regulations in the 1930’s. Every year it is strictly coordinated which day for every store and online participant to start the sale, so that no bokrea starts too soon. It is always in the end of February, carefully situated far enough from Christmas and hopefully around vacation week from schools. Anticipation is key. It is heavily advertised and some places send out catalogs. The sale lasts for about two or three weeks, this year it started on February 22nd and when I asked they said it would end in another week. The first day is always the busiest, when the doors open at midnight or very early morning. As of 2009, you are no longer allowed to pre-order your purchases, as it is seen as “cheating.” The specific books that will be on sale (reaböckerna) during this time are not allowed to be sold before the bokrea. In the 1970’s Bokrean started to lose customers due to repeat titles being sold every year, as a result price cuts were made larger.
And so we shopped. I can get lost in a book store, apparently even if it isn’t even my native language and there is only a small section for English. We bought a pile of books, most of them reference books, three for fantasy and two for language and then one book to read. I’m excited about the “Rimlexikon” which is the Swedish Ryhme dictionary. Of course itt will be some time before I can use it but it’s really nice to have for the future and was over 50% off, paying 99kr ($15) instead of the original price of 269kr ($40).
The next day I was scared that the sale would end soon so I visited a department store that was also participating. I decided to go another direction and buy some Swedish books. Not any Swedish books, but children books. I found a decent range to read starting with two very simple books that have pictures and very small sentences for kids who just start to read (I already learned that “husdjur” which I read as “house animals” is the same as “pets” which of course makes sense but I was only making a literal word for word translation instead of trying to make sense of it). It is a bit embarrassing to read “baby books,” but its the best place to start without getting frustrated and giving up. And the pictures are super cute!
Next there is an “in-between” book with less pictures and much more text, “Nils Holgerssons Wonderful Trip Around Sweden”. This one is actually a Swedish classic and my hubby was pretty happy that I picked it up and said it was the best one I could have found. The language is simple enough, but it will take a long time to get through. It is about a little boy who rides a goose all around Sweden. (I thought it was a gnome, which reminded me of a book from my childhood). I’m actually very excited to read this one for a lot of reasons.
Lastly I picked up three “teen” books, which will take awhile to get around to that level, but its nice to have them around.
The great thing about going back and buying these books was that it was “slutrea” (endsale) since the sale has been going on for a week and a half, the sales prices are cut. I bought all 6 of these books for 150kr, where as we spent 450kr on the 6 other books (of course different quality, but the “slutrea” cut off about 200kr from my purchase)
Not exactly the books I had in mind for our bookshelf, but it is a start to other goals. I would love to start reading more again, but I need to concentrate on reading Swedish instead of books I have on my “to read” list. I will find a balance for both, both time wise and mentally. I’m just glad to have learned about bokrea and had the chance to pick up a few cheap finds.