Bookstore Spotlight: Canada's Most Inconvenient Bookstore
Updated: Apr 8
We love bookstores for a lot of reasons. They collect not only things but ideas, gathering them for us to encounter, to hold, to digest, so that we might filter the notions therein and return them to the world in new and altered forms.
Mostly, bookshops are safe. They are harbors where we might escape the world for a few minutes within their walls, and for hours or days as we absorb whatever it is they’ve given us.
And now they need our help. Independent bookshops were faltering beneath the weight of Amazon’s behemoth sales machine even before COVID-19 shut everything down, and now they’re picking at the margins in any way possible to simply ride out the storm. Helping them, any of them, however we can, has never been more important.
This is why we here at the Pandemic Baseball Book Club are so focused on steering business their way. Sites like Indie Bound and Bookstore Link help us find the good stuff from home, and we urge you to give them your business.
In weeks to come, we will be running a sporadic series of brief snapshots of indie bookshops that we love, or admire, or simply marvel at. When possible, they will contain links so that you might buy a book or two directly from them. Because every little bit counts.
Today’s entry is a little bit different, because they don’t sell books online. They don’t even have a website. Hell, the place is only open half of the year, from April through October, owing to the Canadian winter where it's located. It has been called “Canada’s most inconvenient bookstore.”
It's Crawford’s Used Books, in Perdue, Saskatchewan (population 300), a place with one employee (the owner, Ralph Crawford), no e-mail address and 300,000 titles crammed in to every inch of usable storefront space. From an article written last year in Maclean’s:
Inside, there’s no database of what reading material is in stock or what’s to come, even though it holds twice the number of volumes as the main library for Guelph, Ont. And there is no way to discern — aside from asking Crawford — where the sections are for, say, true crime or Canadiana. It’s just piles upon piles of books from floor to ceiling, some on shelves, some not. “I always tell people not to worry if a stack falls over because you see more books,” Crawford says.
This is the kind of place worth driving to, if one is ever in central Canada ... though probably not this year. I spoke with Ralph, who says that with businesses across Canada shuttered likely into the summer, he might not have enough time to make a go of things before closing up shop for the winter. He’s a perpetual optimist though, still buying books at his spring retreat near Medicine Hat, and raring to get back to the shop just as soon as he’s able.
Good luck, Ralph. Hope to see you soon.