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by Craig Stark

#101, 20 August 2007

It'd be nice if book scouting was easy. There would be the inevitable guide, Book Scouting for Dummies or something, and we'd be done with it. Unfortunately, not only is book scouting not easy; it's never ending. Even if you did know it all at one moment in time, as soon as the next moment passed, there'd be more to learn because new books would have appeared in the marketplace.

Still, if we intend to succeed at bookselling, we can't be daunted by the task; we have to learn as much as possible. "The more you know about books, the more money you'll make" may not be true in every instance, but it's true in most, and it's undeniably true that the most successful booksellers are among the most knowledgeable as well.

Sometimes the learning process means we have to unlearn what we once knew. And sometimes the most efficacious form of learning doesn't seem like learning at all because it involves refining our instincts. Since it isn't possible to know the potential value of every book we encounter, our instincts, if good, can make up considerable ground lost on the knowledge acquisition side.

Experienced scouts will tell you that valuable books offer clues, some subtle, some not. At BookThink we've categorized and enumerated many not-subtle clues, even coined a word for them - flashpoints. But what about the subtle ones? Those that point not just to the "what" of value but the "why" as well? Knowing why one book is in demand - a book we know - often helps us understand why books we don't know are in demand. The purpose of our new weekly column, "QMR Book of the Week," is to present examples of books that have value and, at least to some extent, explain why they have value.

"QMR Book of the Week" is available only to email subscribers to the BookThinker. Subscriptions are free and may be initiated here.

BookThink's Ephemera Editor Michele Behan stops by today to discuss bookplates. If you don't know why some bookplates can be more valuable than the books they're mounted in or, for that matter, how to remove one, you won't want to miss her article.

From Pamela Palmer on this month's Top 10 on eBay: "Are the rich different? When it comes to eBay, they are. Many of the high-end books that hang out in the Antiquarian & Collectible category are featured in lavish auctions showcasing them in dozens of photographs. Classic works of the 15th or 16th century are more typical than limited editions by Stephen King. This month, Top 10 on eBay expands to cover the top 5 in the Antiquarian & Collectible category."

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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