A Glassie’s Guide to Doing the Bookfest Like a Pro

Welcome Glassies, to your guide to life. This series takes a deep dive into all your pressing need-to-knows (how to contact your local MP, how to make the perfect cocktail, and how to get over your ex, goddamnit) and offers comprehensive guides so that you can live your Best Glassie Life™.   

This edition is A Glassie’s Guide Doing the Bookfest Like a Pro.

I have been going to Brisbane’s Lifeline Bookfest twice a year for as long as I can remember. My mother recalls even trundling me along in a pram as she browsed through craft books and magazines way back in the early 2000’s. Among my close family, going to Bookfest is a bit of a ritual and we have refined our trip to a perfectly executed operation – you could almost call us ‘Bookfest Pros’.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the bestest event in Brisbane, the Lifeline Bookfest is the largest second-hand book sale in the southern hemisphere. Twice a year, the cavernous halls of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre are filled with rickety tables stacked with pre-loved books, magazines, and other gems. The Bookfest is charity organisation Lifelines’ biggest fundraiser, and the proceeds of the event go towards the organisation’s crisis support and suicide prevention hotline, 13 11 14. While Bookfest is intended to raise money and awareness for the sobering issues of mental health awareness and suicide prevention, Lifeline also wants everyone to have fun and share their passion for books and reading.

The Lifeline Bookfest will be held on the 17th to 20th of June at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Entry to the event is free.

Since the gargantuan book sale can be incredibly overwhelming for first-time visitors, I’ve whipped up this Glassie’s Guide that will help you do the Lifeline Bookfest like a pro.

Find

There’s no guarantee what you will and won’t find at the Bookfest. The events’ name is a bit of a misnomer, actually – not only can you find preloved books at the event but also magazines, records, puzzles, board games, CD’s, Blu-ray’s, and other gems. It all comes down to luck. Who knows what’s been donated to Lifeline’s various Queensland outlets and how eagle-eyed your searching skills are.

The items are generally grouped into two sections – the $2.50 and the High-Quality (long-time Bookfest enthusiasts may remember the $1 section, which was cut a few years ago). Items in the $2.50 section cost, well, $2.50. Meanwhile, items in the High-Quality section are often around the very affordable $7 to $15, though this can increase a lot depending on the item’s quality or rarity. In the high-quality section, you’ll often find the prices scribbled in pencil or printed on a small sticker on the inside cover of the book. In both sections, books are not sorted alphabetically by author, making it difficult to look for specific titles. They are, however, grouped by genre/type, such as Science Fiction, Classics and Literature, History, Cooking, Textbooks (yes, that does say textbooks, fellow uni students) and more. While it’s unlikely you’ll find the exact, brand-new textbook your course requires, you may find older or similar editions of the one you need at a minuscule fraction of the cost.

List

I know many people come to the Bookfest with a list of exactly what they want to find. I personally find this unhelpful, as what you are going to find is a bit of a lottery. Instead, being a chronic bibliophile, I come with a list of what I already have. This assists me when I pick up a book and stare blankly at its cover trying to remember “do I already have a copy of you?”. It also (sometimes) stops me from buying yet another book on the same subject. For example, consulting my list I see I already have 45 books about the Beatles, which some people (my mother) think is a lot. 

Money

Whatever amount you expect to spend on books or any other of the goodies to be found at the Bookfest, budget for triple. Seriously. Don’t let these deceptively low prices trick you. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought to myself “just one more…”, and an hour later, arms burgeoning, I traipse back to my mother asking if she can lend me just another $30 because I’ve just found a few more Beatles books that I simply must have…

While Bookfest prefers non-cash payments (EFTPOS, debit card, Tap and Pay with your phone, etc.), they do have a limited number of checkouts that will accept cash.

Travel

The Bookfest is held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre located in South Brisbane, where there’s a myriad of public transport options nearby. For instance, South Brisbane train station is a quick five-minute walk away via Melbourne Street. Despite its proximity to many public transport options, I urge soon-to-be Bookfest pros to keep in mind that you’ll (probably) be travelling home with dozens of books, which may be cumbersome on public transport. The Convention Centre also has underground parking, but this is expensive and fills up early. As a compromise, I often do Bookfest with a group (such as my family) and we all carpool together. This saves on parking and carting what feels like a truckload of books home on public transport.

Accessibility

The BCEC has wheelchair access via lifts just inside the doors on Merivale Street.

At the upcoming Bookfest, the organisers are arranging the tables with wider gaps between them to allow better mobility device and stroller access, however, it is likely to be very busy so be manoeuvrability of mobility devices may be impacted.

While all the toilets are wheelchair accessible, there are no gender-neutral toilets on site.

Previous Bookfests have had chill out zones near the information tent, but these are mainly for physical exhaustion as opposed to sensory exhaustion (they are still brightly lit and noisy areas). We have yet to confirm whether there will be any sensory chill out zones at the event, but will update this article when we find out.

For more information and accessibility maps, please check out the Brisbane Convention Centres accessibility page here – https://www.bcec.com.au/visit/accessibility/

Bags

So many books, so few arms! 

There is no perfect way to lug your books around at Bookfest – every Bookfest fanatic has their own system. Some I’ve seen include wheeled suitcases, backpacks, shopping (aka “granny”) trolleys, or more outlandishly, two-tiered washing trolleys. I’ve also seen many people use a tote bag. This is a rookie error. As tempting as it may be – they look so aesthetic! – the thin straps will kill your shoulders. 

I like to use a basket or large shopping bag while browsing then, after I’ve purchased by literary goodies, I pack them safely into my backpack. That, or I beg my parents to carry my books (though this hasn’t worked for me since I was about seven or eight, unfortunately).

Busiest

The Bookfest is incredibly popular – in previous years crowds seemed to swarm into the Convention Centre as soon the doors swung open, and people milled about slowly to gain entry. Veteran Bookfest fans can tell you the weekends – especially the opening weekend – are always busiest. However, the upcoming Bookfest is much shorter than previous ones (only four days long as opposed to two weeks long), so I expect even the weekdays will be fairly busy too.

There’s also a notable ebb and flow of customers during the day. For the first few hours, everyone is just browsing but as lunchtime approaches, there’s an onslaught as customers congregate at the checkouts – the queues can extend to 30 or more people. Get in early and get out early and avoid the middle of the day rush!

Now that you know how to do the Lifeline Bookfest like a pro, I cannot wait to see you there! Perhaps you’ll even be interested in volunteering for future events. This year, you’ll probably find me, ignoring my own advice outlined in this article, buying yet more books about the Beatles… 

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The upcoming Lifeline Bookfest is on 17th to 20th of June. For more information, including opening times, check out Lifeline’s event page here – https://www.lifelineqld.org.au/shops-and-events/bookfests/lifeline-bookfest-brisbane

This article is a re-write of How To Do The Lifeline Bookfest – Like a Pro, originally published in Glass in 2021.

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Lilian Martin (she/they) is a third-year creative writing student at QUT, based in Brisbane/Meanjin. When Lilian isn’t studying, they are busy listening to old music, talking about old music, or singing along (badly) to old music. Lilian’s writing has appeared in Glass, ScratchThat and Vermillion’s Groove Garden mag. You can find them avoiding responsibility on Instagram @lilian.is.feelin.groovy

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