From the Editor

by Craig Stark

#34, 3 January 2005

As booksellers, most of us do our own scouting, perhaps assume that it was always thus, but in pre-Internet times it often wasn't. Then, many booksellers bought part or much of their inventory from book scouts - freelance, often free-spirited book hunters who tramped through thrift shops, attended auctions, and otherwise did everything we now do to acquire books. Though some dedicated book scouts still do their thing, many have become booksellers themselves because today it's almost as easy to sell books online as it is to take them to a dealer. More importantly, the prices one can get for them are significantly higher.

In my opinion, things are better now, not worse, for the bookseller. Yes, a reliable method for acquiring quality inventory is all but gone, but the cost of acquisition is lower when the middleman is eliminated, and I think most of you will agree that book scouting - the hunt - is the very best part of being a bookseller. Few things can match the thrill of making a great find (though having a book get bid into the stratosphere on eBay ain't bad either), and the process of scouting is in itself a highly efficient method for learning the book biz directly from the source: books.

As much fun as book scouting is, however, I doubt that it would ever have occurred to me that this activity was potential fodder for a bestselling mystery - for that matter, that any other aspect of bookselling would be either. Fortunately, author John Dunning didn't see it that way at all. Over 10 years later he still doesn't. Not only did he write a Nero Wolfe Award winner in 1992 (Booked to Die) based on the book trade but also wrote three more Cliff Janeway mysteries, one of which, The Sign of the Book, is scheduled to arrive in bookstores this Spring.

For those of you not familiar with them, the Janeway mysteries aren't tangentially related to the book business. They're immersed in it. Even if you're not a particular fan of mystery writing, there's so much book stuff going on, much of it infused with the thrill of the hunt, that I all but guarantee that you'll be snagged in short order and soon be page turning with the rest of us. Dunning, you see, can flat out write.

Recently, BookThink's Contributing Editor Pamela Palmer visited with Dunning - oh, and also had the enviable opportunity to read The Sign of the Book (while the rest of us poor slobs have to wait for its release in March). A profile, her interview, and a brief market analysis of Dunning's books - by the way, already collectible - follow.

The Gold Edition, Part II of our analysis of the (common) magazine market, will be sent Monday night. Those of you who subscribed after Part I was published last month will also be receiving this issue with our compliments. If you haven't received one or, if applicable, both of these by Tuesday morning, please contact us at and we'll resend them ASAP. Keep in mind that despite our best intentions emails don't always land in the places they're intended to. Spam filters, full mailboxes, and other factors beyond our control create occasional problems. Since you're handing over your hard-earned money for a subscription, we very much want to get this information to you.

Finally, a special thanks to those of you who took advantage of our charter subscription offer for BookThink's new newsletter - 50/50. Look for your first issue at mid month.

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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