Rare Book Monthly
Articles - December - 2004 Issue
Bill McBride Publications on Book Collecting: A Review
by Renée Magriel Roberts
As any book collector or seller well knows, properly identifying first editions can be more art than science. There are many similarities, but no standardized way in which publishers communicate the edition (if at all!) to the book consumer, and with the myriad of people selling books now on the internet, the simple designation, "first edition" on a listing is no guarantee whatsoever that what you are buying is the real thing.
With this problem in mind, and in the spirit of improving my bookselling practice, I thought it might be interesting to review three books currently available from Bill McBride: A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions. Sixth Revised Edition. Hartford, CT: McBride/Publisher, 2000, $15.95; Book Collecting for Fun & Profit: Building a Book Collection Building a Book Business. Second Edition. Hartford: McBride/Publisher, 2002, $12.95; and Points of Issue: A Compendium of Points of Issue of Books by 19th-20th Century Authors. Third edition. Hartford: McBride/Publisher, (1996), no publication date, $12.95.
The original edition of Building was in 1996; one would expect that the world has changed since then. McBride did a revision to include the Internet, and which he advertises as addressing Internet buying and selling, pricing, and the changes inherent in moving from the physical to the virtual bookstore, as well as a tantalizing reference to changing "browsing" (meaning trolling for books in a physical store to find unknown ones of interest, or books marked at low prices) as we know it.
Sounded interesting, but on opening Building it was clear that this book was aimed at the yard sale amateur, not the professional, nor is it up-to-date on current Internet practices, dangers and opportunities from any point of view. There are some useful little lists, such as "the states of a book, from manuscript to reprint" that explain terminology commonly used in book descriptions; a glossary of the parts of a book (some simple illustrations would have been helpful here!); how books are valued (simplistically). McBride still points to libraries as places to acquire bibliographies, completely ignoring all the contemporary Internet resources, including library catalogues, auction records (such as on www.americanaexchange.com) and specialized web sites. The advice for selling on the Internet (e.g. "post your best and see what happens") is silly and inadequate, and his advice for packing -- he recommends plastic bags covered with padded newspaper -- will, I suppose get the book from point A to B in one piece, but will not result in a well-presented product. There is virtually nothing on the global marketplace, nor on all of the various sites that are used in Internet selling, thin material on shipping, almost nothing on Internet fraud. No help here -- not even for the amateur seller.