Tuesday, March 07, 2006


More Signs of Spring

Over the last several days I've had a few bookdealers stop in, some looking like groundhogs emerging from their little burrows to see if the sun is out for good or not. This happens every year at about this time. I think it's an ancient migratory urge of some kind that now affects only secondhand shopkeepers. We ask each other what's been happening, how has business been, found any good books lately, did you go to that big book auction, make it through the winter ok? Here comes another season. I like the camaradarie of this business. It's great to catch up.

Other folks are dusting themselves off, too, however. I've also just had the first batch of people in who want try to sell their old books to a shop before they put them in their upcoming spring yard sale for a dime apiece. Most times, these books are not lovely. They are, in fact, ten-cent yard sale books. Once in a while, though...

I once took my local bouqiniste (as booksellers are called here in France) a bagload of books that I just didn't have shelfspace for any more. He refused one by a Philippe Labro, a well-know French novelist because, he said, he found his style too "slippery".
It was an oddly humiliating experience!
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Shame on the bouqiniste (great word, however...)! My primary concern when someone is trying to sell me books over the counter: kindness. It's a delicate thing, sometimes, telling a person I don't want to buy his/her books, so if the answer is no I keep it simple without going into why (unless the person asks for specifics, because he/she has more books to bring in).

"Trafficking in Old Books" by Australian bookseller Anthony Marshall (Lost Domain, 1998) has a rollicking chapter on this very issue. I laughed out loud for much of it. It would be worthwhile reading for people thinking of taking their misfit books into their local used bookshop.
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