With the explosion in ebooks and online sales it's been the toughest year ever for printed books. Which means there is great value in the bargain books stores now, with some titles cut to a third or a quarter of their original price.
An example would be Kathleen MacMahon's debut novel, This Is How It Ends, which appeared earlier this year. MacMahon, an RTÉ journalist, got a €684,000 deal for two books as publishers fought over this novel, a contemporary love story between a Dublin woman and a visiting American.
This week you can buy the hardback edition of the novel in Chapters bookstore on Parnell Street in Dublin for €4.99.
Chapters is not just the biggest bargain books shop in Dublin, it is also the biggest bookstore of any kind in the country. A visit there can produce very impressive books for Christmas presents, at a fraction of the original recommended retail price (RRP).
This applies to all kinds of books, but particularly to coffee table books, cookbooks and so on.
An example would be Nigella's Christmas, which came out four years ago at £25 and still sells in sleigh loads. It's now a standard, regarded by many as the best Christmas cookbook of them all.
If you know someone who likes to cook and does not have it yet, it's a perfect Christmas present. Chapters have it for €12.99, but even that is beaten by Vibes & Scribes, the best bargain bookstore in Cork, which is selling it for €9.99.
A great gift for the more mature music fan would be Natural Woman, Carole King's autobiography which came out earlier this year at £20 and which Chapters is now selling at €4.99.
It's a big hardback and a great read which takes you back to the time when all those classic songs were written and then people like Carole went off to discover themselves and be hippies.
Other impressive books spotted in Chapters that could be lovely presents for the right person are:
• Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland €9.99 (RRP €24.99).
• Granta Book of the Irish Short Story €5.99 (RRP £15).
• The GAA County by County €9.99 (RRP €29.99).
• Easy Meals Rachel Allen €14.99 (RRP €25).
• Doesn't Time Fly? Aer Lingus – Its History €12.99 (RRP €25).
Two of the many books for children in Chapters are Gift of the Magi, illustrated by PJ Lynch, a beautiful hardback for €4.99 (RRP £11) and the Dragons & Monsters Pop-up for €9.99 (RRP £20).
In Vibes & Scribes in Cork this Christmas there is a great selection of coffee table books, all at bargain prices. Among the most popular are:
• Flora Hibernica: The Wild Flowers, Plants & Trees of Ireland by Jon Pilcher and Valerie Hall, from local publisher The Collins Press, €4.99.
This came out in hardback in 2001 (RRP £25) and in paperback in 2004 and it's now become a collector's item in some quarters; it's on sale on Amazon this week by one seller at £99 for a new copy with four other sellers offering second-hand copies starting at £56.
An online search of Easons, Waterstones and Dubray came up 'out of stock'. So if you're buying one in Vibes & Scribes for a Christmas present at €4.99 you might want to get a second copy for yourself.
• We Declare – Landmark Documents in Ireland's History, by Richard Aldous and Niamh Puirséil, Quercus, €6.99 (RRP €26). St Patrick's confession, the harrowing reports of the Famine Relief Commission, the Proclamation in 1916, the Treaty in 1921, the Good Friday Agreement, and many more, this is a unique overview of Irish history, with each document preceded by an introduction by Prof Aldous.
• Reader's Digest DIY Manual, €9.99 (RRP £19.99). Whether you want to know how to repair a leak, wallpaper a stairwell or lay a patio, it's all here in what has become one of the standard reference books for DIYers.
Perfect for busy people who see the Christmas break as a chance to "do a few jobs" around the house.
Across the road from the entrance to Trinity College is the famous Books Upstairs on College Green, which always has a few tables of bargain books on offer, all priced at €5. Among their bestsellers this Christmas are:
• Ross O Carroll-Kelly and The Temple Of Academe €5 (RRP €12.99). This is a compilation which brings The Miseducation Years and The Teenage Dirtbag Years together in a single volume.
• Mensa, Keep your Brain Fit €5 (RRP €13.75). This Christmas they also have an extensive sele-ction of good children's books at three for €10.