Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Good Ol' Days...of Book Buying

In the past month, I've gone out scouting, as we say, and the process has made me nostalgic for the so-called "good ol' days." I've been buying books in large quantities for well over 20 years now. Many things have changed since I began this path in my life, for instance, the number of people buying books, the price of books bought (generally higher) and sold (generally lower), bookseller aids, technology, the cost of gas, 'Antique Roadshow' and eBay mentality, and the overall dumbing down of the business of books as a whole.

Earlier this year I became more fully aware of how the supply end has changed dramatically. As in most things in life, changes gradually occur over time and the totality may be hardly noticed until something happens that brings all the changes to the forefront of your consciousness. That something was pulling a book from the stored portion of my personal collection.

I opened the box to find so many wonderful rare and out - of - print books that I spent several hours looking at each book. After enjoying my books, I remembered how little I had to pay for those books, and that for the most part, virtually no one looked for books to sell or for themselves at the time of my purchase. In my very early years of scouting, more books than buyers existed. Most people selling books to me were trying to rid themselves of the books, so much of a burden was the printed word then. I cannot recount the number of times that people told me they took truckloads of books to the dump because they thought no one wanted books. I still shudder at the thought. Granted, not every book is wanted or worth the bother, but heaven knows what treasures now are buried with actual trash!

Yes, I long for the good old days, not so much for the quantity of books available to me, but for the type of competition back then.
Now, I encounter what I call the book "widgeteer." You know the type. The ones that scan every single book in sight that has a UPC label. The people that cannot make a single purchase without a device telling them what to do. The ones that leave the antiquarian or scarce OOPs/OPs and any other book without something scannable. Sure, I know some of the books they grab are likely valuable, but will they the next time they see the identical title? Do they even know why? Or care? I suppose it doesn't matter... It doesn't to me in matters of business, but as a book lover..

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