Summer 2006 (Vol. VII, No. 1) Table of Contents
- From the editor
- Father Richard Reed of St. Gabriels Bookstore
- A Guide to Improving Your Online Book Sales
- Seeing Shelley Plain: Memories of New Yorks Legendary Phoenix Book Shop
- The Team Behind Books Tell You Why
- Ephemeral Assays: Pulp Frisson
- Ethics & eBay – No, Really: Perspectives from a Modern Library Collector
- House Calls, Estate Sales and Auction tales
- Caite Stevens of Vivarte Books
- The Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar
I thank you for your service, and have found the information on your web site to be most useful. I am an engineer disabled with Lou Gehrigs disease, and as such I pass the time and maintain my intellect engaged in a variety of independent research projects. As I do not have ready access to a quality technical library I purchase a large number of books and other reference materials over the internet. The information on your organizations web site has saved me considerable heart and head ache over the years.
I would like to make a suggestion for an addition to your glossary of terms (http://www.ioba.org/terms.html). In the last six months or so I have noticed the so-called International Edition of books offered for sale by a number of internet book vendors. They are being sold as new books at steeply discounted prices, which is a true statement as they are in fact new books at a very cheap cost. However, International Editions are known to have problems. They are often printed in black and white, when the regular edition (also known as the United States Edition) is printed in color. The quality of paper in an International Edition is often inferior as well. The graphics and type fonts of the International Edition are seldom the same as in regular editions, and this is particularly true for technical books. International Editions often suffer from poor quality control. Common problems include skewed pages, margins that vary from page to page, inverted print or mirrored print, smeared ink, non-sequential or missing pages, and blank pages. In fairness, all these problems do not occur in every International Edition, nor do they appear simultaneously.
Sellers will frequently claim the International Edition is the same as the United States Edition, or that the International Edition is simply a paperback version. It is not uncommon for the International Edition to have its own ISBN (International Standard Book Number), particularly if it is an authorized copy. However, some overseas publishers do not bother to obtain a new ISBN, or they do not bother to include it as an identifier. This is especially true of publishers in India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea, and other Pacific Rim countries.
Do not confuse the International Edition with the European Edition. Frequently technical books have a European Edition and a United States Edition. The main difference here is simply in units of measurement, with the European Edition using the metric system and the United States Edition using the inch/pound system. Other differences may be in the choice of language, like centre in the European Edition instead of center in the United States Edition. The end of chapter problems in science, engineering or mathematics books are usually quite different between European and United States Editions.
In short, prospective purchasers should realize that there is probably a good reason that International Editions are so steeply discounted. It is not uncommon to see them selling for half the cost of a regular edition. You get what you pay for.
-Just picked up two signed copies of My Memories: 1886-1977, by Ira Gray, the Adirondack Mountains guide. Only one copy listed at $95. Author/title searching on Gray/Memories, the only other hit was for a single copy of My Hair and Other Memories: The Adventures of a Boomer Facing 50, by Bill Gray. A brief excerpt from what is perhaps the more important work, under the heading, A Wilderness Picture. It was a nice warm evening along the last of June. I had been out and got me a mess of trout. Had just finished my supper and lay on the bunk in my cabin near Miners Marsh. I had the door open, as it was real warm. I hear a little noiseand there by the doorway was an old partridge and her brood of eleven little babies. No pictures on T.V. can be like this.
-From a Texas A&M University Libraries 2004-2005 printed report, With Al and Darlyne Lowman’s donation of Adrian Wilson’s Printing for the Theater (1957) to the Lowman Collection, the University Libraries now claims a quartet of books popularly considered to be the four most important in the history of 20th-century fine press printing. The other three volumes are D. B. Updike’s The Book of Common Prayer (1928), Edwin and Robert Grabhorn’s Leaves of Grass (1930), and the Grabhorns’ The Santa Fe Trail (1931). Further research shows that Printing for Theater was limited to 250 copies, with twenty tipped-in examples of Interplayers theater printing, in addition to extra rear pocket programs (17 in one case) which are different for each edition. When you author/title search Wilson/Printing for Theater on ABE there are no copies listed, but a full author search reveals two with the variant spelling Theatre, priced at $950 and $1,500. BookFinder reveals a third copy through ILAB, priced at $900. Theater is spelled correctly in the title but the other way in the description, which is fine, and they added a the to the title, which is not fine but would not be a search term fatal flaw. (The Texas A&M entry goes back and forth on the added the themselves.) One of the online offerings includes this nice description. Folio, original decorated cloth, illustrated endpapers, with the prospectus (and other material as described), in the original shipping carton, exceptionally fine. This copy was mailed at publication to one of the Wilson’s oldest friends, Alma Holmgren, long a figure in Bay Area publishing, and subsequently a teacher. Alma attended the publication party, or a party, at which Wilson sold copies in order to finance a trip for himself and his wife Joyce Lancaster, to Europe. So, it pays to attend publication parties like that, and if there is a bright side to a thousand dollar typo, it may even pay to be off a bit on the correct spelling of the author or title, as fine copies of such books will only appreciate in value.
