Tuesday, January 08, 2013


a case of cabin fever

Oh January.  Here you are again and all I want to do is curl up in a sunpatch with the cat and re-read Dorothy L. Sayers novels.  Or travel far, far away, not just in books.  But I have work to do here and lots of it.  When you are self-employed, you see, you are always at work.  We even work for fun, around here.  The friends-of-the-library sale this weekend was a good example - a few towns away, a sunny Saturday morning and the first day above freezing in a week - we drove over and stayed for a few hours.  Then came home with two cartons of books and $70 less in the checking account.  This particular library sale isn't known for great deals, because the volunteers assiduously check the current selling price of each book, online, before pricing it and putting it out in the sale room.  And the best books never even make it there, of course.  Instead they are offered online or privately to dealers other than myself.  Which is fine, it's all for a great cause, that of literacy.  Besides, there is always enough interesting stuff to keep me coming back every few months to see what has been put out for sale.  Although sometimes I admit that I feel a twinge of irritation at picking up a book and seeing a price of five or ten dollars, which I might pay if I saw said book in a used book shop somewhere, but don't necessarily expect to see on a book at a rural library sale in the dead of winter.  But that is the exception, usually the books here are a dollar or two and I manage to find some inventory for my book booth and something new to read. 

Speaking of which, this time around I did pass on a two-volume set of Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets priced at ten dollars.  Here was my thought process while the set was in hand:  Well now, a miniature edition, print very tiny, I might get a headache trying to read it, should hold out for a better set, ugh ten bucks, back on the shelf with you, I do love you so but goodbye little books...  But then I was rewarded with All of Us: The Collected Poems of Raymond Carver and Eric Partridge's massive Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English for a dollar each.  No art books to speak of, though I did pass over one I really wanted, a copy of Frank O'Hara's book about painter Robert Motherwell, because of a giant mold bloom along its bottom edge.  Ryan found two Maine archaeological reports (he's been volunteering on local archaeology digs this year and is in the throes of this obsession).  I ended up with a few keepers myself, my favorite being one of The County Books - Suffolk by William Addison (Hale 1950, first edition in decent dust jacket).  Of this series, the Observer said, "...not guide books of the merely topographical sort but, rather, talkative companions, engagingly informative about the life of the county, past and present."  More about East Anglia, after reading Ronald Blythe, I'll take it.  (And, I'd like the whole series, please.) 

All in all, an enjoyable outing, and a business trip to boot.  But, it is still January and I am still a little stir crazy.  Back to that sunny window.  Perhaps Dorothy L. Sayers can solve a case of cabin fever.            

I really do admire your "esprit de corps" when it comes to library sales these days. I once loved attending library sales, but it now seems that I can't enjoy the thrill of the hunt these sales once allowed as I feel completely out-maneuvered by bar code scanning online sellers, behind-the-scenes pre-sale deals with select dealers, and aspirational pricing. I understand how important revenue is for our struggling libraries, but the commercial aspect of the old friends of the library sale feels too aggressive for the book lover in search of an inexpensive opportunity to add to one's private library AND help out a beloved local haunt. The high prices so often seem to result from someone looking up a book online and picking the highest price, even though that price reflects a much finer or rarer edition. I miss the days when all the books were priced the same because more people could come away with good books that they were going to READ and the dealers would have an equal chance to come away with a bargain for resale. Oh, well...Things change. It feels ironic that the only time you see books as you enter a library today instead of a sea of computers is when there is a library sale.
You sum up the situation neatly. I too was discouraged for a long time about just the issues you state. When I closed my bookshop I was burned out from both 1) trying to acquire decent inventory and 2) dealing with how the internet and its users changed the book business.

Then some time went by, and I came around again. I also adjusted my expectations. I'm glad I closed the shop when I did, because many of the places I used to find wonderful books, books I could take to antiquarian bookfairs or sell in my shop for decent prices, have gone, dried up, vanished into the ether of the internet. The library sale of old being one such source. However, there are still decent books out there washing around, good books to read and to resell.

At this particular library sale we were the only dealers except for one of my best friends, in the book business and otherwise, and he and I are so non-competitive that he even kept showing me books he thought I might be interested in. There were no barcode-scanner-people there. In fact only about ten other people were there at all. It was really relaxed and I did find some good books, to sell and to read.

The old book-love is right there, so close to the surface, when I choose to awaken it. So nice that it's become fun again, to go out looking.
Ah, how this resonates -- both your post and the comment above. I have been a booksller (of the non-scannng variety for almost 16 years) and a reader for many decades and I have yet to come to terms with what the internet has done to books and book sales. I AM trying though... Fortunately, there comes every once in a while a chance to peruse the shelves in blissful silence. For those times I'm grateful!
I know, Tess, now I am thankful I got into the book business pre-internet. I was a clerk/buyer at a new-book store, then started working with secondhand books with the hope of having my own shop, then I did that, then... well, here we are. I do love a quiet little library sale. There are still good books out there waiting to be found and loved once again.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?