Monday, September 21, 2009

Presidental records, Executive Orders, and Books

There is a very interesting article in USA today about Taylor Branch (Parting the Waters fame) and his taped conversations with Clinton, Clinton's memoir, and Taylor's book coming out based on his own taped summaries of the conversations with the President. 

In the shop, I have actively avoided all books on the later presidency of Reagan, and the presidencies of all of his successors for this kind of reason.

Most of the first hand, important documents have not been available due to a Bush II era decision, so historians did not have as much of the access as they might otherwise have. There are a ton of opinion books out there on both sides, and only a VERY few currently will have true historical merit - Seymour Hersh's book on his time with Clinton for one, and the book jointly authored by 2 Senators (1 Dem, 1 Repub) on Iran Contra hearing being another off the top of my head). 

Thankfully from a historians standpoint, Obama reversed that Bush executive decision in January, and as of April a great deal of Reagan material and a first round of Bush I material have come out, with more on the way. I look forward to some more substantial works on 1984-96 US presidential policies in the coming years. 

It is interesting to read Branch's reaction to seeing an early draft of Clinton's book, but I think all presidential auto-bios  or memoirs are this way. They are concerned with legacies and, in a way, stature rather than unvarnished truth. Some of course cannot say as much as they might due to national security issues, but a great deal is obfuscated by pride, I fear. 


More after the jump...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Serious Books, Serious Bookshops

My initial forays into serious bookshops happened my first year at college, 1982. The Union bookstore at the University of Kansas, while filled with the usual textbooks and t-shirts, also had excellent, scholarly books on a host of topics, from various publishers. Military History, medieval, Greek and Roman Loeb classics, and even a book on a Russian Viking that I still own to this day.

Later that year I discovered J. Hood, down at the bottom of the Hill on Mass Street. It was my first real venture into a real used and rare shop, and their stock represented exactly what you'd think a university town used and rare shop would have.

Do these kind of places have a future?

Recently in the Guardian online newspaper out the the UK (Do make their book section a stop on your regular web browsing - you won't be disappointed) discussed this very point. Titled You Can't Be Serious, Andy Beckett discusses the decline in publishing serious non fiction across the board, and especially in regards to shops. It touched on a number of important issues in books and bookselling I'd like to bring out further, along with some other issues I feel are related.

Serious books have always been harder sells, as the article points out, and they are not getting easier. There are recent examples of serious books having great success. However, the majority of the more serious, challenging, and scholarly titles have small audiences, sell more slowly, and require more from the reader. Not a formula for a beach read. Demand from libraries is declining as books budgets are trimmed to cover online resources costs, while bigger book chains go for titles with wider appeal and most small bookshops pull back or fall away. Both big and small shops face declines in sales as well.

Serious publishers themselves are facing more direct challenges in addition to declining sales. University presses are undergoing what amounts to an economic culling as states cut back support and universities re-prioritize their expenses. University presses are vulnerable because many do not make money or make little. Many universities want to put them on a profit basis, but unfortunately that was never the rationale for their existence in the first place. The schools seem to value expensive sports teams over academic endeavor. Smaller independent publishers in the US, without subsidies available in some other countries, suffer from a shrinking market as much as any other publisher and any grants or collaborations they have sought in the past are gone or harder to achieve.

The book industry is undergoing perhaps the most profound changes since the mechanization of printing nearly 200 years ago. A changing and struggling economy, internet challenges such as digitization and Amazon, and the ever increasing variety of media to occupy our free time are major factors in that change. The article points out that such a decline in serious books has happened before, and other works, such as Reluctant Capitalists by Laura Miller (mentioned by me before) confirm this. But this time change is occurring across the breadth and depth of the industry, and that has even more serious implications for the future. We are facing a new world.

The good news is that in this new world serious books will not go away. The old world has useful lessons for serious booksellers and book publishers if one takes both a broad and deep view. Like species, certain types of books thrive in specific environments. Whether selling new books or used, success in scholarly bookselling is about the books, about the people, and about the location.

For the books, it's not just what is new or rare or expensive. It is knowing which are the better books, who publishes them, and how they fit (or don't) with other books in the field. Sometimes the best books are out of print, or are just being published, often by a small publisher. It can be a challenge to find them, learn about a new publisher, to keep up with any given field and to learn its history and the printed milestones. But knowing those milestones provides a map of sorts, a tool to help shape stock, and make it better. I personally think that specialization is very important and that selectivity is key. These are even more important if one does not specialize and/or is selling new books.

People are not just buyers, but sometimes sellers and sometimes advisors. Bookselling, to me, is an industry where you are rewarded for what you know, punished for what you don't, and presented with opportunities to learn every single day. Readers offer to teach a bookseller every day by what they buy, by personal conversation in a bookshop or by email, through their online discussion groups, and more. Taking that information and continually shaping services and stock to a chosen clientele is perhaps the most important thing booksellers of serious books can do, both as a service to a community and as a sound financial effort.

The old saying is still true: location, location, location. For serious books and serious bookshops, I still think a storefront in important. The contact with the community, the opportunities for both selling and buying, and the discipline of running an open shop are important advantages, not to be overlooked. However, location now means more than just the physical premises, but where the business fits in the new and changing geography of bookselling. Amazon is not going away. The recession may dribble to an end, but job recovery will still be slow. Price pressures are greater than ever and not all of your market resides in one community. The internet, with all its mixed blessings, is important terrain to map and navigate for a bookshop. It is not only selling, but presenting the shop and its stock to specific communities to get on their maps. Finding both online sources - forums, listservs, websites - and actual live events - association meetings, shows, fairs, festivals - provides superb opportunities to interact with a select community. In short, walk in traffic is not just off the street, but off the internet as well.

It is not easy. These are challenging times. Small changes in the market can have major adverse effects for even a well-run small, focused bookshop. Selling serious and important books is perhaps one of the hardest and most challenging tasks for booksellers currently. But as Tom Hanks said, it's the hard that makes it great. Otherwise everyone would do it.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Myles of Books, Part the Sixth - of Sharks and Cousteau

On the other side of campus sat the shop of Grant Murray, Midnight Stand Books. The Stand was one of the regular routes for Topher when he was buying books for the shop. Grant had a tendency to buy a bit more than he could afford, and a couple times Topher was able to take advantage of deals Grant would offer him, and even pick up a few books for himself.