Is there a good book out there on the minor commercial art form of blurb writing? Or a dedicated website (Canada’s Alex Good bestowed awards called the Puffies on the worst examples not that long ago, but those lists don’t seem to be up any more). Maybe, but I didnt look too hard. Instead, I just dipped a minnow net into that flow of electrons called Google for a few minutes and pulled out a few wrigglers.
-What a fantastic book! from the dust jacket of Peter Bernstein’s Capital Ideas, and This is a great book!” from William Bernstein’s The Intelligent Asset Allocator, both by popular blurber John C. Bogle.
-Here are a few from A Distant Book Lifted, by Michael Stevens, which is a collection of blurbs, forewords, afterwards, introductions and prefaces written by William S. Burroughs.
John Waters, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters
John Waters is the Pope of Trash and his taste in tacky is unexcelled.”
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
One of the few books I have been able to read in recent years.”
Irving Rosenthal, Sheeper
Rosenthal has brought back to writing the almost forgotten element of style. On each sentence he imposes his seal. Each word is transmuted by the alchemy of arrangement. Brightly colored beetles move and shift in a glittering mosaic of Mandarin complexity. A brilliant specialized performance.”
[Note: This 2001 title with a Spicewood, TX imprint sounded interesting so I checked online and ordered the only one available for $45 (directly from the bookseller of course), one of 26 lettered copies signed by the compiler, in stapled wrappers, with a previously unpublished photo of Burroughs on the cover. If I could write a blurb for this one it would read, Engaging bon mots from the bow of Burroughs in a flattering vein, and a book that will surely double in value! Alas, though, it wont, as the familiar reply comes back, The book is no longer available. A Distant Book Lifted indeed!]
-A U.K. edition of Mitch Cullin’s Tideland carried a Terry Gilliam blurb which read, F*ucking wonderful!
Dust jackets are part and parcel of many of the books we handle. The blurbs they carry are often informative and interesting, often shameless and misleading, and often funny or unintentionally funny. Please consider sharing some good examples under this heading.
For example, what happens when a blurber simply runs out of things to say? I am holding a plain light brown and white dust jacket for Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru. It’s Volume 35, from the second series, covering the period 9/1/1956 to 11/30/1956. On the rear panel, under From Reviews of Earlier Volumes,” we have the following. This (Volume 34) is an important volume because it is a trailer to a yet more important one that would follow next.”
We will feature a verbatim excerpt from a different book blog each issue. IOBA does not necessarily support or endorse these blogs and their contents, but they do contain some good stuff or they wouldnt be here.
Mutterings of a Mad Bookseller
How the Databases are Ruining the Book Business
This will not be the usual plaintive wail you have seen other places about the Big Bad Databases. I like the databases. For the most part they make my job of locating good books easier. But there is also a downside, and that downside is represented by IGFs- Ignorant Greedy Fucks.
A quick story will illustrate. Last year I was buying books from one of my usual private sources, an ex-antiques dealer selling off her library. The last book she brought she laid proudly in front of me and proclaimed- I’ll bet you don’t know what this is worth!”
I looked at the book, an uncommon and good silver title, and said As a matter of fact I do, because I just sold a copy. $750.”
No, No,” she said smiling. It’s worth $5000!”
Um, no,” I said, frowning, it’s not.”
Upon returning to the office I found the source of the problem- a copy listed on a major database for $5000. Now let’s get real- I have been selling books in the very specialized field of the decorative arts for 25 years. We deal with major collectors, dealers and institutions. I know and monitor the other specialists in my field. That book was worth $750.
