Woke up this morning to cold air wafting through the open window, a sign that fall with all its pleasures will soon be here. I love the leaves, cold weather food, winter clothes, blankets, knitted afghans that don’t match the rug, red wine and cozy nights reading by the fireplace. Oh, and book sales. I still like book sales. Saturday’s mail brought two reminders of upcoming library sales, the sight of which fills me to the brim with cockeyed optimism. I know, I KNOW. I rail about the scanners and the “race to the bottom” and all that other bad stuff that turns me into a grouch. But the thought of tables and tables of books, most of which I know will not be “good”, might possibly hide a treasure that I alone will recognize. Always, always, as long as I live I think fall will trigger that deep pleasure in hiking the book trail.
The word “good” does bother me though. When I was a kid “good” when used to describe books meant something altogether different. A “good” book was the one I couldn’t put down, the one I HAD to read no matter what dreaded math test loomed tomorrow. Betsy and Tacy, Jennifer Hill, Little Women, Katie John, Beezus and Ramona – I loved them all. Today at the sales these are not “good” books. They’ve all fallen out of too many closets, enjoyed too many reprints, got in the hands of sellers who didn’t appreciate them, and were devalued. In a monetary sense, unless they are first editions (and in some cases even THAT’S iffy), they are not “good.” I really hate it when I make that value judgement, when I say “they had a lot of books, but none of them were any good” because it’s not true. LOTS of them were good – Alice Hoffman’s The Probable Future, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, anything by Richard Russo, Wally Lamb, oyce Carol Oates, Robert Hallenga, and Gail Godwin are VERY good. I loved them when I read them and I and love them still. So this year I want to stop saying that there was nothing good at the sales when good books were so plentiful I tripped over them.
Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t want to find treasures. I do. Of course I do. But I have to tell you that selling books at the mall has been wonderful for my perspective. I’ve sold three-figure books there and ten dollar books there and have loved both ends of the spectrum, something which is not true online. It pleases me when someone finds a good book they can afford and enjoy as much as I enjoyed choosing it. I love that I can scoop up something that catches my fancy with no worry about what’s happening online, or will happen an hour after I list it. At heart I don’t really think I was cut out to be an online seller -- which is not to say that I don’t love getting lots of orders and wonderful thank you notes from customers. I love all that good stuff. Maybe what I mean is this -- I WAS cut out for it the way it was in the beginning, but am less so now. I do have it worked out better now though – no more selling on any sites that make me break out in hives. These would be (in no special order) ebay, amazon and alibris. I’m happy to keep it simple these days with Abe, Biblio, my own site, and my secret site. It’s enough. And it has renewed my pleasure in being online greatly.
So then. Book sale season begins in a week and a half or so. It’s time to ferret out my Friends of the Library membership cards, my canvas bags, my favorite book sale jeans and sweaters, add a pair of reading glasses so I can see what I’m doing, and prepare once again for the fifteenth consecutive year to take my place in line.