Special Announcements

by Craig Stark

#158, 3 October 2011

Have you been hearing more calls lately? Recession calls, that is? The latest and perhaps most unequivocal call for a double-dip recession arrived last week from the Economic Cycle Research Institute. The ECRI has its critics, and some dispute its asserted perfect track record for predicting recessions and avoiding false alarms, but it's difficult to dispute Lakshman Achuthan's conviction.

For us, as booksellers, if another recession is indeed on its way, I can only urge you to start or step up your conversion to antiquarian books and, if your inventory consists mostly of commodity books, to liquidate them as quickly as you can (and don't buy any more unless you can sell them, if you know what I mean, yesterday). This doesn't mean giving them away but discounting them aggressively enough to get them out the door inside of, let's say, a year, preferably sooner. If there's any near guaranteed insulation to be had against another economic downturn, this is it. If you don't know what makes an antiquarian book different than a commodity book, the strategy is simple: Stock only the books that buyers are most likely to buy as collected objects as opposed to consumable content, noting that "antiquarian" doesn't necessarily mean "antiquated." New antiquarian books are produced daily.

For example, I belong to several first edition clubs that ship signed, recently issued hypermoderns monthly. Just last week a $40 club book hit my porch one afternoon and sold that night for $200 - and it could have been instantly uploaded to a Kindle for $12.99 if the buyer hadn't wanted an antiquarian copy. There are many of these clubs out there but only a few that consistently pick winners - that is, only a few operated by those who understand what antiquarian books are and, in turn, how to retain members via seeking out authors who are most likely to generate collector interest (and, in turn, scheduling them for signings). The point is you don't have to specialize in incunabula to make a go of it in this day and age. You can sell books that smell of freshly dried ink too. By the way, if you don't know how to investigate clubs, how to best buy and market signed (or not) hypermoderns, or how to do any of the many things necessary to succeed as an antiquarian bookseller, there's a ready solution: Purchase our Gold Edition back issues package or subscribe to BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling - or both! Here is where you do it.

So - as collectors continue to buy books, as many of us observed them to do during the recent Great Recession, there are other things you can do besides converting your inventory to help your cause, among them cutting costs, if possible, without sacrificing sales. Today, let's pick one - packaging books. How much does it cost you to package a book? $.25? $.50? More? If you could quickly package a book for under $.04 and all but guarantee that it would arrive at its destination undamaged, would you be interested in learning how? If so, read our feature article, "Packaging Books for Pennies."

Finally, I'm pleased to report that one of our subscribers who learned about the book featured in last week's newsletter - namely, The Red Book - found a first edition at a book sale on the East Coast, and get this - he found it late on the second day of the sale. Score another one for knowledge!

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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