Is it a “Magic Page”?

From the Chalkboard: Back to School Edition:

IOBA received this query from a school librarian in Maine:

“Many teachers call the page in the book that matches the cover image the ‘magic page’.

“Is there a correct term for this?”

Can anyone help? As an example, see Maud and Miska Petersham’s 1947 The Story Book of Ships, where the Viking ship used on the cover appears on what would be page 11 of the unpaginated 28 page picture book.

Martin Frost 2012 Tour: Canada and the US

Talks and workshops on ‘Fore Edge Painting a Book’ by Martin Frost, coincide with two new titles on Fore Edge by Jeff Weber and Jeanne Bennett.

A series of whole day workshops teaching the technique of water-colour painting
onto bookedges, structured to appeal to painters, bookartists and bookworkers of all
levels and anyone with an interest in the unusual. Having completed the course, the
student will be well-primed in the practice of edge-painting and will take home an
example of their own painting, hidden under the gilded-edge of their own book.

Separate illustrated lectures describes the genesis and progress of this little-known
art form, supported by a display of painted books from the artist’s own collection.

Toronto 12, 13 October 2012

Rochester 16, 17 October 2012

New York City 19, 20 October 2012

Books for the Reading: Bill the Conqueror

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

Autumn, perhaps, has arrived early in Oklahoma; it’s cooler now. In the dark of early morning, mystical clouds in the distance are backlit by lightning; small patches of damp remain on the roads after nightly rains. It’s a welcome relief from the relentless oven heat, blazing white sun, and desert-dry air of the last few months.

In keeping with the welcome relief of weather is a bright, cheerful book, Bill the Conqueror by P. G. Wodehouse. Although first published in 1924, the tale remains fresh, as do the characters. P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) wrote delightful, complicated fictional tales. The Wodehouse stories I know best are those where butler Jeeves rescues high-spirited social gadfly Bertie Wooster from dire predicaments and consequences.

This tale, however, is not about Bertie Wooster, nor is it about Jeeves. It is about Bill, an upstanding-all-around-good-guy who travels to England from America with his not-so-upstanding best friend, Judson. Bill, the hero (or conqueror, if you prefer) must isolate his best friend from trouble and drink, investigate a dubious-dealing business firm, and discover who he actually loves, Felicia or Alice. In this tale, everyone seems to know everyone else, but in a rather confused fashion with multiple misunderstandings. It’s usual Wodehouse mayhem and simultaneously manages to be good, humorous, and wildly improbable. I do wonder what the diagram showing the lines of all the relationships would resemble – a kaleidoscope would be my best guess.

This may be a plot spoiler, but the book finishes well: no dark humor, no hidden agenda, no reading between the lines. The action and multiple storylines are complex, but the intent is clear: enjoyment.

It’s also time to enjoy Oklahoma early morning soft rains, and lightning in mystical, dark skies.

Can Less Be More?

By Timothy Doyle


Here’s a question to ponder: Can less be more? Four simple words followed by a question mark. On the face of it, the question makes no sense. It’s like asking if day can be night, or if hot can be cold. But then maybe it’s a matter of context and perspective. For someone who works the night shift, maybe night is their day. I can remember 85 degree summer days that certainly felt hot at the time, but after this recent stretch of 100+ degree weather those days would feel cool if not actually cold.

A couple months ago I arrived at my local Goodwill shortly after they had put a large lot of Easton Press and Folio Society books on the shelves. They were in immaculate condition, without the bookplates one so often finds, and no scuffing or chipping to the gilt edges or the gilt lettering and designs on the boards. Knowing that each one was worth at least a crisp $20 bill, I didn’t hesitate to take all of them. I ended up with 75 books at $2.50 each, for a total cost of $187.50.

As an aside, during checkout I heard the dreaded words: “Oh, you should have been here yesterday!” There was another equally large lot that went on the shelves the day before, which were all bought by a single person. Lucky for me he didn’t think to ask if there were more in the back.

So now I had 6 large boxes of new, uncatalogued stock taking up room in my already crowded book garage. I did a quick inventory, and determined that while each book was a solid $20 to $25, there weren’t any higher value items. No signed editions, and nothing from the Easton Press science fiction series. I already had a backlog of higher value uncataloged stock waiting for my attention, so these were going to go on the back burner. Then I started thinking: what if I could find a buyer for the whole lot at a discounted price? There’s something to be said for a quick flip that lets you double or triple your money.

I continued to think about this over the next couple of days, and then while driving I saw a car with one of those magnetic door signs advertising a local interior design company. I recalled hearing from other dealers about selling leather bound books by the foot to interior decorators, so I jotted down the number. I called to pitch the lot of books to the owner of the firm. She was very interested in the idea, but said she had no immediate projects that fit. I followed up the phone call with a letter, which included a business card.

So there it sat for a while. I looked up some more Baltimore area interior design and decoration firms, but didn’t really pursue it. I continued to work through my older backlog, moved everything out of my garage so the plumbers could tear up our sewer line, and prepared for and recovered from Balticon (big local science fiction convention that I sell at every year). I did start a thread on the ABE bookseller board outlining my thoughts on flipping a large lot for a quick profit. Predictably, the responses were across the board. Some thought it a good idea and liked the idea of marketing to interior decorators. Some couldn’t understand why a real bookseller would ever want to sell a $20 book for $10 (there is a small but constant element of “real bookseller” chauvinism on the ABE forum). Then the thread degenerated into a multi-sided argument about the difference between direct marketing and spamming.

