From the Editor

by Craig Stark

#37, 21 February 2005

Maybe it's my imagination, but I'm seeing a growing (and disturbing) trend in the television industry to use books as decorative elements on studio sets, especially for interviews - especially for interviews with politicians. Plant Senator So-and-so in front of a wall of books, and I guess we're supposed to assume that this guy has done some serious homework, really knows his stuff. This could be the bookseller talking, but this kind of thing falls flat for me because, almost without exception, the books themselves are so obviously bad - I mean, even if you can't make out the titles, you can tell that they're bad. Have you noticed this? Garbage from top to bottom, not a dust jacket in sight, and sometimes there's even an inflammatory row of RDCB's front and center, as if Reader's Digest's faux gilt was something special. If I walked into an estate sale and saw books this bad, I'd do a fast 180.

Apart from the fact that most set-designers aren't concerned much with actual book quality and are more interested in the superficial ambience of erudition, when I see books used as props, I'm often reminded of usage possibilities other than reading or collecting. In turn, these possibilities sometimes point to potential bookselling profit. Our eBay bookselling series, "New Strategies for Selling Books on eBay," continues today with a detailed discussion of book lots - exactly what sells, how best to market lots, and a few miscellaneous tips, some of which include targeting books for alternate use. No, I won't recommend that you sell bad books to set designers, but good, cheaply-acquired books can sometimes be guided in this and other directions that might not have occurred to you.

Another bookseller makes his first BookThink appearance this week - this time Michael Brook of 101% Guaranteed Books. Michael's area of expertise is mathematics, and he generously shares some of his best secrets for profiting in this interesting niche. He also provides some valuable insight into why some mathematics titles remain profitable 5, 10 or more years out when titles in other scientific genres have long since descended to bookselling hell. If you haven't been selling mathematics books, this is the tutorial to get you started.

Finally, you may recall that I mentioned but didn't name a fast-growing alternate bookselling venue in last week's BookThinker article, "Plotting Your Bookselling Future: How to Evaluate Alternate Venues." If you did your homework, you've already figured out that I was talking about For more information, see their ad in today's newsletter.

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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