An Interview with IOBA Member (and ILAB President) Tom Congalton

“Book collecting is a vibrant, exciting and engaging pastime”An interview with ILAB President Tom Congalton

Tom is the owner of Between the Covers Rare Books LLC, which has one of the most fun and vibrant websites around. Through his work with the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, Rare Book School, the ABAA, and ILAB, as well as his presence at book fairs, he has done a tremndous amount to nurture newer book sellers, and to keep the trade alive and relevant.


Read the whole interview, and take heart from the closing Q & A. Although Tom speaks for ILAB, the same sentiments may apply to IOBA:

“What do you think about the future of our business?”

Everyday I meet people, both young and old, who are fascinated by what we do for a living. Rare book collectors have always been a very narrow slice of the population. I think the Internet has broadened our market and that market will develop greatly over the next decade or two. Booksellers will have to learn new tricks, develop new specialties, and utilize technology to broaden their markets. Collectors will develop as they always have – perhaps encountering a random book or object that attracts their attention, looking into it further, and eventually pursuing the objects of their desire – in some cases objects that they hadn’t even known existed.

I’m really very optimistic over the future of book collecting, although those who want it to function in the exact same way that has in the past couple centuries are probably going to be disappointed.

Here, ILAB can do a lot. We can continue to preserve the ethics and professionalism of our members – the things that make us the obvious portals for objects of rarity to collectors, libraries, and scholars. We can encourage the collegiality that allows our members to network with each other in order to help build collections that enhance our knowledge of both the past and the future. We can challenge ourselves and our collectors to use our imaginations to expand the boundaries of traditional book collecting. Some of my colleagues are selling archives of authors and scholars that consist almost entirely of computer data!

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Books for the Reading: A Potluck Supper of Books

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

It’s autumn in Oklahoma, it’s winter in Oklahoma, it’s autumn, it’s winter… The weather doesn’t quite know whether it’s autumn with red leaves on trees, but with winter’s frost in the early morning. Some days, it’s cold and crisp and other days it’s warm and playful. It’s rather like potluck supper – take what comes, in any form dished out.

Like the weather, my reading has also been similar to potluck supper. I had planned to peruse several biographies, but hadn’t considered more literature nor more science fiction. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, a literary classic, by Daniel Defoe was on temporary hold to be resumed at some future date. The science fiction books, All about Emily by Connie Willis, and John Varley’s Mammoth were not in the plan at all. Potluck supper.

The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe as penned by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) recounts the tale of a lone survivor shipwrecked upon an island. Robinson Crusoe was industrious, using everything he rescued from the ship — tools, firearms, and grain to build his future life. When supplies from the sunken ship were exhausted, the island provided him with many required necessities. Robinson Crusoe learned to craft furniture, produce candles from goat tallow, plant crops, and make clothing. The shipwreck built the man; as he mastered his circumstances, he also mastered his own life. The book is simultaneously profound and practical.

All About Emily by Connie Willis is a novelette loosely based on the 1950 film, All About Eve. This literary approach is a switch as many films are based upon short stories or novels. A young lady, Emily is an adoring fan of well-known and cynical actress Claire, but who or what is Emily and who or what does Emily aspire to be? As a suggestion and although it’s not necessary, start with the film and then read this book. (A little research revealed that the film, All About Eve had as a basis Mary Orr’s tale, “The Wisdom of Eve” and so we come full circle.)

I’ve always liked mammoths; they look so wildly improbable with those huge tusks. I’m sorry to have missed them by only about 14,000 years — give or take a few thousand years; it’s rather difficult to pinpoint the date of disappearance. John Varley, in his book, Mammoth, discusses the woolly mammoth, the Columbian mammoth, and the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California. Although the tale is science fiction and I haven’t finished it, the mammoth information is based upon fact and makes a nice introduction to a mammoth pun-intended science.

Have a reading potluck supper; who knows what exciting books you may discover. Enjoy, too, the last days of autumnal confusion. Is it winter or is it autumn? No one, including me, knows for sure.