From The Editor

by Craig Stark

#92, 9 April 2007

One of the most commonly asked questions on book forums is, "Where do you buy your books?" Most experienced booksellers aren't willing to get into much detail about this. Often, in so many words, they'll answer, "It's none of your business." Occasionally, however, somebody will rattle off a list of sources anyway - and Friends of the Library (FOL) sales are inevitably mentioned. And why shouldn't they be? There are thousands of FOL sales held annually, and some advertise many hundreds of thousands of books.

But how many booksellers actually attend? Tom Oram of Book Sale Finder, a website that listed over 6,000 sales last year, reports that 30% to 40% of their users are book scouts or dealers. This certainly suggests strong professional interest. And anybody that actually goes to sales knows only too well how many dealers are buying; they're the ones using handheld devices to check prices. It's clear that their numbers have exploded in recent years, and it's safe to say that FOL organizations now depend on dealer's purchases for a significant portion of their revenue. In today's BookThinker, Catherine Petruccione interviews Tom Oram. Topics discussed include the history of Book Sale Finder and much insight into the FOL sale phenomenon.

Despite the apparent surge of interest in FOL sales in recent years, some booksellers, especially those with years of experience, are reporting diminishing returns. Competition at FOL sales has become fierce, and gone are the days when you could arrive an hour or so after opening and browse leisurely for inventory - and expect to go home with anything. Amidst this competition is a growing controversy on the use of price lookup tools. Some FOL organizations have already taken steps to control their use, if not eliminate it altogether. Steve Weber is here today to discuss this issue and offer some solutions.

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