Or to be more precise, going to the race-course: the two-day PBFA fair in York, held at the local race-course, with a curious backdrop of betting windows, echoes of the language of the track and a jaunty, sporty feeling of backing your fancy. Not at all inappropriate, for the professional bookbuyer (and probably, I suspect, some amateurs) buying a book at a fair is often a matter of taking a punt – a calculated gamble.
An enormous fair – well over 200 exhibitors. Certainly the biggest in the British Isles, the biggest in Europe they say, and quite possibly the second largest in the world. Plenty of people to say that it has grown too large – the public don’t like it, they can’t get round it all in a day. Possibly true, but I can’t imagine people being lured back were there to be a stern promise of fewer books and fewer booksellers next year. It is surely the sheer size that brings people in from all over the world – the knowledge that there is bound a book for you. That no-one can have looked at everything. There must be something hidden on one of the multiple floors that no-one has yet spotted. Certainly there were both exhibitors and visitors from the very top end of the London trade. And there were too some very good booksellers that we seldom or never see exhibiting in the south.
This is one of the great successes of the British trade in recent years. Record figures were again posted this year. Let us cherish it. And let us congratulate the booksellers of York who have put so much effort into making it such a perennial success. Take a bow.