20 minutes later, Topher found a good parking space just down the block from Grant's shop. As he walked up to the door, he went by the long front window. Grant's sign was on an awning above so the window gave a clear view into the shop. Or rather it would have, if books had not been stacked against it across half its length, like colorful wood shavings in a hamster's nest. Occasionally Topher would see something that looked interesting buried in the stack, but since the width of was as great as its length, Topher usually passed on digging it out. The shape and arrangement of the mound did change every so often, so someone must have decided to go to dig towards China once in a while.

Topher pulled open the door and stepped inside. The smell of books and must and dust came to him, not overwhelming but heavy. The shelves, like the window, were thick with books standing, stacked, and shoved on top, all they way to the top of the high ceiling. Most did not look like they had been touched in some time. Here and there a chair or an ottoman stood, piled with old newspapers, books, or fan magazines of some sort. In between them and piles of books on the floor were short step ladders, far too low to reach the higher parts, yet ready and waiting to help the hopeful.

In the middle of the shop sat a tall, cluttered desk, currently occupied by several stacks of books, a battered electronic cash register and a pile of papers. The only partially clear space was directly in front of the owner of the shop, Mr. Grant Murray himself, clad in his habitual t-shirt and, probably, university logo-splashed running shorts thankfully hidden by the desk and surge of books spilling from under it. He was bargaining mildly with another bookish denizen of the town, Ned Pack.

"Hey Topher, what's up?" said Murray leaving his earlier conversation in mid-haggle. Ned looked over and smiled broadly, and leaned back against the desk.

Topher smiled back at both men. "Not much. I've been in the shop all week, and missed my old routine."

Ned nodded. "I know the feeling. If I don't bring my books into some shop to be whined down to poverty every so often, it doesn't seem normal. So your shop is going pretty good? You organize those mysteries like I told you?"

"I did, I did. All the New York mysteries are in one group, with the rest by author. Works pretty well. You have to bring me some more if sales keep up," Topher looked at the books on the desk. "But it looks like you're selling all your books to Grant here."

Ned smiled and shook his head of slightly overgrown afro curls. "I wish," said Murray. "These here he brought are good stock, but nothing to retire on. He's holding those back. Hell, I bet we won't get those until he gets mashed at the dump going through those bins."

"At least they'll be cheap then. I bet we'll pick them up for a dollar a book." Topher said with a grin.

Ned shook his finger at the two bookmen. "No way, I'll have them buried with me first. See, Grant, that's the thanks I get. Teach this guy how to find a good book on the street, show him the good sales and the resale shops, and he's already doin' a vulture over my books. You I expect it from. Owning a bookstore taints a man, I swear."

Murray raised his hands . "Fine, fine, we'll pay two dollars for them and you can go to your grave in spacious comfort. Now how about three dollars each for these? That'll be eighteen dollars total, or twenty-seven credit."

"Sounds good," agreed Ned. "and let Topher here use the credit. My way of a shop-opening present. I need you to do well so I can retire to a leather chair in a corner of your shop an' lie about my book adventures to tourists."

"Fair enough, " Murray said. "Topher, my treasures await you." He then pulled the stack of books over and piled them on top of an already teetering pile.

Topher raised his eyebrows and then offered Ned his hand. "Wow, that's really nice of you Ned. Thanks. And thanks for all the advice you've given me too. You saved me a lot of mistakes."

Ned shook Topher's hand. "You'll make your own, and big ones too. We all do, man. Just don't get in a rut. That'll be the worst thing."

"No worries there. A lady came in and asked me to look at an old furniture book. I don't know much about them actually. I can look on the web and see if there is a listing for it, but sometimes there is not much information on the book, just price and condition. Either of you know of a good reference?"

Ned and Murray looked at each other. Murray shrugged, his thin shoulders sharply rising under his t-shirt.

Ned turned back to Topher. " How old? I mean, old to a regular citizen, like from the teens or twenties, or old to a bookseller?"

"I don't know yet," Topher said. "She just said old, and many 'neat' pictures. It made me realize I didn't have a much of a clue about furniture books, old or new."

"Hmm... well, I'll do some looking around. I'm not sure. I'll ask Arthur too, and you should if you see him before me. If he doesn't know, try the university."

"Great, I'll do that. And thanks again for the credit. And I promise to do as much damage as i can with it."

Ned laughed and swung his canvas bookbag over his broad shoulders. "That's the way. I'm glad your sales are good, and I'll drop by when I get a chance. Grant, thanks. I'll bring some more stuff in next week."

"I'll try and sell a couple of these before you do. Bring me a Mormon Bible and I'll buy you a steak dinner." Murray said.

Ned turned on his way out the door. "I bring you a Mormon bible, and you buy me a small herd of beef." he waved and headed out of the shop.

Murray said, "He's right you know. Even a rough copy of that book will pay the rent for a year."

Topher shook his head. 'Well, if he does bring it in, call me. I'd like to see it. I doubt I will ever handle an expensive book like that, but it'd be fun to see."

"Will do. So, pick away. If you don't use all your credit, I'll make a note and you can finish it later. Holler if you need anything."

Topher moved off into Murray's shop, navigating through and over the piles and messy spreads of books in the aisles. Blocked by a large yet fragile assemblage in the local history section, Topher found a path the windingly led to the mystery novels. The books there were so wildly shoved and stacked on the shelves, Topher felt he was playing some odd form of tiddlywinks, but was able to pull out a western mystery by Hockensmith, not a first but a nice copy in a stunning jacket. He also found a biography of Jacques Cousteau in great shape, and another of Annie Oakley. With only a dollar left in credit, he figured that was close enough.

Topher placed the books on the counter. Murray looked them over. "That was quick. Good call on the mystery. Firsts on that are doing well. Wish I had a poster of that dust jacket to hang in the shop." Topher glanced around, wondering where amid the shelves and knickknacks on the wall such a poster would fit.

Murray stopped at the Cousteau book, the last of the three. "Now why'n the hell did you take this? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have it gone, but it's not gonna be a fast seller."

"That one's for me." Topher said. "When I was a kid his books were always around, and I loved his pictures. Plus he said my favorite quote. 'When you enter the ocean, you enter the food chain, and not necessarily at the top'. When ever I feel I'm over my head, I think of that line."

Murray smiled. "Good enough. When you read it, tell me how many times he got himself bit by sharks. Might come in handy in conversation. You have a buck left for credit. Wanna look at the paperbacks? "

Topher waved him off. "Nah, I'm good. Thanks for these. Drop by the shop sometime if you get a chance." Topher gathered the books and headed out of the shop.

