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by Craig Stark

#158, 26 September 2011

One of the most frequent criticisms I receive from experienced booksellers is my practice of "outing" books that are both common and profitable. "You are single-handedly destroying the market" they will say, and indeed, on occasion, I've seen prices erode significantly after publishing information on a book that "looks like nothing." I've also seen prices skyrocket on semi-obscure reference books that I've recommended in articles, and in one instance this happened with a vengeance: A bookseller immediately purchased dozens of them from the author for a modest sum and realized huge profits in short order. More recently, after publishing an article featuring H.P. Kraus's A Rare Book Saga, I watched Amazon sales rankings plunge overnight from well up into the millions to well under 50,000. The many reasonably priced copies available before the newsletter went live disappeared quickly, and if I'm not mistaken, the cheapest copy now available is priced at about $30.

Oh, well.

But what also happens to most of these books is reassuring to those of us in this for the long haul: Prices gradually return to their pre-outed levels, as they should. Market knowledge is as perishable, after all. Anyway, I don't do this sort of thing with a mischievous intent but to illustrate broader bookselling principles. It's so often these very books that, because demand is especially deep and wide, provide us with an abundant and revealing market history, which more specifically shows us much about why some books are desirable and some not, how to best market them and so on - in a way, that is, that books with lower profiles cannot.

Yes, yes, it's time to out another book! Read today's feature article for more.

Before closing, I'd like you to ponder something by way of previewing next week's newsletter. Look at this:

For less than one red cent, I've transformed a flexible softcover book into what behaves like a block of very hard, very stiff, very difficult to damage wood and sealed it against moisture. And how much did you say you were spending on packaging supplies? Stay tuned for more!

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