Oxfam is the largest retailer of second hand books in Europe, selling around 12 million per year. Most of Oxfam's 750 charity shops around the UK sell books, and around 100 are specialist bookshops or book and music shops. A typical Oxfam bookshop will have around 50 volunteers, as well as a small number of full-time staff. The charity makes around £1.6 million each month from book sales.
Books are donated directly to shops by the public, or through Oxfam "book banks" in convenient locations around the country. The profits of the book sales support the work of Oxfam.
Following a revival in fortunes of the new and second-hand book industry at the end of the 1990s, Oxfam began to rapidly expand its specialist bookshops. By 2003 it had 60 brightly lit and modern bookshops aiming to shake off the old 'dank and dusty' image. Modern Oxfam bookshops typically boast professional fittings and a wide range of stock, including recent novels, specialist textbooks and out-of-print curios.
Charity bookshops, particularly those belonging to Oxfam, have been criticised for forcing traditional bookshops out of business. Small bookshops have complained that Oxfam receives unfair advantages in the form of favourable tax rates and cheaper waste disposal, amongst other things. In response to these criticisms, Oxfam has said that much of the damage to small book retailers has come from supermarkets and online retailers, particularly Tesco and Amazon.
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- Beth Hale (4 August 2009). "Oxfam is the new Tesco say angry independent bookshops being driven to the wall by charity shop's growth". Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
- Cahal Milmo (31 October 2003). "Oxfam finds money grows with books". The Independent. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
- "Oxfam accused of damaging independents". The Bookseller (UK Book Trade Magazine). 4 August 2009.
- "Oxfam Bookshops". TheBookGuide.co.uk.
- Annie Riddle (30 July 2009). "'Oxfam killed my bookshop'". Salisbury Journal. Retrieved 24 September 2014.