More after the jump...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Collectibles, Collections, and Accumulations - or Amazon Finds the Wrong Path

One phrase that floats around the used and rare book trade is the term "collectible' Amazon recently has moved to begin tightening what they have in their "collectibles" category (see their stipulations for items and sellers here). Leaving the "who can list collectible books" issue aside for this entry, they make 2 assumptions that show a great deal of naiveté.

Kind of shame, considering they could have listened more to both collectors and booksellers.

The two assumptions of Amazon are:

# All books listed in "Collectible" condition must be signed, limited first editions, or have other desirable qualities that could reasonably be assumed to increase the book's value to a collector.

# All products must be authentic. We do not allow any counterfeit, replica or knock-off products.

I am not a fan of the word "collectible". Not only is it overused to the point of meaninglessness, it is, like obscenity, way too hard to define. In regards to printed books, anything can be collectible, depending on what the collector wants.

So, for me, a true understanding of what is collectible must begin by defining a collection. I make a distinction between a collection and an accumulation. Simply put, a collection is the basis of a story that the collector tells with the individual items in the group. An accumulation is simply a group of things that someone has because they like it, want to have it or just wound up with it.

A collection is a thoughtful process. It may start out as an accumulation, but at some point the person gathering the material has begun to shape it, by themselves or with the help of a bibliography or bookseller. That shaping creates a story, which is just the tale of a particular author's work, or perhaps an answer to a question that the collector wanted to know. It can be a great story of interest to many people, worthy of donating to a great library and kept intact. It may just as likely be a personal story, one of interest only to the collector, but shaped with just as great a passion as any other collection. The monetary or scholarly value of the collection does not matter, the size does not matter and even the condition of the material may not matter. What matters is the purposeful shaping of the story. Why did that collector want only reprints of Nancy Drew, instead of originals? What does that tell us about the impact of those stories on girls? A frequent regret is that many a fine small collection's story was lost when the owner passed. I urge collectors to write the story of their collections, whether in a blog, a book, or just as an ongoing record to refer to and alter over time.

An accumulation is what most of us have. Most of my books on history and graphic arts are just books that I like. Together they do not tell much of a story or have any greater theme than my personal, varying interests. Nor should they. Good accumulations of books are fun and varied and damned interesting. They can tell as much about a reading person as a finely focused collection, perhaps more.

What Amazon is missing is a deeper understanding of what can make up a collection. As I said, it is anything, so trying to put a fence around collectible is simply a modern search for the Seven Cities of Cibola, apologies to Señor Coronado. "Qualities that could reasonably be assumed to increase the book's value" is not related to collectibility, or even desirability in every case. It is related to monetary value and perhaps scarcity, but that is all. If I am collecting every edition of Faulkner, many of those editions may not be pricey at all, or uncommon. If one collects books on American Teddy Bears in the 20th century, then the issues are the same. An edition of a reprint publisher may not be rare or expensive or indeed have anything different than the first edition of the original publisher, but it shows that the book still has interest. Bibliographically, it may tell us something about the publisher, trade book making, or even printing processes at different times. There are even collections of damaged books, used by teachers, book repair folk or libraries to show the fragility or ill-use of books.

Their rule stating "We do not allow.... replica or knock-off products" is just weak thinking. Facsimiles are replicas. The First Editions Library makes lovely replica first editions of important American literature in slipcases and nice dust jackets. These are quite collectible, though modestly priced. The important thing is that they are described as such, and not misdescribed by incompetence or ill intent. You can also require folks use pictures, but pictures can mislead as much as words.

I understand that Amazon wants some way to move the better books away from the mass of common books. But the best way to do that is demand better description and cataloging, and then the give the searcher better tools to define what they want to see. How about a way to exclude all ex-library books, or all ebooks? How about doing away with or correcting all records stating "unknown binding"? These are actually far more substantial improvements for buyers and collectors than a "collectibility" initiative.

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Myles of Books, Part the Fifth in which a Book is Turned Away

Topher regained a bit of the joy of having a shop as the week went on. Sales were not spectacular, but steady. A few people brought books for sale, and he was able to buy a few things and not pay too much or too little. People both walking by and coming in had appreciative faces, and a number out and out welcomed him. One or two shook their heads at his window sign. All Topher could do is shrug and wave.

It wasn't until the end of the week that Tom Knowles presented himself. He had either had a rough few days or been mugged minutes before entering the bookshop. Topher went with the mugging option and urged Tom toward the big chair.

"You ok, Tom?" he said.

Tom sat down on the edge of the seat, his long, creased face bent toward his chest. "Yeah man. I'm good. Just, just kinda beat today. I was going sweet the last few days, then crashed. I'll be good as new come the weekend." He leaned back and closed his eyes.

"Good to hear." Topher nodded. "You want a soda or a glass of water? "Nah, I'm more hungry than thirsty. Gonna grab a burger over at the Downtown on my way back home. I could gnaw the... " he leaned forward quickly and looked around, noticing a young couple at the back of the shop. "Well, I could gnaw whichever end of a cow you gave me right now."

Topher nodded anxiously then plunged ahead. "Um, did you get my call the other day?"

Tom looked up and ran a thick hand through graying brown hair. "Yeah, damn man, I'm sorry. I cut a bad template and used it all over the window. I'll fix that up right tomorrow. I just wanted to come by and let you know I wasn't dead or blowing you off."

"No problem, Tom. I didn't think either of those things. Arthur said you'd come by soon enough."

Tom rubbed his jaw. "Yeah, he knows me pretty well. I gave him a few calls back in the day when I did more work and heard about books here and there. I also made every shelf he has in his house at one time or another, unless he snuck some cheap mail order stuff. Good guy."

Tom placed his thick hands on the arms of the chair and pushed himself up. "Alright. I'm out. Thanks for being cool about your sign there Topher. I'll fix it no charge. My mistake, my time."

Topher stood up from leaning against the desk and shook Tom's hand. "Thanks Tom. Come by some time around closing and I'll join you at the diner."

"Cool. See you tomorrow." Tom walked out the shop slowly, but a little straighter.

Topher smiled a bit. One down, he thought. A proper sign for a proper bookshop.


