Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2004 Issue

Book Shopping in the Pacific Northwest

A6a

Karen Wright shares a moment with a fellow reader in Sydney, BC.


By Karen Wright

My husband and I finally got a chance to take a real vacation where we could do whatever we wanted for two weeks, our first in about 20 years. Of course we also needed to do our annual book buy for the shop, but we think book shopping is actually fun. Or at least, I do, and he puts up with me pretty well.

Let me just say this about book shopping. Most of you readers are related in some way to the book business so you already know a lot about this. You are aware that it has become increasingly difficult for a knowledgeable book seller to find good, high quality books at a price at which one can make a profit. If you are online AND bricks and mortar, the overhead is pretty high, thus you need to get really good deals on books or you can't stay in the business. Even if you are just online, you pay a pretty penny to ABE or Alibris, or eBay (which I don't think is very good media for selling books). So, if you find a good, high quality book for $15.00 at a book store, you can bet that it is probably pretty close to the high end retail price. If you buy it for more than a 20-25% discount, the cost of gas, the cost of utilities for your shop, and the hefty 20-30% you have to pay your internet service provider and your ABE or Alibris percentage more than eat up any profit. That means, to make a profit, you basically have to get the book for about $7.00 to make a profit of $2.00-$3.00. I get pretty annoyed when I see a book that is, at the least, worth $15.00 or $16.00 for sale on the net for $2.00 or $3.00. There is some consolation in that many of these cheap books are ex-library.

Anyway, whining aside, we left our little home, dogs & shop in Virginia City, Nevada, and headed through Susanville, California, where we discovered a nice little book store, Margie's Book Nook on Main St. I found a few reasonably priced books and she gave us a small dealer's discount. We headed to Yreka, California, and spent a couple of days at my husband's brother's farm near Fort Jones. We hit all the bookstores in Yreka, but they were pricey and disinclined to give us any discount until we found The Hospice Thrift Shop on Miner St., which was a tiny little store. They had quite a few overpriced remainders, but I did find a few nice books at quite reasonable prices and the woman was willing to give a dealer discount. There was also a pretty good thrift store on the main drag in old town and we picked up two boxes there. We were off to a good start!

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