Friday, November 17, 2006


Bad business

It's confirmed, I am a bad businesswoman. Pathetic, really. A gentleman called earlier today to inquire if the book on my blog (see last post) is for sale. No, it's not. It's mine, ALL MINE! He didn't think it actually was for sale, but was kind enough to check with me before he bought a copy elsewhere. I had to tell him that I didn't think I'd ever offered a book for sale on this blog, and I don't think I ever will. I just like to share the cool (to my mind) books that I've found with a few other people who might give a damn. Who might even want their own copies. Anyway, no sale, but at least someone else is hot-footing out after this deeply wonderful book, and a hapless used bookseller somewhere will benefit from it. Meanwhile, I'm working on a new painting today and otherwise taking it easy, because no customers are interrupting me. None. Oop - I spoke too soon. People approaching.

As an inveterate collector of books about books — and almost anything related to the finer forms of books — I never actually met a bookseller who was willing to sell his book-related books ! (Unless, of course, the seller has several duplicates — one or two is not enough, it seems —, or unless he also happens to be the publisher...) I myself used to operate an antiquarian bookstore, and I would NEVER have sold my precious specialty books, except when I had more than three copies in my hoard. And even then, I would hesitate...

YET, it is indeed quite frustrating to get so close to a long sought book, and to see it escape you — just because the seller doesn't want to sell ! You must know the feeling yourself, I'm sure. The fact that with your blog, you also act here as the temptress, just makes keeping the book more cynical, though... But please, please enjoy the book for every other person who may be missing it ! Cheers !
I don't think that's being a bad business person. The trick is in knowing what floats your own boat and what keeps the bookstore from sinking. (I'd say you passed the reality check in this post.)

My theory is starting to gel: used bookstore owners who (subconsiously) don't really want to sell their books (but whose appetite for hoarding everything threatens to sink them) find excuses for not displaying recent 'finds' out in the open, where customers can see and purchase them.

The variations on this scenario must be legion. Glass cases, ridiculously high pricing of the gems, et cetera.

Oh, and thanks, Sarah, for the kind words about my blog in a previous post-comment exchange heree on Sarah's Books - Used and Rare.

Let me add to the fire and desire we all are sharing in this moment by citing your book find:

The London Bookshop: Being Part Two of a Pictorial Record of the Antiquarian Book Trade: Portraits & Premises,by Richard Brown and Stanley Brett (Private Libraries Association, 1977).
Dear Pierre, I've told people before that I would have a great bookshop if I could bring myself to part with all the books I keep for myself at home. Because I can't bring myself to, I have a merely good bookshop. Which suffices. I upgrade my duplicates, then take great pleasure in selling the lesser copies in my small books-about-books section at the shop. And I always take a selection of books-about-books to the book fair.

Do you know The Colophon Bookshop in Exeter, New Hampshire? You should get on their mailing list. GREAT books about books!

Part One should be arriving in the mail in a few days. I am all aflutter.

Hi blogaulaire - I think booksellers price the gems high because the really good stuff always sells (or almost always). I have dealers visit and ask what the best books in the shop are. Sometimes they buy them. Ditto at shows. High-end dealers are like that. I prefer hunting in other people's stock for sleepers, myself. I hoard, but I've got it more or less under control. Give or take a few thousand books. Ha.
I am the gentleman whom you so graciously turned down the offer to buy your copy of The London Bookshop. Today, I was reading the Bibliophile Bullpen blog and came across this statement from a book dealer:

"There's always an item, I wish I could not only afford to buy, but afford to KEEP. Booksellers are infamous, everything we collect for ourselves is ALWAYS for sale at the right price. This time it was this program from the First World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 in NYC. Signed by the con organizers and Ray Bradbury. Who in 1939 was a 19 year old newspaper vendor still writing sci fi stories for fanzines. [sic] Alas Eric Davidson Bookseller (Medford, NJ) would not take an IOU payable in the year 2030."

Naturally, I thought of you and your refusal to part with The London Bookshop. Please don't think I'm being critical. How could I not appreciate your own dedication to collecting? And I agree with Pierre Rastoul. In my experience, I too have yet to meet a bookseller willing to sell his books about books. Besides, the blogger did say that booksellers will sell anything for the right price, and you may be no exception after all. But since we didn't discuss price, your resolve will have to be tested some other time.
Heeey Mike - Thanks for checking back in with me. I must respectfully disagree with the Bullpen... I have many books I wouldn't part with for any price. Hence having a good shop vs a great shop. Hence my poor business sense. But boy, do I have a great book collection!

Someone asked me about selling a painting recently (one I painted, and had hanging in the shop) and I said it wasn't for sale, and this fellow said, "What if I offered you a million dollars??" And when I hesitated, he said, "Aha!! So it's not a question of IF it's a question of HOW MUCH!" Meaning I could be bought after all, so there. I took a good look at him, and said, "For a sum that great I'd seriously have to consider it, because it could mean that I could help members of my family who are struggling, and friends, and causes..." And I meant it. He looked chagrined, and I meant him to, because he had essentially insulted me to begin with.

I wrote a poem recently dealing with the question of what isn't for sale in this world. One answer: that which is given away freely.
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