Later that day, an order had come in from Canada for an art book on Kachina Dolls. Topher mulled briefly whether the person was an expatriate Arizonan or just a collector far way from what she loved. He found it soon enough, right next to a different book he did not remember having. It was an older book about a man from Kentucky at the Russian Court, which should have been in the Russia section and not Fine Arts. It also had no price in it.

He had just walked the oddly manifested book up to the desk when he saw a middle aged man with graying hair struggling in with a flat oversized box in his arms and a woman holding open the door for him.

Need some help with that?" Topher asked, moving toward the couple.

"Nope, I got it. Can I put 'er down on that table? " The man jerked his head toward the table with a a few Modern Library titles laying on it.

"Sure thing." Topher rushed over and cleared the books off onto a step stool.

"Thanks." The man set down his burden gently. "I was driving by last month, and saw you setting up. I told my wife, and we thought we'd bring this by." The man, early in his older years, carefully opened the box and pressed down the flaps. He looked up at Topher, smiling. "Not often you'll see a book this old is such good shape."

The woman nodded, glasses jingling above her expansive, sequined bosom. "We kept it boxed up, to make sure it doesn't get damaged. Open it up Bill."

Bill went back to the box. He lifted a second box carefully out of the first, and set it down next to it. He opened that box, revealing something wrapped in a towel. Topher glanced up to see the woman was beaming at him, while her husband began to gently lift back the folds of the towel. Topher raised his eye brows and tightened his mouth to show his seeming anticipation.

Under the towel was yet another layer of brown paper, which Bill set to work on carefully. "May, move the box over so I can take this out."

May quickly grabbed the first box and set it on the floor. Bill pushed the brown paper aside and pulled out a small square surrounded by bubble wrap. He gently set it down, and opened the last barrier to the treasure. "There it is. Still in great shape."

With those words, Topher began taking the first steps in the fine bookmanly art of gently deflecting visions of glory toward realistic possibilities.

On the table, set in the middle of the plastic cushion was a red and gilt edition of Tom Sawyer Abroad. The covers of the book were frayed at the edges, and its spine had seen better days. Topher looked at the couple nervously, but not for the reason they supposed.

"Go ahead," Bill said. "You can touch it."

Topher mumbled a thanks, then opened the front cover and gently turned the first few very browned and fragile pages. Dreaded words appeared. Volume XX. Authorized Uniformed Edition. 1910. Harpers.

He wasn't up on the latest ins and outs of Twain editions, but he knew this was not high on the list. Tom Sawyer was written in 1876, and he also knew the British edition preceded the American by a number of months. It wasn't much, but it was enough to give him a sinking feeling in his stomach.

Then he saw some writing, right on the inside of the cover. In a bold hand was the signature of one "Abner Chambers" with an early date and the name of a local town. It was an opening, and he took it.

"Um, do you know who this Abner Chambers is?" he asked.

May looked over at the open book. "My mom mentioned she had a great uncle named Abner. I always thought that was him."

"Did she say anything about him? Was he a mayor or anything?"

May looked at Bill, who shrugged. "Mom never told me much about him. Do you know the name?"

Topher shook his head. "Nope. But, this is an old book, and it has been in your family awhile. It might be worth looking into Abner. Won't hurt the value of the book if you wait to sell it either."

"Never thought of that. What do you think., Bill?" she asked.

"That might be an idea, May," Bill said. "We've always said we wanted to work on the family tree for the kids. Maybe this'll be useful."

"Ok, " she said, looking at the book again. "We'll take your suggestion. Very nice of you to put family over money."

Topher brought up his hands, palms outward. "Well, some books belong in a particular place, with particular people. I'm happy to help with that however it happens."

Bill reached over, and just as carefully rewrapped the book in the bubble wrap, the paper, and the towel, and finally replaced it in the box, which was put back into the the original container.

"Just out of curiosity," Bill said, "how much would a book like that go for?"

Topher flinched. "I couldn't say without some more research. But that name makes it unique, that's for sure."

Bill nodded. "It sure does. Thanks for the help, Mr. Myles. If we find anything else of interest, we stop here first." May waved as Bill picked up the box. Topher waved back as they left.

Collapsing in his chair, Topher sat for a moment, then went ahead and looked up the book on the web. Being generous, the retail prices was $1.59. With shipping, five and a half. Those were not numbers that would have produced a happy ending in a conversation with May and Bill. On the plus side, Topher thought, if old Abner did turn out to be the mayor of some town, it might triple the value of the book.

May and Bill turned out to be the last customers of the day for the shop. After he had closed up and settled the accounts, Topher sat alone in the shop. His first week nearly done, and he was still in the black. His window would be corrected soon, and he hadn't made a fool out of himself. Good, the thought. Time for a treat.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Myles of Books, Part the Fourth - With Dog Ears

The next morning the problematic window only took a bit off Topher's mood. Arthur had bought them a fine dinner and they had talked at length of books and sales and book folks of the past and present. Topher thought again how he looked forward to what lay ahead of him and what he had to learn. What lay ahead after the sign was fixed, that is.

He checked the answering machine for the shop. No messages from Tom. He went over unlocked the door, made a paper sign that noted a correction for the window was on the way, and his second day began.

Things were a bit slower. He did see the spellchecker walk by his shop with a flock of other women, who stopped briefly outside the shop to talk excitedly and peer in. Topher half waved, but they had already looked away and were clattering onward.

He had finished with psychology the day before, so he took the opportunity to review his final layout. Art, hobbies, sports, and new arrivals near the front. Mystery, Science Fiction and Early History across from his desk. Religion was right next to his desk. Arthur and his other mentor, book scout par excellence Ned Pack, had warned him that religion is where most of the book lifting was liable to occur. He wasn't worried, but he followed their advice. Pack also suggested he make an out of the way place near the door and put books he wanted to get rid of there. "If you can't sell 'em, let the thieves nab 'em." Topher was still mulling that one over.

The rest was straightforward. The shelves in the center of the shop had European and American history on one side, with the other social sciences on the other. On the wall across from the history his small section on military history and next to that ethnic cultures. There was an alcove across from the social science shelves where Topher had cookbooks, movies, and science and technology. Those subjects didn't necessarily go together, but they fit the space. The back third of the shop held the literature, drama, music, and literary criticism. Here and there he had small benches, but the only customer chair was the Dunning. Topher had made small signs for each section, and had room left over on the shelves to put a number of books cover out, which appeared to have paid off so far. "You don't buy cereal from the spine," Arthur had said. "You buy what's on the front." Topher also had a number of books in the window, including an attractive but cheap Tolstoi set and group of the more attractive Modern Library titles.

