Sunday, March 23, 2014

The End of Fun at the Penguin Book Sale

All good things come to an end, and I want to pay tribute to something that was a fixture in our community in upstate New York for many years: the annual Penguin Book Sale.

People came from literally hundreds of miles away to shop there, one weekend each November.

The bargains were unbelievable.

This post is from November of 2010. Sadly, our Penguin facility (now Penguin Random House) is closing. 

All the day cares, the nursery schools, the homeschooling families, the families who loved books, who used to go to this sale and buy books for the young children in their lives.  It's the end of an era, and I am sad.

Please share my memory of:

Fun at the Penguin Book Sale

Books about penguins?  No, the Penguin USA book sale - the book event "of the year".

People come from hundreds of miles in order to shop.  It is sheer madness.

Years ago, the sales used to be held right at the Penguin (in those days, Penguin-Putnam) facility off I-81 in Kirkwood (right near the Pennsylvania border), and it was for only one weekend in November:  Saturdays and Sundays.  At those sales, there were books and other items around the perimeter of the warehouse, and people fought their way to the tables to get the goods.  And were they ever the goods:  Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew hardcovers for 50 cents each, childrens books by major authors for $1.00, bestsellers hardcovers for a song.  Some of these must have been "irregulars" but no one cared.

I bet a lot of people in upstate NY, if they got books for Christmas, got them from people who shopped those sales.

I think, with the last one or two years, they also had DK Books and some Readers Digest books.  As I recall, nothing was over $3.00.

This was pre-Internet so it was pre-eBay.  Ah, the good old days.

At that time I had a young child and I dove in for the bargains.  We only went on Sundays:  the Saturdays were impossible.  Fellow shoppers revealed themselves as we shopped together: teachers, parents, librarians, grandparents, daycare workers, employees of nonprofits, homeschoolers.  One person I spoke to once had driven from Albany,almost 3 hours away.  We were so lucky to have this right in our own backyard.  A perk of living in a burnt out industrial town....oh, here I go again.

Lucky even though we lined up for an hour or more outside to get in.  There was always snow on the ground. One year they gave out really neat inflatable globes.  My son loved the toy, but did he ever grow to hate the sales.

And then the sales stopped.

Several years passed, my son grew and became a teen.  Those Eric Carle and then Hardy Boys books were a memory.  Then, the sales began again. For a couple of years the sales were held, for a week only, in a former Ames building.  Prices were higher. The sales (I felt) were junk - a lot of obsolete "Idiots Guide" books and, well, things that were mostly boring to me.  Each aisle seemed to have the exact same books.

Then, two years ago, (I think) the sales moved to a vacant warehouse in Conklin.  More room, and this time more of the good old Penguin Putnam sale flavor.  We went one Saturday, and waited two hours on line to check out.  We know the secret now:  go on Monday (when the hours are 5 to 8).  Get there right around 4:50 or so.  You won't even wait to get in.

I didn't spend this much this year but I am pleased to report there were a lot of bestsellers once more.  And some really good children's books.  A lot of Taste of Home cookbooks (which my spouse, the cook, does not favor.)  Lots of gardening stuff, Readers Digest "how to" books.

Maybe one year (just not yet, please) I will be a proud grandparent getting my grandchildren books.  Until then....well, I didn't get gifts for anyone but it was nice being there.  I did pick up something for the Angel Tree event my employer will be participating in for disadvantaged children (Salvation Army).

But when I shop for books, it won't be at this booksale.  Time, and industry, marches on.


  1. I found your blog on Blogger's Corner. I love gardening, New York, Chocolate and the Civil War. I just subscribed to your blog. Tomorrow, when my daughter is at school, I'm going to read your past blog posts, especially the Civil War Memory!!

  2. Thank you for the follow. I have to admit something to you - Civil War Memory and the other links on the right side of my blog are not past posts from my blog, but are a list of other blogs I like to read. I had these labeled as such but the label has disappeared. Big Oops! I do normally post on the Civil War every Sunday, so you may want to look for my Sunday posts in "older posts" at the bottom of my blog. I didn't have a Civil War post this morning because I was in transit but I should have one next week. I hope you enjoy what you do see and I'm off to get that label back on my blog roll.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, I remember reading lots of books when I was younger and they were all Penguin Books.

  4. I used to love these books. Everything's changing nowadays. Print books are so expensive. I've bought some wonderful ones at car boot sales. Your Penguin sales sound fantastic. I couldn't imagine waiting in line for two hours to make a purchase though.

  5. Ah yes, I read lots of the penguin books when I was younger! It's such a shame that your local one is closing. Will there be something in its place?


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