Special Announcements

by Craig Stark

#158, 10 October 2011

The recent death of Apple founder Steve Jobs has had an impact that can be measured in many ways, some obvious, some perhaps not so obvious. For booksellers, the death of any so-called VIP has positive impact measured in dollars and cents. On eBay, publications featuring Jobs, especially early in his career - Macworld, Time Magazine, Wired, etc. - are enjoying strong sales, as we would expect. Not so obvious, perhaps, a publication that at first glance seems to have no connection to Jobs whatsoever - Stewart Brand's The Whole Earth Catalog, published primarily in the late 1960's and early 1970's with occasional reprises until the 1990's.

Those who know something about Jobs, however, may have read that he mentioned the WEC in a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005: "When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation.... It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along. It was idealistic and overflowing with neat tools and great notions." Jobs quoted a farewell message that appeared on the back cover of the 1974 edition, the so-called "Last" WEC: "Stay hungry, stay foolish." Clearly, Jobs embodied this principle, not to mention the free, ground breaking spirit of the catalog itself. Thus the connection. Several years ago BookThink featured the WEC in the Gold Edition GE #00043, "Mastering Bookselling: Is It Really What You Think It Is?" - and I wrote:

Again, there are Gold Editions that present methods, but mastering bookselling has got to mean more than learning methods from those who have had some success; it's got to mean adopting a forward approach, even if you have to look backward to do it.




Example: New collectors are born every year, and many of them begin collecting in earnest in their 50s, hunting down books that meant something to them when they were young. You may have been in college when I was, may have spent countless hours paging through Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog. If you recall, the product descriptions were more often the point of the book than the products themselves. They informed. Sometimes they illuminated. Sometimes they changed who we were. I remember one ad in particular that was the first encounter I ever had with a verbal fugue. And here I had been thinking that fugues, to be fugues, had to have something to do with music!

Forget this stuff at your peril because a few years ago you couldn't give these stupid catalogs away. You could've acquired 100's of them for next to nothing. Filled a room with them. Now that many of my generation have reached their 50s, it's not unusual to see a copy go for $30 or $40. So damn many of these were printed that now you could nearly make a living on them alone - had you anticipated this outcome.

I know, easy for me to say. Easy to identify things once prices shoot up. But when is the last time you spent even a few minutes attempting proactive bookselling? Studying (in this case) historical trends to help identify books that might be coming into demand in the near future? Never would probably be right in most cases.

Successful bookselling is very much about learning, it always will be, and the learning should never end, but if you want to make this work at a level that will produce multiple days in the sun, provide a good lifetime income, become a seer. Even if you only see a few moments in advance of outcomes, a few moments are all you'll need.

Now, an example of an outcome. Those of you who participate on eBay's booksellers forum are no doubt familiar with bookseller Keith Moultin, who posts as chagrinbooks. Well, as I was doing my daily investigation of auctions-about-to-close last night, I came across this Chagrin Watershed Books auction that more or less stopped me in my tracks.

That's right, a 6th printing, and not even the 1974 edition with "Stay hungry, stay foolish" on the back cover. Keith modestly chalks this up to luck, but I say, bravo for getting out front!

Next, speaking of (per a recent newsletter) books that look like nothing - I came across an auction last week that illustrates that collectors for Golden Guides are still alive and kicking.

Believe it or not, these excessively common books that many of us grew up with do have their high spots, and I've seen some titles get well into three figures. You may not be aware that BookThink has published an exceptionally detailed and comprehensive guide to buying and selling Golden Guides. It includes a complete checklist, a list of high spots, color photographs of selected titles, a guide to first edition identification and much more - 11 pages of profitable bookselling know-how for $5. Moreover, this guide has been reformatted to PDF and updated to reflect current market prices. Look for BookThink's Gold Edition #0008 - "Golden Guides: Big Profits in Little Packages" here.

Now that many of us have smartphones, there is no reason not to take in-depth scouting information with you. I use an application called Dropbox to transfer my resources to my iPhone. It's free and couldn't be simpler. You install the application on your desktop or laptop and again on your smartphone. You then "drop" a file into the Dropbox folder, and it automatically synchs with every computer or smartphone you've set up. The Gold Edition issue mentioned above, for example, could be transferred to your smartphone wirelessly in a matter of moments.

By the way, we are in the process of converting all BookThink products to a more user-friendly PDF format and, though much of our content retains its value over time because of its emphasis on bookselling principles, where necessary, we are updating it as well. When the process has been completed, I'll make an announcement in the newsletter, and those of you who have purchased any of our products in DOC or TXT format in the past may request the reformatted/updated products at no additional charge. Presently, for the purposes of those who wish to buy these issues, the following have been converted to PDF:

GE #0002: How to Identify Hot Niche Markets: The Holy Grail of Bookselling

GE #0005: Super Niche: Profiting from the Arts & Crafts Movement

GE #0007: Vintage Era Mass Market Paperback Cover Art

GE #0008: Golden Guides: Big Profits in Little Packages

GE #00053: A Bookseller's Guide to Book Club Editions - 133 Book Club Editions That Are Actually Worth Something - Part I: The List

GE #00059: How to Buy Inventory on Craigslist

GE #SO10: How to Become a Full-Time Bookseller - Complete Series

GE #SO14: How to Buy Inventory Online - Complete Series

If you have already purchased any or all of these issues, please don't request PDF updates until we have completed the conversion process. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

For the time being, our back issues packages will be available in TXT format only. Also, a reminder: If you have purchased any single back issues from us previously - it doesn't matter how long ago - we will credit the amount you spent towards the purchase of any of our back issues packages. Example: If you have purchased five issues from us at $5 each and wish to purchase the complete back issues package (all Gold Editions, 50/50's and Quarterly Market Reports), submit a full payment of $149.99, and we will refund you $25 ASAP. I hope this is clear!

Today's issue is devoted entirely to author Dean Marshall. The "why" is explained in our first article.

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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