We talked about finding books; how hard it is and how to price. He knew a book dealer in Kansas City who used to buy books from him in Albuquerque once a year. He used to buy strange things and be pleased with them. Now, he says it is almost impossible to buy anything on the road because even if he's never seen anything like it before, and he thinks it's a $20 book, he gets online and there are dozens of them and they start at $3.50 and go, maybe, to $10. His overall book adage is that it is a sad statement that we [independent booksellers] have become little more than warehouses for Barnes and Noble."
We talked about using Alibris, Amazon or ABE. He felt Alibris seemed a little bit more professional in general and that they took 2% less commission from their sellers.
We talked about book fairs and old school booksellers. Jerry is good friends with Robert and Dorothy Emerson; very knowledgeable, old-time booksellers. "One night I was in the Emersons' booth and watching all the dealers go around looking at different books. One buyer looked around for a long while, handled a book three or four times, and then turned to Dorothy and said "Can't you do a little better on this?" Dorothy, who was very old school; sensible haircut, sensible shoes and a wool suit, stepped up into his face like a basketball player taking a charge; nose to nose, and said 'Well, the thing is, Robert gives a great deal of thought to pricing the books, and if we changed them, it would somehow imply that...he was wrong!' And then she hard stared at him."
I noted that I had learned a lot about the book business from working at Powell's Books, but learned more about books and pricing from my friend, J.B. at Eureka Books in California. Also, I learned a good deal about books, pricing, points, and the like from John Dunning in Denver. We agreed that there is a huge difference between knowing books and knowing the book business. Knowledgeable booksellers are getting scarcer and scarcer.