Kevin Johnson, proprietor of Royal Books, became a bookseller in 1997 and specializes in Modern Literature, Cinema, Art, and Photography. In 2007, Oak Knoll Press published his first book, The Dark Page, a full-color guide to the first edition sources for American film noir of the 1940s, followed in 2009 by The Dark Page II, a second volume covering 1950-1965. Kevin has been a member of the ABAA since 2002 and is on the faculty of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.
BOOKTHINK: How did you get started in the business of selling antiquarian books?
Like a lot of booksellers, I came into the book business sideways. I worked for the government until 1996, but had always been a bookworm and a pop culture hound. One day I found out about first editions, and that was it. The virus was awakened. One year later I took a sabbatical from my job, and a year after that I resigned to sell books full time.
BOOKTHINK: Why is it important for booksellers to attend the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar? What can an experienced bookseller gain from the seminar, and what does it have to offer to those new to the trade?
Interestingly, this question has a big relationship to the first question. Seeing what I have seen at the seminar the past 4-5 years, I realize that had I attended I would have saved years - literally, years - of trial and error during the early days of my business. But like a lot of booksellers, I thought I was just too busy for it. It's very much like hearing a knocking sound from your car engine and thinking, "Oh well, it's still running. I've got things to do and I don't have time to get it fixed." Very understandable, but unwise.
To sell used and rare books professionally today, you have to know all the things a bookseller needed to know in the 1980s. But in addition to that there is a huge new layer of technology - and the implications of that technology on the trade - that a successful bookseller really needs to understand and take advantage of in order to be successful. That's the goal of the seminar: to give a bookseller, librarian, or even a collector the basic tools needed to succeed, and to make fewer mistakes along the way. Our faculty consists of a broad range of book professionals, from librarians to rare booksellers, who have a great amount of collective experience, and a desire to raise the bar for booksellers starting out. And more than that, what I'm the most proud of is that everyone on the faculty cares deeply about the seminar. It's a labor of love.
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