The Empirical Bookman

by Jaime Frontero

#100, 6 August 2007

Prelude to Apprenticeship: A Walk in the Rubble

Printer Friendly Article

Well hello there. Let's have some fun, shall we: Maybe learn a thing or two? Can we stand back from the lists, the prices, the cataloging and the timing of sales to an author's health (or that of his subject) - and approach our trade from a deeper point of view?

Sure we can. And there will be T-Shirts for the winner.

So. Where are you at with bookselling? Are you happy there? Any room for improvement?

Do you haunt the dollar racks and bargain shelves at the used bookstores in your area, hoping to find something you remember somebody buying once before for more than a buck?

Do you troll for common-as-dirt signed books by local authors, knowing if you put them on the internet they will be less common and therefore more desirable in those markets where they are scarcer? Do you look for James Lee Burke in Louisiana? Vince Flynn or Neil Gaiman in Minnesota? Thomas Pynchon in New York (hey, good luck with that...)?

Do you have a cell phone and/or internet gadget that lets you look up ISBNs or titles on the spot - and have you come to understand that the sheer density of paper in the average bookstore is quite effective at blocking radio signals?

Have you ever tried to corner the market on a desirable but to your mind under-valued, collectable book? Did you get out from under them, or did you wind up with a bunch of over-priced "winners" in a saturated market?

It can be a pain, can't it? But some days - the ones you remember best - it pays pretty well.

There is no substitute for the smell, the heft, the beauty, and the tactile impression of a good book. The better it is, the more lasting the sensory impression. The more valuable your find, the more air is sucked into your lungs at your good fortune. And - eventually - you come to realize what the successful bookseller knows: It's the thrill of the kill. The hunt itself is the goal. The virtues to which hunters of game devote their lives - integrity, clarity of vision, harmonization of thought and action, and focus - are those which make for success in our field as well. Personal success. Satisfaction with one's life.

And the life of a Bookman - a complex (and non-gender specific) term into which we will delve more deeply in some later dispatch from this expedition - has always had its own rewards. What strange bits of knowledge, human experience and pieces of the earth we all accumulate along the way. It's a shame that money isn't guaranteed to be one of them.

Money is a wonderful thing, but there are very few successful careers in any field based on nothing but accumulating the stuff. And even fewer that might be considered rewarding in any meaningful way. It is as easy - and as contrary to the nature of the bookseller - to spend one's days in front of a computer, memorizing sorted lists pulled from ABE of every Signet paperback between 1950 and 1959 with an asking price of over $50.00, as it is to mount a machine gun on the back of a jeep and go four-wheeling through Botswana looking for springbok. What a bore.

>>>>> Article continues on next page >>>>>

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

| Forum | Store | Publications | BookLinks | BookSearch | BookTopics | Archives | Advertise | AboutUs | ContactUs | Search Site | Site Map | Google Site Map

Store - Specials | BookHunt | BookShelf | Gold Edition & BookThink's Quarterly Market Report | DomainsForSale | BookThinker newsletter - free

Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC

 Subscribe in a reader