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Several years ago, in my capacity as BookThink Editor, it was not unusual for me to spend two, three hours or more doing nothing but answering emails, primarily from booksellers. Today it's less than an hour. For that matter, BookThink forum traffic is down. Amazon forum traffic is down. eBay - in fact, all forums I visit have experienced a significant loss of traffic, especially in the past year.

What's poignant to me - maybe especially to me because I've gotten so much communication from people getting into bookselling over the years - is recalling the enthusiasm so many new booksellers had, some who became good friends, some who for the first time in their lives could actually say that they loved what they were doing, and some who were very grateful to have found a source of income that allowed them to stay home with children, supplement their retirement, and so on. And where are they now? A lot of them have reduced their bookselling activity dramatically or gotten out altogether. I could tell you a hundred stories, and no two would be alike. I don't have any hard numbers, but the rate of attrition seems pretty darn high.

For six months last year my own sales dropped sharply, so much so that I cut back on other things I'd been doing to devote more time to bookselling. By August I had recovered nicely, and the month just ended was the best March I've ever had as a bookseller, the past eight months the best bookselling period I've ever had. I could come up with several reasons for this, but one of the more important ones is that I've been able to find better things to sell both online (mostly on eBay) and at sales. Why? Again, there are likely several reasons, not the least of which I get better at scouting each year, but one very conspicuous reason is that my competition has fallen off dramatically.

Perhaps a similar drop-off hasn't occurred in your area yet, but if not, I'd be surprised if it didn't soon. Referring back to my short account of the longtime bookseller who was grabbing the low-dollar books at that estate sale, my gosh, he's been in the business longer than I have and hasn't figured this out yet? Now I'm wondering how much longer he will last! Oh, and those many booksellers who have left - it's quite likely that most of them were selling low-dollar books too.

For remaining booksellers, this is good news, I think. Looking ahead, I see opportunities for that weren't in play even a year or two ago. If you've survived this recession to this point and have persisted in learning the trade, I do like your chances.

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