The AE Book Collector Survey Conducted at the Recent ABAA Show in San Francisco

- by Bruce E. McKinney


The 36th ABAA International Book Fair

Maps and travel and voyages tended to be answered together so there is some double counting. Books with images tended to be doubled up with maps as well. Many people didn’t know what Americana is. Because we stood by a sign that read “Americana Exchange” it seems likely that people with an interest in Americana probably stepped forward to be interviewed while people who knew this wasn’t their interest may have stepped back.

We also asked if the respondent had a fondest wish for the book business. Most didn’t. A few hoped that more catalogues would be issued. They enjoy them. Others hope there will be more shows. A few wished for more and better online book sites. Overall it seems to be a transitional period with no one trend or wish apparent.

The single most salient fact seems to be the lack of new people entering this interesting field. San Francisco is probably near the top in terms of exposure to the net so results at this fair may not be duplicated in other locations. Northern California is also suffering disproportionately from the national economic slowdown and may be more affected by it than other parts of the country.

This show was surprisingly local. While billed as a national, even international show, almost 90% of respondents were from California. We counted a few people from the State of Washington, a few from the Midwest but no collector from east of the Mississippi. Dealers of course came from all over the United States, Canada and Europe.

This survey seemed to find the traditional book world in a state of flux. A few dealers tried to stop us from conducting this survey, a sign that anxiety is not far from the normally placid surface of the rare book world. The world is changing and some book dealers seem to feel as if they are on the outside of the curve, certainly being asked/required/demanded to adjust to a pace of change they do not willingly accept. Few book dealers were thinking of Bob Dylan when they entered the field but he may have been thinking of them when he wrote, “If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying...”