by Timothy Doyle

#53, 10 October 2005

Bud Webster's The Joy of Booking

Collecting Science Fiction

The Joy of Booking: Webster's Guide to Buying and Selling Used SF & Fantasy Books
Bud Webster
50 pages, stapled pamphlet
SRM Publishers, 2004

In the best Journalism 101 tradition, the first five chapters of The Joy of Booking address the Who, What, Where, When and Why of the hobbyist bookseller. And make no mistake, this book is aimed squarely at the beginner hobbyist seller - someone who wants to "supplement your income, support you own collecting habit, and maybe take the wife out for dinner once in a while ...." Webster identifies other individuals who may be interested in selling, including the SF/Fantasy enthusiast who has run out of shelf space or whose interests have changed, and the SF convention-goer who wants to offset travel and hotel expenses.

But there is a far nobler motivation for bookselling, which Webster describes as follows:

"When a customer comes to me at my table, list in hand and asking about something for which he has been searching for years, then finds it and two others he didn't even know about, I feel an excitement and pride that hasn't diminished in thirty years ...."

Webster's enthusiasm for the subject is unmistakable and quite infectious. He writes with an authoritative yet casual directness that is sure to appeal to and inspire the beginning seller. And while the book more often resembles a statement of personal philosophy than a how-to manual, it is an admirable philosophy rich in ethical business practices as well as a firm love of books both for what they contain and as artifacts in their own right. In Webster's world we sell books because we love them; for "if you'd be as happy selling vinyl siding or double-glazed windows, then do that instead: do not clutter an already crowded profession with just another yobbo who wants to get rich."

Starting with chapter 6, the rest of The Joy of Booking discusses the How of bookselling. Chapter titles include "How to Sell," "Obtaining Stock," "Managing Your Stock" (including discussions of inventory control, storage, repairing, and pricing), and "Packing and Shipping." To sellers with any amount of experience under their belt, many of the points made in these chapters will seem obvious. There is not a tremendous amount of depth to some of these discussions, although there are numerous valuable insights and suggestions (one of which I've discussed in a previous Collecting SF column that involves large flat plastic bins). Webster also discusses his method for packaging books for shipping that should be required reading for all beginning Internet booksellers.

For the neophyte seller, The Joy of Booking discusses all of the important points of getting started and does so in a way that not only inspires you to do it but also shows you how to do it right.

The Joy of Booking may be purchased on the online catalog for SRM Publisher Ltd. Scroll down the page about 1/3 of the way to find The Joy of Booking.

About the author: "Bud Webster has been buying and selling SF and fantasy for more than 30 years, beginning with comics and soon graduating to real books, the ones that have more words than pictures. Most of his working career has been spent in retail of one sort or another, and his bookselling experience ranges from large book store chains to independent specialty bookshops."

He is also the author of 41 Above the Rest: An Index and Checklist for the Anthologies of Groff Conklin. See the following BookThink articles for more on Bud Webster and Groff Conklin: