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    Adventures of a rare book dealer (and former small bookshop owner).


Written on March 30, 2007

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Well, back from the San Luis Obispo FOL. For the most part, a very pleasant event. Weather was beautiful and the drive was nice and relaxing. Got there about 45 minutes ahead of time and was about 30th in line or so. A good crowd: about 125 people deep by the time the doors opened. And a nice mix: dealers (of course), but not too many; lots of older couples (readers); and a pleasantly-surprising number of families with kids.

Some observations:

1) As usual, the “specially priced” tables were more or less useless. $10 bucks for BCE of James Baldwin!? Another ten for a later printing of The Fountainhead sans DJ? Not for me…and I’m guessing not for anyone else either. They had a few nice signed items, but all priced at full retail. As were the few attractive sets I might have wanted. Note to volunteers: Just because SOMEONE on ABE is offering a book for a price, doesn’t mean you should. And even if the price is correct, that’s the price to some POTENTIAL customer SOMEDAY; if you want to sell these items in the two-and-a-half day window you have, you better price these things MUCH cheaper.

2) Too many ex-libs for my taste. About 25% by my estimation. I’d like to see these set aside in a separate section and offered at a cheaper rate than the rest of the items. They’d probably sell more that way too.

3) No great finds and from chatting with some other dealers, they all had similar experiences. I bought mainly stock for the store, rather than catalog or internet material. But I did pick up a few nice items…Enough that I’d go back next year.

4) Something I liked a lot: Pay by the inch. When you check out, the ladies stack your books in one big pile and pull out the yard stick. One buck and inch. A great way to do it. $60 bucks for about the same number of books. Wadda bahgin!

5) Another thing I liked: not to many ISBN jockeys. Three by my count. But boy were they going at it. No one made piles on the floor or claimed an entire table, but if it has a bar code, they picked it up. Stoop, scan…Stoop, scan. Ugh. The more I see these people work though, the more I realize they are no threat to (at least) me. I look in their bags and boxes and don’t see a single title I’d like to have. They completely ignore the books without ISBNs, pay no attention to editions…All the things that are important to me. So be it. I suppose they make some money, but that’s just too much like work.

6) For the most part, everyone was well-behaved, though there was a LOUD confrontation between two of the ISBN scanners that brought the entire room to a grinding halt to look and listen. Ah, booksellers…

7) That wasn’t the most upsetting thing I saw an ISBN dork doing though. That would have to be the youngish and stylish guy with the one-year old son who brought a portable DVD player to entertain his son while he scanned and scanned and scanned (AND scanned). I’d turn a corner around a table and there would be this poor kid laying down on the floor in the middle of the aisle watching CARS while his dad putzed around with his barcode-reading telephone. Just made me sad.

8) That said, the table were nicely spead out so I had little trouble getting around the boy. Of course, this speaks more to the thoughtfulness of the event organizers than the dad.

These few complaints aside, a very well-run event staffed by very friendly volunteers. Next month brings two more-local FOLs, both of which I expect will bring a better selection, but also, I’m afraid, more craziness. Stay tuned…

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