Satisfied, Topher sat down in his squeaky chair. He piled his internet orders in front of him, and began packaging them. About half way through the pile, he heard the door open.

A woman and a small boy came in. Topher greeted them.

"Do you have any children's books?" the woman asked.

"No, sorry. Have you tried The Midnight Stand Bookshop on the other side of campus"

"Oh yes. He had piles of picture books on the floor and shelves. It was a bit hard to find things."

Topher smiled. "Yeah, that is kind of how he arranges things. You can find some nice books there, but it takes some work."

The woman smiled back, and looked around. The kid was standing in the leather chair, eyeing a particularly bloody book cover.

"Do you just have rare books?" she said.

"No ma'am. Most of our books run between five and fifteen dollars. And things look this clean because we just opened yesterday."

"Oh, you do have a lovely shop."

"Mama, is this a library?" asked the kid, tearing himself away from a gory cover.

"No dear, but they don't have any books for us. Thank you sir. " she reached for junior.

"No they don't. They should get kids books so we can come back. Otherwise we won''t. " He took his mother's hand and they left the shop as Topher looked on, a bit shocked.

Topher had avoided kids books because he knew so little about them. But Arthur said folks always had something to say about running someone else's bookshop, he thought. He just didn't expect the first comment would come so soon, or from someone so short and blunt.

By the end of the second day, Topher had sold another hundred and fifty dollars worth of books. A few less people had come in than the day before, but a couple books were on his hold shelf behind the desk. Someone had wanted to buy his reference book on Mark Twain that he kept above the hold shelf, but it wasn't for sale.

"Not for sale? In a bookshop?" the man had shook his head and left. Maybe I need to make a sign, thought Topher.

Just as he was taping up the new sign on his reference-not-for-sale shelf, another woman in flopping ears and a dog related t-shirt stepped in the shop. Slightly younger than Priscilla with a forest of hair, she took off her ears almost immediately upon entering.

She raised her hand. "Hi, I'm Jen. I work for Priscilla next door."

"Ahh, Yeah, Priscilla mentioned you and Walter. Nice to meet you."

"You too. This is your bookstore? Looks good." she said, attempting to order the mass on her head. The mass won in a way that suggested it had never been defeated. "She's making us wear these this week."

"Well, it certainly makes an impression." Topher said, smiling.

"Heh, yeah. It looks ok in the pet store, but I'm not gonna look like I'm from a clown convention when I'm out and about." She stuck the ears in her belt as she glanced around. "I think this is just what we needed."

"I hope so. We do have three other used and rare shops in town."

"We do? Oh, you mean that jumble of a place and that other one that sells antiques too. And the closed one. Yours seems more like a regular bookshop, not a junk pile or museum."

Topher laughed. "Yep. Peyterson's Fine Books and Masterworks. They have some museum quality stuff, certainly. "

"It'll be a few lifetimes before I can go in there and buy anything, and only then if I get a discount. I do have a book that is kinda old, but not in great shape. We've had it in our family a long time. Heck, we go back as far as the Peytersons here. Too bad our money don't".

Topher nodded. The Peytersons made money back in the early 19th century and folks said they had been coasting on it ever since. Not very fair, but it did have a grain of truth. Honestly, Topher thought, coasting had its appeal at times. He was hoping he would have that opportunity himself in a couple decades.

The woman turned to him, her reddish tipped black hair shaking like a bush assaulted by small, furious animal. "You ever deal in old books? Or just these newer ones here?"

"We do have some older books. Not many. I'm still new at this, but I hope to have more over time." he said.

"Can you tell me what an old book is worth?"

"I can try. I have some reference books here," he said as he pointed to his new sign. "and I can use others at the University. The Gebers Foundation has references too."

"Does it cost?" she asked, looking as if she expected the worst.

"Well, it depends on what you need. If you need a formal appraisal for insurance or a donation, I can refer you to Arthur Bailey, who has a lot of experience with that. He would charge something depending on the time it took. If you just want a quick idea or if you want to sell it, I can probably help with that."

"Hell no, I'm not donating this book. It's an old furniture book, lotsa neat pictures. If it's expensive, we'll probably sell it. Walter and I have a couple girls getting ready for high school, and we're putting money in the bank for college, as much as we can. If it's not, then we'll just keep it and pass it on I figure."

Topher nodded. "Fair enough. Bring it in anytime, and I'll take a look at it. We'll go from there. Even it isn't expensive, I'm sure I'd learn something from it, and that's always worth it".

"Ok then. You're eager, I give you that," she said. "I appreciate it. I will try to bring in the book in later this week or early next." She pulled the ears from her belt and put them back on, where they sat deep enough that only half or so were showing. "Good luck....?"

"Topher," he said. "Topher Myles."

"Good meeting you Mr. Myles. Good luck with the shop."

"Thanks, and just call me Topher. That's good enough."

"Will do." she said, and through the door she went, ears, hair, and all.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Myles of Books, Part the Third

The rest of the day was better, which is to say no further glaring problems were presented to him. He had perhaps a dozen folks in between ten and six, counting his initial walking spellchecker. About half mentioned the misspelling, and the other half asked if he really had miles of books. Only one asked him if he had read all of them.

A few even bought some books. Most notably a professor he had seen at the university bought an solid but not expensive book on the Iroquois in the Revolutionary War by Mintz. Topher had placed it cover side out on a shelf because of its attractive dust jacket. "Let the book work for you." his friend Arthur had said, and he always tried to keep that in mind.

By five o'clock he had made over a hundred and fifty dollars in the shop, and had orders from the internet for another fifty-five. After subtracting the cost of the books and credit card and internet fees Topher figured he made about one hundred and thirty dollars, give or take. Not great, he thought, but not a bad day either.

Arthur came in beard first just as he was finishing the numbers and gave an appreciative look around the shop. "I see you still have a few books left. Good. I guess you'll still be open tomorrow ."

"Yeah, sold a few but not all. That'll be next week. Thanks again for all the help in getting this off the ground." The two men shook hands.

"A pleasure my boy, a pleasure. Usually used books seem to be a game for the older crowd, so it is good to see a young person enter the trade. Not so jaded by the world, not so cranky." Arthur sat down in a comfortable leather-seated Dunning chair near the mystery section.