Then a few weeks ago, there was an IOBA (Independent Online Booksellers Association) mail list discussion going on, and someone mentioned selling a large lot of Easton Press books to a US East Coast dealer. I got the dealer’s name, and I emailed him with a list of what I had available. Within a couple hours he replied with an offer to buy, at a price roughly 50% of what I figured the resale value to be. Better yet, though located a couple hours south of me in Virginia, he would be in Baltimore a few days later. We arranged to meet, and the transaction concluded without me having to pack and ship the books.

This worked because I was lucky enough to find the books at a really cheap price, and they were a tightly focused lot of books in as new condition – in this case classic literature and history in fine bindings. I found a dealer who specializes in Easton Press and Folio Society, who felt sure enough of his knowledge and marketing skills that he could offer close to 50% of market value. In the long run, he and I will probably profit by about the same amount. Theoretically, this could work for any focused lot: vintage science fiction, aviation history, Americana, etc. A specialist will know their market, and will feel more confident in offering you more for books that they want and that they know they can sell.

With very little work and no listing or commission fees, I cleared an almost $800 profit – roughly four times my initial investment. I also freed up the shelf space that would have been taken up by 75 books. I certainly could have – and eventually would have – listed them individually, and sold them over the course of the next several years. This would undeniably have earned me more money in the long run. But I would have paid commission, and it would have taken time to list, pick, pack and ship each individual order.

By selling this lot in this manner I have cash in hand to buy more and better stock, I have more time to research and list new stock, and I have space for it. I’ve established a relationship with an area bookdealer, which may continue to bear fruit in the future. I also sent a cash bonus to my IOBA colleague who gave me the referral that led directly to the sale – in the interests of good karma and building professional relationships.

This is certainly not suggesting that selling all of one’s stock at 50% estimated value is a good general business model. This was a no lose situation for me: at the worst I had 75 books that I could list and sell for a nice profit over time, and as it happened I was able to sell them for 50% cash in hand with no commission fees and almost no work. For this particular situation and in the context of my business, less was definitely more.

Copyright 2012, Timothy Doyle. All rights reserved.

Scary Reading for the Online Bookseller: Wired on the Ease of Hacking

Matt Honan writes:

“In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

“In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave them access to Twitter. Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened, because their ultimate goal was always to take over my Twitter account and wreak havoc. Lulz.

“Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.

“Those security lapses are my fault, and I deeply, deeply regret them.

“But what happened to me exposes vital security flaws in several customer service systems, most notably Apple’s and Amazon’s. Apple tech support gave the hackers access to my iCloud account. Amazon tech support gave them the ability to see a piece of information — a partial credit card number — that Apple used to release information. In short, the very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification. The disconnect exposes flaws in data management policies endemic to the entire technology industry, and points to a looming nightmare as we enter the era of cloud computing and connected devices.”

The full article continues here:


Books for the Reading: Moby-Dick or, the Whale: Part II

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

Summer remains in Oklahoma with early morning heat rising to a high by afternoon. The ground foliage is summer brown between clumps of distinctive orange dirt. When the wind blows, dirt rises and hovers; trees remain permanently bent. It’s startling and familiar to see half-curled trees; the scene makes for a true tale. Truth is always outrageous, more so than fiction.

There’s always the true tale of shipwreck. Thomas Farel Heffernan’s Stove by a Whale: Owen Chase and the Essex is biographical history during the whaling era. More specifically, the book recounts the fate of the whaleship, Essex, and her crew after being rammed by a whale.

By 1819, Nantucket, the small – approximately 47 square miles – half-moon island off the Massachusetts coast, was a thriving, prosperous site. Nantucket whalers were a large and close group, known around the world to each other. From Nantucket, twenty-one men sailed aboard the Essex; Owen Chase was the first mate. The ship, stove by a whale in 1820, sunk at sea.

All twenty men on board the Essex – one sailor left earlier – survived the whale staving; however, only eight survived until rescue. Owen Chase was one of the survivors; his Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-ship Essex, of Nantucket was subsequently published in 1821. This narrative formed the basis of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or, the Whale. However, where Moby-Dick closes with the shipwreck, Owen Chase’s Narrative commences with the shipwreck and details the subsequent ordeal at sea.

Thomas Farel Heffernan in Stove by a Whale: Owen Chase and the Essex includes the Owen Chase Narrative in its entirety, continues the sea survival story, provides a biography of survivors, presents additional history, speculates about Owen Chase’s Narrative ghostwriter, and introduces other accounts – literary or historical – of the shipwreck or similar incidents. (A little further research on my part strongly suggests that there was, at least, Narrative ghostwriter assistance.) As for Owen Chase, he remained a career sailor. The sea always calls the sailor.

Far from the sea, the wind blows in Oklahoma. The wind, like the sea, carries its own true tales.