Friday, April 13, 2007



A few items:

1. Okay, I really miss blogging. And I'm not getting much of anything done anyway, re the writing projects in boxes at home. Or any of the other stuff I've been worried about (though I have been painting a lot lately). So I'll come back from time to time, perhaps once a week. Promise.

2. Ryan and I agree that when we get a cat we will name him/her Hodge. Samuel Johnson's cat was named Hodge (for contrast, Alexander Pope's dog was named Bounce - I am just not a dog person, sorry, or an Alexander Pope person, for that matter).

3. Ryan runs the Boston Marathon on Monday, bib number 3041. Since the marathon is chip-timed, interested parties can track his progress on race day at the official website beginning at ten a.m. eastern time. I'll be lurking around the used bookshops of downtown Boston while he runs. Looks like the weather will be just lovely (with a fierce nor'easter due to be slamming around New England at the time). Ryan is happy running in high winds and buckets of rain. Really. It's a lot better than sun and heat, which tires him out much faster. He'd rather be waterlogged than dehydrated. I won't say what time Ryan is aiming for, but let's just say he's planning on running faster than he did last year.

4. I've been reading a lot the last few weeks and right now am halfway through the Oxford translation of La Bruyere's Characters (1688), the first work of social criticism published in France. It reminds me of Montaigne, but the sections are shorter and more maxim-like, and not as directly introspective. Here's a bit, which I read the other morning over my breakfast and felt absurdly heartened by (and it helped me decide to start blogging again, actually):

"...small change is as necessary in society as golden coin." (p.73)

5. I had a vivid dream the other night. Ryan and I were waiting in line to get into a library sale. We'd been allowed in early to look at the books but not to buy - then we had to go back outside and wait. I was first in line, and a pushy loud woman was insisting that she was first. I didn't say anything at all, but as the woman got louder and pushier, the librarians heard her and made her leave the premises. I was intent on getting into the sale, because during the preview I'd had my hands on an absolutely beautiful little book, measuring about three by five inches, bound in vellum, from the sixteenth century. I knew exactly where it was, and it had a very plain exterior - it wasn't calling attention to itself - and I was absolutely beside myself with wanting to have it in my hands again. That, and I'd told Ryan about a huge series of leatherbound books off in a corner, which someone had turned spines-to-the-wall in an attempt to hide them, and Ryan was poised to rush over and throw his overcoat on them. I awoke before the sale opened. Ryan doesn't even own an overcoat. I'm still thinking about that little book. I wonder what it was. It was so real. Sad. There, that's what booksellers dream about. Reminds me of the book title Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

6. I've decided that instead of getting discouraged because I'm not selling a lot of books right now and rashly closing the shop and trying to find a job somewhere else (Oh, the horror...), I may as well try to make some money with what I have here and now, so I've started listing some books on eBay again (I used to sell on eBay, before the shop started doing well enough so I could stop). My eBay handle is "sarahsbooks" if anyone cares to take a peek. This is not to say that anyone should buy anything - I've never used this blog to sell books and I don't want to start now. This is rather an informational tidbit. A note to say that there is money to be made on eBay if one can withstand the boredom of it. I've also been stocking up my book booth at the antiques mall up the street - during a few months this winter I sold more books there than I have here, so I may as well take the books to the browsers, if that's where they are. I do okay there, and it's right on my way home. I started my bookselling career in a group shop, years ago, and I've always kept another location going since then, it can be a good little income stream. If you tend it consistently, and work to get new stock in there, that is.

7. So, the shop lives on and I do, too. That's it for now. More next week. Thanks again to those of you who wrote in with words of encouragment and kindness, I appreciate it so much.

Sarah, Let me be the first to welcome you back. I was just fiddling around in the net and thot I'd check back on your site and there you were. I am slumming tonight, reading "Lincoln Lawyer" Michael Connolly. But, it is great mind candy. Almost picked up "The Savage Detectives" but was looking for slightly lighter fare this week as the semester peaks.Off to get pizza to finish my Friday slumming.
So, all those days of sitting at the computer hitting refresh were not in vain!

And how I agree with you about the tedium of selling books on the net, but (insert profound thought; something along the lines of Sun Tzu, or someone)...

Glad you're back.

Good luck to Ryan.
Welcome back and it's good to hear you'll be making occasional appearances.

I'll be getting wet on Monday in Boston as well, waiting for my friend George to finish his first Boston Marathon. He qualified in the fall and his number is about 10000 higher than Ryan's. He's less enthusiastic than Ryan about the weather!

I'll keep an eye out for you- you'll be one of the wet ones, right?

Hey! Great to see you!

Love the dream. I skimmed the first sentence and didn't realize it was a dream, so it was a crashing disappointment that you didn't get the little, vellum book.