Topher sat down on a step stool opposite. "You're not so cranky."

Arthur's white teeth shone through his artificially dark beard. "No, but I don't have an open shop. And I certainly don't have to get out there every week to hunt books. That can turn some men into ogres. Take Harry Cherin, over at Open Door Books. Closed his shop 5 years ago. Best location in town, great books, now doesn't want to deal with the public at all, except over the internet. Doesn't even buy collections anymore. Just hunts library and estate sales. Last time he was at the Lugston sale I heard he got into fisticuffs with not one but two, " Arthur help up two plump fingers. "Two bookscouts. He won, but the ladies tossed all of them. They might have been allowed to stay if they had come close to real boxing rather than just flailing about, I heard. Art is often appreciated when you least expect it."

"What book were they fighting over?"

"What book?" Arthur chuckled. "No particular book I imagine. Too many hands in the same place. A shove or a grab. Tensions run high at some sales. There's not too many things at a sale I would fight over. Maybe a Marilyn Playboy."

Topher smiled. "I'll make sure I give him a wide berth. Anything good sell for you lately?"

Arthur looked absently over Topher's shoulder for a moment. "Ah yes. A nice little batch of letters written by William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Kansas Gazette. Good bits about barbed wire at the Republican convention podium and Taft being pried out of a bathtub. Biting stuff. Not too expensive these days, but great for Teddy Roosevelt and political collectors. And for those who like barbed wire and naked presidents I suppose."

"Well, if there is much call for naked presidents I'll have to start a section." Topher said as he stood.

"Don't, my boy. Such things always attract the wrong sort. How about an old bookman taking the younger out for dinner after his first professional day? "

"Sounds great. I still have hour or so to go. I better not close early my first day."

"Of course. Now, I'll just peruse your early American history section for any overlooked treasures." Arthur leaned forward and rose with just a bit of effort from the Dunning, and began quickly scanning the shelves. "Never pass up War of 1812 books, Topher. Even the new ones are good. Ahh, yes, here's Quimby. Excellent."

Arthur then caught the name of the shop on the glass as the sun poured through. "Topher, you should call Tom about his lettering work. You paid him before he did that, didn't you?"

Topher glanced up at the big window. "I already called him, but yeah, I paid him after the shelves. I figured he just had a bit left to do, so I'd get it out of the way."

Arthur chuckled. "Well, he'll feel bad about it. Just don't pay him early anymore."

Topher shook his head and went back to his records. Arthur's presence must have been good luck, as a few more customers came in and for a while the shop looked busy, with no comments on misspellings. The day ended strong, with the Quimby going to Arthur and other books of literature and religion sold as well. The extra two hundred dollars almost made up for the window.

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HoB Nob - Histories of the Book in 7 countries

There are many books about the minutia of publishers, printers, booksellers, and authors lives, or how books are made, or how to collect books, or how a particular library was put together. On a grander scale, there are many books on the broad sweep of books, covering cuneiform tablets to ebooks, or the greatest books or libraries in the world. But the middle ground, the book histories of a particular place across time, or of a particular time across places, are less common. National book histories are important landmarks in this middle ground, and it is remarkable that such books on seven major English language nations are all coming out at nearly the same time.

Start clearing bookshelf space now.

Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland , Scotland, and New Zealand are the countries in question, with the university presses of Cambridge, North Carolina, Toronto, Queensland, Oxford, and Otago doing the heavy lifting, and the American Antiquarian Society helping out the US effort. The works are in various stages of completion, with Vol. 3 of Britain's history by Cambridge leading the way in 1999, and Canada being the first of the countries to finish, with their 3rd volume appearing in 2007.

Britain's history will be seven volumes, 3 of which are already printed, with 2 more on the way this year. The three volumes out, vols. 2-4, cover the period from 1100 to 1695, with the next 2 covering 1695-1914 out by the end of summer. On series page, a brief discussion of the series states:

The seven volumes of the History of the Book in Britain will help explain how these texts were created, why they took the forms they did, their relations with other media, and what influence they had on the minds and actions of those who heard, read or viewed them.

The books will be collections of essays that collectively will cover the period thoroughly. It will be the most scholarly of the group (though all will be well done I think), I imagine, and also the mos expensive. I have vol. 3 and I think they do a fine job, and will slowly buy the rest as the reference purse permits.

The United States series started shortly after the British, and has a bit more of a convoluted publishing history. The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester MA is the prime mover in this series, originally working with Cambridge University Press to produce the first volume in the series, The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World. It was reissued by the AAS and the University of North Carolina Press in paperback in 2007. What prompted the change in partners for AAS I do not know - perhaps Cambridge already had enough on its plate with the British series. In any case, vol. 3 The Industrial Book, 1840-1880 followed in August of that year, and vol. 4 Print in Motion: 1880-1940 was just released in January 2009. V. 5 The Enduring Book: Print Culture in Postwar America is promised in September of this year, and will be a major addition to book history of the most recent period. All volumes except for v. 1 are available from UNC in hardcover only, but for about a third of what the British series costs per volume.

The Canadian series by the University of Toronto Press (Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal is doing the French edition) is, as mentioned above, the only one of the six to be completed. Starting with vol. 1 published in 2004, the three volumes cover to 1840, to 1918, and to 1980 respectively. Our reading group here at the shop read vol. 1, and while I would not recommend it other reading groups, it is very informative and an excellent resource. As with other series, the Canadian is a one of a kind resource and a well constructed set of books. The price for these volumes runs approx.. $85 USD each or so new, a bit more than the US series.

Australia's effort by the University of Queensland Press is affectionately called the HOBA, for A History of the Book in Australia. Like Canada, this is a three volume effort. Volume I is not yet scheduled for release, but vol. II 1890-1945 came out in October 2001, with vol. III Paper Empires : 1946-2005 arriving in summer 2006. Like the other series, a collection of different essays and case-studies are presented to provide a broad view during the different times. Vol. II appears to only be in hardcover, while vol. III appears to have a paperback edition in addition to the hardcover. Prices for the hardcovers are around $75.00 USD.

The Irish book history series of 5 books is being published by Oxford. The first work in that series is Vol. III The Irish Book in English, 1550-1800 came out in early spring 2006. Again a collection of essays by scholars and well made. This volume looks primarily at the printed book in Ireland and its effect on the culture and covers the spread of presses throughout ireland from English areas to the rest of the island. I did not see when the next volumes were scheduled, and I fear that the downturn in the world economy may delay this series and perhaps others. The book costs 195.00 USD for new copies, and I don't think used ones will be very common.

