Sacramento's Spring Book Fair, Eugene's Spring Book Sale... and a Word About Pricing
We jumped on the freeway and headed to the Gresham (and outskirt of Portland) FOL sale but it had opened at 10 a.m. and we didn't get there until noon, so most of the good stuff was gone. We found a couple of fun things and one very wonderful Cajun Creole Cookbook that must weigh 15 lbs.
Before I leave you for a month or two I just want to say something about prices. I'm sure I'll generate comments on this, but don't get after the folks at AEMonthly, this is strictly my opinion. I'm not looking to get anyone's wooly knickers in a twist, it is just an observation.
Bookselling has changed over the past ten years so that, in some cases, I barely recognize the business I was in fifteen or twenty years ago. When I say bookselling, I don't mean the very elite antiquarian market. That is still experts selling to experts, whether they are booksellers or book collectors. I'm talking about general bookselling. We go to most of the shows on the West Coast every year, or at least, every other year. I have to wonder at the booksellers who are still pricing their more common books at pre-Internet prices. Sure, that book was once worth $30 when there were thirty copies available in the whole world, but now there are 3,000 copies online at $3 each.
I frequently hear booksellers complaining that they aren't selling any books. I am not surprised. I can't tell you how many folks come into my shop and look for a while, pick up a book that I am charging $7 for (and probably paid $3.50 for) and they say, "Why should I pay $7 when I can get this book for $1 online?" My standard comment is; "You'll pay about the same for the book after you include shipping and you'll have to wait at least five to ten days to get it. And you don't know, when you buy online from the $1 sellers, what condition the book is in. If you get a lemon, it will be more expensive to return it and wait another week or two, or forever, to get a good copy." Sometimes that scores with them, sometimes not.
Booksellers' prices at shows don't make too much sense to me. They go to book shows and price an unsigned, recent, first edition John Grisham, of which there were probably five million printed (and which one finds in every thrift store in every town) at $20 to $30. Do they not want to sell any books? Would they rather go out of business than lower prices? Heaven knows, they bitch nonstop about how they don't sell anything at shows. They price an old, raggedy copy of Taylor's Gardening Book at $25. What's up with that?
I hate it when I have to take a book I bought four years ago for $5 and put it online for $5.50, or even less, sometimes. ABE or Alibris will eat $1 of that or more. But, I don't have much choice when I see 20 copies for $1, $2, $3. I think that we, as booksellers, must get with the times and try to either stop selling common books at fairs or start lowering prices. I'll be happy to hear your comments, maybe for a future article, at email@example.com. And don't put on your snippy hat, I'm just asking for opinions. Ta, ta, till next time.