Good luck to Ryan.
Oh Sarah - Welcome back. I have missed you!!!!!
Dear Sarah, Can't say how much I'm happy that you're back blogging — even if it's only once a week. I've been trying to get interested in other book blogs these past weeks, but in my opinion, they're not comparable in terms of sheer presence and passion. As a matter of fact, I learned you were back by the Fine Books & Collections blog — which just goes to show that YOU are indeed serious matter... And besides, I had a feeling that thye blog was nourishing you as much as you nourish us...

Welcome back ! Pierre Rastoul
And again, welcome back, Sarah! Actually, I envy you that you still have a bookstore. My town is so small that there's only room for one bookstore and unfortunately I do not own it. Therefore I'm forced to exist only in cyberspace. So, hang in there! And I'm happy to see you're blogging again.
Just found your blog today. I have owned a used and rare book business for about 10 years, having moved my physical store around several times. it is now in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I find your comments so similar to my experiences in the business. It is difficult to udnerstand how the trade has changed the past 20 years, but it has been turned on its head.

Although the internet has changed things I am still convinced a profitable venture is possible if you take advantage of all the sales avenues available (which you seem to be covering between eBay, antique mall, and the shop).

My own conclusions, having handled mostly better stock (must price at $10 or more to be put on a shelf that isn't a "blow Out" rack).

1) The shop isn't a place to make the money, it is a place to lend legitimacy, and to allow people to bring stuff in to sell to you.

2) more crap will come in than will ever go out, so figure out ways of getting stuff out the door, even if it doesn't appear to be making any money!!

3) Although the other internet sales outlets (ABE, Alibris, Amazon) are boring and seem to be a lot of hassle, they are the only way my business has survived these past years.

Anyway, I found your blog enjoyable and interesting!! i hope you are able to post more often!!

Thanks for the welcome back, everyone, I missed you, too. We're back from Boston.

Hi Jodi - I haven't read Michael Connolly, but I know someone who loves him. Nothing wrong with mind candy, keeps the brain well-fed and happy...

Dear Jonathan, I'm glad you're feeling refreshed. Oh, wait, that's not what you meant... Thanks for your comment about the tedium - I was afraid I'd offend someone who just LOVES selling online.

Hey Dan - I was on the corner of Boylston and Clarendon, in front of the Barnes and Noble, oddly enough. I spent an hour scanning the faces of the incoming runners, looking for my guy. More on the trip later, though. Sorry to miss you - though I doubt you would have recognized me anyway, I was swathed in my L.L. Bean raincoat. What a wild day for a marathon! Hope your pal George did well.

Hi Katrina - I know, I know. I'm still thinking about the little book, wondering what it was. As if I don't see enough books in real life, they also live in my head. Great, just great.

Thanks anon, whoever you are. Your enthusiasm made me smile. All those exclamation points, my goodness.

Dear Pierre, I guess I did find out that blogging is also good brain candy, for MY brain (or My Giant Brain, as I like to say). Who knew. Re "a serious matter" - I don't know about that. Not much happening here in Bangor, Maine. Small potatoes.

Hey Idaho - so, exactly how is that bookshop in your town? If it's a decent shop, thank heaven. If not, open your own shop on the double. No town is too small for another bookshop. If the shop IS decent, why aren't you working there? Ingratiate yourself with the owner, quick, quick.

Hi Wayne, thanks for reading, and for your thoughts on the state of business. I agree with your points - I don't like it, though, that small- and medium-sized bookshops have become figureheads, rather than money-making entities of their own. I do understand that mail-order is a venerable tradition among antiquarian booksellers (all those catalogues issued, for centuries), and that the internet is version 2.0 of that arm of the business. So I carefully list, sell, pack, and ship, list, sell, pack, and ship. Sigh. Regarding shelf-worthy stock, I do like to carry quality softcovers and standard used hardcovers in the four-to-ten-dollar range, though out-of-print hardcovers are my true love (I hate mass-market paperbacks, sad, but there it is). But even the cheap stuff I carry better be classic/terrific - you know, the good books - to justify being in the shop at all. Thanks for the chin-up, I'll keep it all going! Hope you do, too.
Hi Sarah,

To answer some of your questions, the other bookstore belongs to a good friend, so, we wouldn't want to put a friendship at risk by working together. And, I do sell some of his books on consignment because he doesn't want to be an online business. Finally, when I do have enough books in my area of expertise (ethnography, culture,and books related to these topics), I'll open up the bricks and mortar store. I'm in this for the long haul, even though I'm no longer a spring chicken....
Thanks Robin!

Idaho - good for you for establishing a symbiotic relationship with your local bookshop. Sounds ideal. When you are ready for your own shop, the other one will welcome you. Non-used-book people don't quite get the fact that several used bookshops near each other is a *good* thing, not direct competition, per se. Having a few shops clustered together helps everyone - good customers (and other dealers ) will come from further away because they can visit several shops at once, etc. Keep working toward your dream - it's attainable!
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