The University of Edinburgh is publishing the Scottish series through its Centre for the History of the Book. The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland Project, or EHOBS, started off with a bang on St. Andrews Day 2007, with two volumes released at once. The two, Ambition and Industry 1800-1880 and Professionalism and Diversity 1880-2000 are the last two in the series. I could find no scheduled date or tentative titles for the first two. The volumes are, like the other UK works, expensive, with prices similar to the Irish and British series.

The last of the seven nations to begin its History of the Book series is New Zealand/Aotearoa. While an earlier work called A Book in the Hand: Essays on the History of the Book in New Zealand was published in 2001, it seems to be a smattering of essays more literary rather than a more concerted overview of the history. I learned of the upcoming volume from a brief entry in Beattie's Book Blog by a New Zealand Publisher and bookseller. Further investigate uncovered a blurb from the Humanities Research Network in NZ/A that is a call for scholars to work on a single volume that covers both Maori and English books and publishing, divvied into 4 time periods from 1830-2010. There is no suggestion as to the publication date, but I think if we see it before 2012 I will be surprised, as they are just getting started. I do wish the team there success and happy researching.

Such works as these listed above are important landmarks in any field. As such, they take a great deal of effort and time to finish. I have firm hopes that all of the projects will be completed, because many hands are at work in each group. My only fear is that the essays won't dovetail well enough, and that gaps may appear in the different histories. I have not seen that so far in the volumes I personally own, but in other areas such as medieval history the collections of essays sometimes seem a hodgepodge of scholarly essays loosely connected by the broad title of the work.

So, as I said. clear shelf space. These books will be thick, well made, and full of new research. You may not want all of the series, but don't wait too long to get the volumes you do want. I imagine the works are geared toward academic institutions and the print runs will not be large.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Myles of Books, Part the Second

Back inside and flipping though his three ring shop notebook, he heard the door open again. A smiling woman entered with a box in her hands, wearing a long t-shirt decorated with artfully placed dog footprints, valentines and the words "Hounds Love Hornungs". She was also wearing huge, droopy dog ears on her head, but how they were attached Topher could not fathom.

"Welcome to the street," she said, thrusting her hand out in greeting. "I'm Priscilla Hornung from the shop next door".

Topher shook her hand, but kept his eyes on the shaking ears. "Ahh the pet shop. Lovely place. Your windows are always interesting to see." Which was true. He had never seen so many confusing things for dogs.

"You think? Well, I have a great deal of fun putting them together. We even sell a few things out of them. It is very nice of you to say. And here, these are for you and your staff." Priscilla held out the box, which smelled of donuts and had a card on top illustrated just like her shirt.

"Thank you. These will last me a while, It's just me here, no staff yet." he said, as he took the box from her, glad it wasn't a set of ears.

"No staff? Dear, I don't know what I would do without Walter and Jennie. I think they could run the shop without me. They actually do usually run the shop without me, to be honest, but it is fun to do the windows and visit with everyone."

Topher wasn't sure what to say next, and smiled a bit through an awkward silence. He grabbed for the obvious. "Lots of folks here have dogs, so you must get a lot of business".

Priscilla leaned in and looked as serious as someone wearing hound ears could look. "They do, they do. We even sell puppies, very select breeds to very select clients mind you. Nothing from puppy farms. We only carry one or two at a time, and we have a rigorous adoption process."

"Well, that is important," he said. "Dogs are a big responsibility."

Priscilla smiled. "Do you have dogs, Mr. Myles?"

"No ma'am. I've never owned a house, and I am not around much at home, so it didn't seem fair to get one."

"Very sensible, very sensible. All true of course. One must take time to properly take care of a dog," she said. "Well, I must get back. Congratulations on your shop, and I wish you the best."

Topher waved and hoped her fluttering ears would not catch as the door closed behind her. She passed unscathed, thankfully, and he went back to the notebook.

He found the number quickly and called. The phone rang, and finally the
machine picked up.

"You've reached Tom Noels at 567-9087. Please leave a message and a way to get back to ya, because that'll help."

"Hi Tom," he said. "This is Topher Myles. It, uh, seems we have a small problem with the window lettering here at the shop. I was wondering if you could come by before the weekend and fix it up. You should have my number, so gimme a call when you can. Thanks."

Topher hung up, closed the notebook, and looked at the window again. Nothing to do 'til Tom comes back, he thought, so back to psychology. He picked up the set of Freud he had laid down earlier and went back to work.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Oak Knoll Press - The Bookseller to the Book World

If you like any aspect of the book arts, history of the book, bookselling, or library history, you need to know about Oak Knoll Press in Delaware. They have made the books about books field their own, publishing new titles for any budget and distributing books for smaller publishers that might be overlooked without them.

And they even have a festival.

As you can see from their front page, Oak Knoll was started in 1978 by Bob Fleck, to fill a void of booksellers who sold books about books. They issue 35 titles a year, on such topics as book collecting, book design, binding, forgery, papermaking, typography, calligraphy, and more. Some of the titles, like Rostenberg & Stern's OLD BOOKS IN THE OLD WORLD, are quite affordable, in the 20-25 dollar range, while others like Bennett's TRADE BOOKBINDING IN THE BRITISH ISLES 1660-1800 are specialty publications with excellent illustrations and sell north of $80.00.

Oak Knoll has deep and important ties to other organizations and publishers as well. They co-publish books with the British Library and the Library of Congress, for example. They are the exclusive distributor for 10 firms, and for selected titles from 13 more. These firms include the American Antiquarian Society, the Bibliographical Societies for the US & UK, the Caxton Club, and many others. These publishing and distribution arrangements allows them to be almost one stop shopping for books on any niche of the book world.

The other important aspect of Oak Knoll to note is the quality of production they bring to their books. Without exception, any book published by them, and virtually all distributed by them, are well made and attractive. Good paper, solid binding, and good layout are hallmarks. The previously mentioned TRADE BOOKBINDING IN THE BRITISH ISLES is a prime example. It is scholarly but accessible, well illustrated, with a unique focus, and is most definitely practical. That work alone would make one notice a publishing house, and Oak Knoll has dozens.

