Bookseller Heaven; or The Thirtieth Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar
Since many attendees were Internet booksellers, Chris Volk, from bookfever.com in California, had a lot of valuable tips and tricks to impart to Internet booksellers. She talked about different venues, i.e. Alibris vs. ABE, PayPal vs. credit cards, and all the other pros and cons of search engines, proper descriptions, commission costs, and "hidden" costs of selling online, and how to effectively list and keep track of books. At the end of the day, we were ready for an evening away from the College, so several of us walked the short distance to downtown and had dinner at the very excellent Everest Tibetan restaurant.
At the beginning of the week most of us couldn't imagine how we would survive the hectic pace and cram all that necessary knowledge into our tiny brains. By the time Thursday came around, we were not sure we wanted this delectable feast of information to end.
I have never collected or sold a lot of ephemera. It is a very special part of book and antique selling, requiring a lot of expertise, a lot of patience, and a lot of space, which I don't have. David Margolis and Jean Moss from Santa Fe, NM, however, have made that their specialty and they are world renown for their twenty-five years of knowledge of prints, photographs, and printed ephemera. It was quite interesting to hear about this subject upon which I was completely ignorant. They were so passionate about their profession that it made me want to consider delving into little trinkets and bits of paper. I couldn't resist going up to Jean at the end of the lecture and telling her, with a straight face, that I guess I better stop throwing away my ephemera. She didn't laugh, just looked a bit horrified. I would not throw away that sort of stuff, of course, but would take it to my antique dealer friend who "gets it" and sells it.
Michael Ginsberg has been in the antiquarian book trade since 1956. His discussion and demonstration of book auctions was really comprehensive and fascinating. It included a live auction of goods (mostly books) and services (a yummy gourmet dinner with the faculty), the proceeds of which were donated to local libraries. I do occasionally go to auctions, but I have to say that I'm very cautious. If I cannot make a profit on an item, and I'm not buying for my own collection, I stop bidding when "auction fever," as I call it, infects the crowd.
However, before the auction was over a number of people who are not so cautious managed to help the seminar raise nearly $5,000 for local libraries, and I did buy one book for too much money, but it was for my granddaughter, so that's okay. I would have killed to go to the faculty dinner, but that privilege went to a bookseller who had more money than I did. Dinner for two for $1000 was a bit out of my league.
After lunch, Dan Gregory regaled us with ideas on how to market our book business. We got tips on Internet selling, web pages, catalogs, advertising, professionalism, quotes, things to include with an order, and solving problems with customers. He finished with this bit of wisdom; "No one likes to be sold, but people love to buy, so give them reasons to be YOUR customers."
There followed a lively discussion on problems in the book trade led by the whole faculty. We examined forgeries, fakes and stolen book problems, and what to do when you know a book is a forgery or fake - don't buy it - or when a book is stolen - try to prosecute the person! Again, networking was stressed and encouraged.