If you're searching for a book that is out-of-print, vintage or unavailable from regular bookshops, you may just find it at the Brotherhood of St Laurence's bookstore and café, Second Edition, formerly a Brotherhood opportunity shop at 215 Glenferrie Road Malvern. And if it's not in stock, do as I did and check the charitable organization's online catalogue from their in-store computer and purchase a second-hand copy (including postage) for a fraction of the cost of a new book.
The well-stocked shelves of pre-loved books are arranged by category but my favourite is the "special interest" section where you can find such amusing and dubious titles as The Encyclopaedia of Bad Taste; What a way to go, deaths with a difference; Clean and Decent, the fascinating history of the bathroom and the WC; or Miss Vera's Cross-Dress for Success.
The cosy interior is welcoming with its contrasting timber veneer walls, linoleum floor and retro plush, olive velvet lounge chairs (reminiscent of the ones my parents owned in the '70s). It's not hard to wile away an afternoon leafing through magazines scattered on the newsprint-lined coffee table or marvel at the collection of vinyl records. A central feature of the space is the Tree of Knowledge, a timber sculpture used for displaying books, connected to a large desk where computer terminals can be hired for internet access which is free for the first 15 minutes, provided you buy a cup of Fairtrade, organic coffee. Thirty minute and sixty minute internet access will set you back $2.50 and $4.00 respectively.
You'll be pleased to know that profits from the donated books and café sales are directed towards disadvantaged children, families, and the long term unemployed and that the store is run largely by volunteers. Stock is replenished on a weekly basis and only books in very good condition are sold so you won't feel embarrassed to purchase them for giving as gifts and will feel virtuous for extending the book's life as well as helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and the blurb on the Brotherhood bookmarks will thank you for it.)
And if you need further incentive to shop here, the friendly manager, Kelly told me that "50% off" vouchers are given to the generous people who donate books to the store. N.B. The Brotherhood is offering free freight on all recycled books purchased online during October, 2011 as part of its "Buy nothing new month" campaign. Check out this website. Trading hours: Tuesday to Friday 8.00am – 5.00pm; Saturdays 10.00am – 5.00pm. Tel (03) 9509 5241. Rita Price