From a bookseller's standpoint, Oak Knoll stands out for two features. The utility of the publications they carry for the trade, and the commitment they have to publish books directly about bookselling past and present. Not a day goes by that I do not use either a bibliography or reference work they did not have a hand in publishing or distributing. The memories they have published of American and European bookshops and booksellers both inspire me and help me be a better, more professional bookseller. If a bookseller's reference library is their tool set, then Oak Knoll is the equivalent of the Craftsman company. You can't go wrong with them.

Oh, and the festival is called Oak Knoll Fest. The next one is in October of 2009, but they generally do not have information on the next event up til summer. It is definitely on my list of book festivals to visit.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Books Away! Dilemmas with Book Shipping Fees

There are two common scenarios for disappointment with shipping. Both start the same way. You're looking on one of the book or auction sites for a title you really want. You find it at a good price, but then you look again - shipping is $7+ for media shipping. That's scenario #1. The second scenario kicks in when you actually get the book. Let's say you paid $4 for shipping. But when you get the book, it is packaged loose in a padded envelope, which does little or nothing to protect book book. You may or may not see the actual shipping cost, but either way it's a poor result.

These two events happen all the time, and the blame is shared most everyone selling books.

In the first case, the seller is clearly overcharging for shipping. Rare books, oversized or heavy books, or even expensive book can cost that much regularly (or more) if packaged well and insured. But when buying though any site where a seller sets the price for shipping, Anything above $5 is too much for an average octavo sized book, if not insured, heavy, rare or expensive. For us, media shipping is around $2.25, .35 cents for the box, and perhaps 75 cents (at the most, it can be cheaper). $3.50 generally is the most shipping will actually cost us for media mail in the US.

The second scenario is far more common on sites where shipping fees are capped, or when the book itself is quite cheap. The quiet policy of sites like Amazon, Alibris, and recently ABE is to take a chunk of the shipping fee for their own use. For Alibris and Amazon, that fee is approx. $1.34-1.35 per fee. Amazon compounds this by not allowing discounts with the same seller (feel free to let me know in the comments if I am mistaken here, but I don't think so). There fore, sellers do not get the $4 a buyer pays for shipping. They receive about $2.65 or so. Many seller respond by shipping the cheapest way possible, and that means the lightest possible packaging in least expensive package. Indeed, some sellers make more money on the shipping, than they do the book itself, if the book is very cheap. And, given the math I shared with you above, that means we at Motte & Bailey lose money on shipping. We often do. Pretty much anyone who wants to ship a book properly does.

In both cases the buyer is not getting the service for which they paid, partly out of greed by the bookseller and partly out of greed by the bookselling sites. Business models are business models. They can be whatever is not illegal. But, like most folks, if I pay $4 for shipping, I want to see $4 in shipping. For sellers, I can understand the cost of materials in shipping fees, and insurance if need be. But everything else should be in the price of the book.

Likewise, the bookselling sites are taking part of the buyer's cost of shipping and simply pocketing it. For what? The best argument they have is that they are charged a fee when processing the credit card fee for that Amount. I understand that, but no credit card company charges 33% on a four dollar charge. None. It is simply a money grab, and the result is shoddy shipping practices are reinforced across the board. It is my greatest irritant in dealing with Amazon and Alibris.

There is nothing illegal about trying to generate income from shipping, but it has always smacked of sharp practice to me. Shipping should be a covered cost, not an income generating service, unless you are UPS or FedEx or the Post office. It costs sales, goodwill, and often the book itself, damaged or destroyed when the cheap packaging gives up its already tenuous ghost.

So look for shipping costs. Go to various websites. Buy direct as much as possible. For us, we offer free media shipping when people buy directly from our site, as it saves us money from a host of fees and delays that accompany any sales at the big book sites.


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Book Club Editions - The Good, Bad, and Ugly

We often see book club editions of works, either offered to us in the shop or at the various library or garage book sales we attend. On occasion we will visit a home and an entire library will contain nothing but book club editions, all looking smart and even in their tidy rows.

At such times I think - I wonder how much bulk pulp paper goes for these days?

Lest you think I am on the verge of forgoing bookselling for recycling, let me explain. Book clubs - Book of the Month Club, the History Book Club, the Science Fiction book club, the Romance Book Club, the Mystery Book Club, etc. etc. etc. supply reasonably priced books to a host of readers across the country. The are currently almost all printed by the Book Club master, Bookspan, a wholly owned subsidiary of the mega media giant Bertlesmann. The books are generally smaller in size than trade editions with different binding and paper. Most are hardcovers, but not all. Many are in standard size and do indeed look quite nice on a shelf. Most are cheaper in price than original editions as well.

In some cases, they are collectible. Some genre fiction sees its first hardcover (or only) edition in book club form, and often the dust jackets reproduce the original designs. This allows a collector to at least have the appearance of some of the earlier important works without the cost of the original editions.

For readers, there are benefits as well. It is sometimes easier to find a hardcover book club edition of a book than a paperback copy. Copies are, as noted above, cheaper than new trade editions. Club membership can also be managed online, certainly an improvement over the old card system.

That said, overall I am not a fan. I will pick up book club editions of science fiction when the dust jackets reproduce the original designs, but beyond that call me Savonarola. Book club book, esp. hardcovers, use lower quality paper and binding than trade editions. They are usually smaller, and sometimes not printed as sharply. In the early days, the book clubs would sometimes sell copies printed by the original publisher and You pay less, and you certainly get less.

They are also confusing and mis-described all over the used book market. Newer book clubs editions are harder to spot, as this article at the Tom Folio website notes, though a more extensive article is needed. Either by lack of attention or education, or by sharp practice, booksellers often offer book club editions as first editions. Many book club dust jackets do not print the price on the flap, and more mercenary booksellers sometimes clip the corner to hide this fact. Others simply do not note that the book is a book club edition, and price it as if it were the original trade edition.

In financially tight times, book clubs can seem like a good deal. But book club books also are not necessarily good value books. While book club editions are cheaper, in many cases waiting a bit will allow you to get a even cheaper used copy of a nice, well made trade edition of the same book. Such a copy will last longer, and have better resale value, than a book club edition. Even with shipping, it is at least no more than the grasping "shipping & handling" charges by the book clubs.

So take a longer term view with book club editions. Think about what you want the book for when you buy - just to read or to collect. Will you want it for a long time, or just for now? And what does a book club really cost compared to a used copy of a better edition? And what is the current price per pound of pulp paper?


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