The World Divides
Joe Felcone of Princeton, New Jersey, a bookman for 35 years, speaking about the business generally more than about the recent show in which he exhibited, expressed it this way:
"I've been in the book business for 35 years and never seen anything like this. The orders have stopped."
Bill Reese called it a difficult market but was satisfied with the business he did at the recent fair. "People [referring to dealers] have formed unreasonable expectations. The notion that value constantly accrues is false." Bill and his staff are refocusing on building client collections. Another dealer, one of the most successful in the field said, "I'm in the business of selling. I adjust my prices and will consign to auction to generate cashflow."
Ed Postal of Barnaby Rudge called his fair acceptable. "Everyone is doing less business. I felt the traffic was good. People were looking but buying less often and, more than in the past, paying by credit card."
Finally there was one dark note. One dealer was reported to have marked up some inventory by 20% and then falsely discounted it at the show. The ABAA is a fine organization. Without question many of the best dealers in the United States are members. Manipulation of prices to create a false impression of discounts casts an aspersion on the integrity of the show itself. Prices are written in pencil, the ABAA standards in ink.
Book Fairs and auctions are probably going to be even more important in the down market than they were in the up. Sales and prices may decline but the market data and face-to-face contacts at shows will be invaluable in accessing how the market is adjusting. Dealers who are going to hold out for the last dime aren't going to do well while dealers who adjust, will make less but build client relationships that will continue into the recovery.
We know every dealer is a book lover. Now we are going to find out how many are canny business people.
Editor's Note: Several people in the ABAA have taken issue with my statement "Finally there was one dark note. One dealer was reported to have marked up some inventory by 20% and then falsely discounted it at the show." They point out this may simply have been an error rather than intentional. We hope so.