Bookseller Heaven; or The Thirtieth Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar
By Karen Wright
When I wrote an essay about why I should be awarded a scholarship to the Thirtieth Annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, way back last winter, I didn't really expect to get it. I assumed there would be a zillion people with better essay skills applying, and I forgot about it. My surprise was complete when I got an email from Kathy Lindeman, the Coordinator for the Seminar, telling me that I had won a week in the shadow of Pike's Peak. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for, but right up front, before I go into great detail, let me just say that even in college I have never had a learning experience so completely utopian. I'm still blissed out and my faith in my chosen profession is renewed ten times over. I went there thinking that after eighteen years as a bookseller, I knew a lot about bookselling. I came away much humbled, after realizing that I didn't know nearly as much as I thought I did. Therein lies my tale.
We skidded in late from the airport to register on Sunday night then grabbed a bite to eat at the college cafeteria. Now this cafeteria, I'm happy to say, was nothing like any cafeteria in which I've ever eaten. They had a well stocked salad bar, a breakfast bar, a grill, a stir-fry stall, a Mediterranean snack bar, a pizza bar, a meat and potatoes cafe, and a fairly constant supply of fresh, raw veggies and fruit. It was amazing, and a happy occasion since we were eating most of our meals there.
After dinner, there was a get-acquainted reception. We all introduced ourselves and then listened with interest to the keynote speaker; Hannes Blum, CEO of ABE Books. The recent announcement that Amazon had just co-partnered with ABE was of great interest to all of us, especially since there was a large contingent of dissatisfied Amazon users present. Blum fielded questions very carefully and noted several times that the two companies have not yet had time to discuss what changes - or lack thereof - they may make in their policies. We gleaned that ABE will probably handle more of the antiquarian and rare books and that Amazon will probably be responsible for the day-to-day sale of less lofty used books. After a couple of glasses of wine, a chocolate dessert, and a day on the plane, we were all ready to walk the three blocks to the Colorado College Inn. Our residence for the week was a former 'pay-by-the-hour' motel, bought by the college, rehabbed, and converted to summer student housing. It was quite nunnery-like, with single beds, no TVs, and no frills, but it was clean and had air conditioning. Besides, we were all so exhausted by the end of each day that I think we could have slept on a bench in a bus station.
It would take a week to give you a blow by blow account of each class, so I will hit the gist of each talk and you can email me if you want more details.
Monday we started in promptly after breakfast with the most basic of bookseller info; how to handle books including things as simple as how to open a rare book, how to shelve and unshelve it, sleeve it (if necessary), and a few other basic procedures. The segment on shipping covered what supplies to use and where to find specialized materials. We were also cautioned on where NOT to ship and why, and how to check an order that might seem a bit dicey.