Thursday, June 27, 2013
Dinner At Six
Sunday night was so much fun I wrote a post about it Monday afternoon. I had no time to upload it though, so I did it yesterday morning and somehow managed to delete it in the process. Where have we heard THAT before, huh? I had no time to rewrite it yesterday because I had a speaking engagement in the afternoon about bookselling which I will tell you about another day. But for now I am committed to trying to reconstruct the lost story.
Two of our favorite booksellers came for Sunday dinner (bearing wine!) over which we talked a blue streak about the world of online bookselling in this crazy year of 2013. It’s kind of interesting that they were seeking info from me because they aren’t exactly new kids on the block. One of them worked in bookstores for many years and has a degree which affords him the chance to specialize in an excellent genre. Given his depth of knowledge he could end up OWNING this genre! His partner likewise has a great specialty, so together they are one dynamic duo infused with passion, intelligence, a love of books, impeccable social skills, and the ability to wrap a decent package. And -- get this – their holdings are about triple mine at the moment.
But even with all that in their favor, I do have one thing with which I can help them and that’s what I aim to do. The only reason they lack this one thing is because of when and how they entered the book game. I arrived online in 1997 via Advanced Book Exchange while they came on the scene a little later through the Amazonian portal. By the time they got there the Big River was already polluted and I had long since waded out of its muddy waters. In amazon land many people start selling with no real business name – a la our friends. At ABE you had to have one from the get-go which of course in the fullness of time leads to an independent website, social media accounts, blogs, book fairs etc. – all the stuff needed to crank a business up to the next electronic level. By now I’ve acquired all that stuff, for better or worse, so pretty soon they will too. But even without it they’re already in a better position than I am at the moment.
I could be depressed about it. I could be a hell of lot depressed about it in fact.But I’m not. If I were depressed you’d know because I would tell you. Part of the reason why I have such a low inventory right now is the acquisition problem we’ve struggled with these past couple years. But it’s also the result of a good thing – our phenomenal sell-through over the years and the Great Purge I’ve embarked on this summer. But all this month a steady stream of decent stuff flowed in here – nothing stellar but certainly good enough -- so I am optimistic that better will follow. I also firmly believe that despite the oft-quoted comment I heard in line at a book sale years ago --“You don’t gotta know nothin’ to sell books!” – the truth is that he or she with the most knowledge wins the book game. Interestingly enough, I just ran across a great story told by Canadian antiquarian bookseller, David Mason, in his wonderful new memoir,The Pope’s Book Binder. It’s so illustrative of what I just said you’d swear I made it up, but I swear I DIDN’T—look on pages 115 and 116 and see for yourself..
One night Mason and a gang of inebriated booksellers were weaving their way to the next watering hole when one them picked up a box of pamphlets lying at the side of road in wait of the trash truck. An alcoholic haze had descended to a greater or lesser degree over them all, so they didn’t examine the leavings until they were safely ensconced in the next pub. The little booklets – there were many -- were all written in what they agreed was the Russian language. Mason concurred, but when he got his chance to take a closer look he immediately spotted something everyone else had missed – the imprints. Though written in the Cyrillic alphabet, Mason knew from having researched some of the little booklets in the past that two of the imprints were Winnipeg, Manitoba and Toronto respectively. He also knew enough Canadian history to know precisely why the box had turned up where it had. Immediately he offered the finder fifty dollars for the entire thing, a bid which was snapped up faster than you can say LaBlatte Blue. Mason carted his treasures home and right away sold several for $300 and $400.
I’ve had my share of those kind of lucky breaks and had the wits to use them to my benefit, so I have good reason to believe I’ll do it again. Right now it’s enough to be happy for our friends. They’re going to be great. They already ARE great.
They’re just going to be more visible.