Playing the first edition game? Or not? Whether you're a passionate collector (or dealer) of first editions, somebody who would prefer the question didn't need to be asked, or occupy a space somewhere between, there's no shortage of disagreement on this issue. Two of our readers offer their perspectives.
First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate BookThink, especially how generous you are in sharing hard-won knowledge about online bookselling and buying. It takes an enlightened man to not want to hoard such information and ward off any competition.
With that said, I wanted to give you my feedback regarding the latest issue of BookThink, not so much for your benefit, as mine! Realizing that beggars aren't supposed to be choosers, I will nevertheless tell you that I would rather you share information more specific to the special needs of online booksellers, and not so much information that can be gotten from other sources.
How to identify First Editions and a glossary of terms was a bit of a disappointment for me. This is mostly stuff I can get, or have gotten, from basic books on book collecting. What I was looking forward to instead was your insights on photographing flashpoints. Wasn't that something you said you were going to do? Or did I read that somewhere else?
I realize that in order for your efforts with your website to be worthwhile, you are most likely using it as a place to develop chapters for an upcoming book on book selling, so I see why you would devote space to first edition ID and a glossary of terms, figuring that would be an essential part of any book on bookselling. But I just wanted to remind you about what makes your contribution to this field so unique and vital. It is your focus on this new and evolving world of online selling and its unique challenges. It is there where you are making breakthroughs. Same can be said for your article on fixing bumped corners. That may not pertain strictly to online selling, but it was information I have not seen anywhere else.
Perhaps I am also reacting against this whole notion of FIRSTS in general. Sure, going that direction in the hunt for books may be a way to track down some big dollar books, but on the other hand, the whole Firsts thing is a bit absurd at some point - as I'm sure you realize. (I can tell by the way you spent so much effort justifying the intrinsic value of Firsts that you must have really thought about the other side of the coin as well.)
It seems much more worthwhile to humanity to find books that are rare but worthwhile in any edition, books with unique and valuable information that cannot be found anywhere else and are needed to fill in a vital gap in someone's research, hobby, etc. (The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs, is an example, a book that I recently bought for $2 and sold for $145 within 2 hours of listing on Ebay, with Buy It Now. It was the second printing of six printings, but the buyer didn't care what printing it was. She just wanted a decent copy since it was out of print and she had been looking for years for a copy.)
Anyway, I'm sure you get my point. And I'm pretty certain you have thoughts along these lines as well. But I just felt compelled to share my feedback with you for whatever it is worth. And please don't take this as criticism. I'm just being a squeaky wheel.
EDITOR'S NOTE: unless circumstances dictate otherwise, articles consisting of more than one part will be published in a monthly sequence, not in consecutive issues - that is, if Part I appears on the first Monday of the month, Part II will appear on the first Monday of the following month, not in the next issue.
I think you hit the nail on the head with your article, and I agree with almost every piece of advice you've given.
I myself am a new bookseller and was lucky enough to make friends with some people that have been in the industry for decades and have come to realize the importance of what you've written. When I started doing this earlier this year, I was so lost in a myriad of books that were cheap and worthless, I had no idea where to go.
Now, I have very highly-desired copies of Ian Fleming books, Fast Times, first thus editions illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, and so on. I've come quickly to realize just how damn important it is to now only have some good "bread and butter" books (around the $10 - $40 range) but also to have the books that will make your month, or at least supplement sales for that month.
I know I'm far from being "professional," but you hit another very tender point in the industry that really makes waves - knowledge. I got into this business because I *LOVE* books. At the time, I couldn't tell a true first from a paperback. I was never a book collector; I was just a book lover. Now, however, it has turned into an obsession. For example, that illustrated book by Maxfield Parrish happens to be A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. IT IS STUNNING. Blue boards with gorgeous gilding on the front, with a laid-in plate of Circe's Palace (one of Parrish's most stunning works) on the front cover. Inside, everything is fully intact, and it has been well cared for. The plates throughout are amazing. Such color, life and imagination went into the creation of each one that you can feel the heart of Parrish as he illustrates each.
But I digress! That, combined with the love I have for other "firsts," well, I've changed and realized the importance. I'm brought back to my loving days of collecting comic books and how important it was to have your hands on a "limited edition," or one with an error, etc. I wouldn't always go out of my way to get those editions, but I could appreciate why others would, and that is lending itself as a great peephole into bookselling.
I greatly look forward to reading your next article. I think the service you provide for booksellers is amazing and much needed. I just hope it is appreciated enough to make a difference. I would love to see a major change in the industry over the next few years. I know I plan to increase my education by whatever means necessary. Currently, my subscription to firsts, along with about 2 - 3 years of back issues (maybe more, there's a huge stack here!), plus back-issues of biblio, Collected Books, etc., etc., will be barely enough to tide me over.
Oh, and I mustn't forget the pocket guide to identifying firsts! ;)
Again, I am very impressed and very pleased. Bravo!
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