Yet one ignorant idiot, with pretensions of grandeur almost spoiled my opportunity to buy a saleable book at a fair price (fortunately my seller had faith in me, and I got the book).
But the plague continues. Just today I got a want-match on an out of print 1990s furniture book which is, possibly, on a good day, with a tailwind, worth $1000, and the price was $4500. I’ve sold 17th century decorative arts books for that price.
That’s all fine and well- it’s a free country after all, except that other dealers use the databases to price. How much do you want to bet that a new copy comes up tomorrow for $3000, that dealer also being ignorant, and thinking to undercut the current price? I love dealers undercutting other dealers prices, except where the original price was hatched in a crack dream. And not long in the future I will have that price quoted to me by a collector looking to sell.
What can be done? Not a damn thing that I can see. There have always been dealers, like this one, who simply add an extra digit to the highest number they can think of. The problem is that, with the internet, everyone else takes their cue from those fantasy prices. The other ethical problem is what if someone actually pays that price? I know, I know, a fair price” is determined by a willing seller and informed buyer, but the key here is informed. Everyone in the book business knows that many buyers are not informed. A certain Ebay seller has made a fortune taking advantage of uniformed and deep-pocketed buyers. Does that make it right? The greedy preying on the ignorant?
But it’s a problem.
What’s Veronica Lake have to do with all this? Nothing, I’m just a fan, and they were talking about her on Biblio the other day.
Ye Olde Booksellers
The True and Genuin Elegy of Matthew Gun Bookseller, Who Departed, &c.
This is a one page sheet, probably printed in Dublin in 1724. The elegy itself rambles a bit, and starts off with puns about Guns last name. A couple of couplets are reproduced, along with his epitaph in its entirety. The early printers convention for the letter s is retained.
In his own Books he might his Fate forefee,
They felt the Teeth of Worms, and fo will He.
Fanatick Writers on his Shelves did rife,
But now alas! Theyll fall to Tarts and Pies.
Reader my Name was Matthew Gun,
Ive loft my Stock and out Ive run;
I hope it cannot be denied
But that I livd, and that I died:
My choiceft Books were never Read;
Few Liftnd eer to what I faid;
And So their Fate the fame with mine is,
You Read their Title-Page and
From my Death Bed, January 20th 1723-4. This is my true ELEGY and no other.
Made in IOBA
Are you an IOBA member who has authored some work, or who has unique services or products to offer? Let us highlight them here.
Book Show Impressions
Book shows range from flea markets and car boot sales to extremely high-end affairs. Aspiring booksellers can learn much from them. Visit a few first, and then start with a cheap outside space at an antiques show or festival. If this agrees with you, try a couple of tables at one of the better inside book shows. Most of your show colleagues will be glad to offer advice along the way, shortly after they raid your under-priced offerings and comment on your unfamiliarity with mylar. Losing money and losing face are two things that get ones attention, so you learn at a far quicker pace than through other methods of education.
Some years ago I ventured into a very large community-wide yard sale in an old established development early one Saturday morning. These get panned out, there are more cars than ever, and you see lots of last year’s kiddie clothes and plastic junk. I went right to the very back first this time, where there is still a bit of woods. The driveway of the most remote home was a real hill. I walked up to the garage and there sat a large amount of rare titles on early firearms, shelved no less, and obviously someone’s lifetime collection. A woman was leaving with a couple cookbooks or something and I overheard the price as $1 each. I took pretty much every one before I noticed a round color sticker scheme. I inquired about this when checking out. I’m afraid I didn’t have a chance to tell you. Yellow is a dollar, but blue is $2 and red is $3. I suppose you’ll be putting most of those back?”
One week later I was all set up at the Albany, NY Antiquarian Book Fair. A few minutes before the doors opened the line outside was pretty long. I always positioned myself in the back of this old armory, as my ephemera buckets took up many tables and may have looked a bit unseemly up among the more established tweedy types. One guy showed up almost immediately, following the same rear-first strategy I applied at the community sale. He let out a small gasp and bought nearly every one of these gun books, which as luck would have it was his specialty as a dealer. He thought they were all priced right (about $75 each on average) except for one, which he bought anyway. He told me he got up in the middle of the night and drove straight down from New Hampshire, not expecting to find much. A bulls-eye for both of us.
Book Store Lore
IOBA would seem to be all about online bookmanship, but actual book stores are the stalwart backbone of the trade. Much has been said about the demise of the bricks and mortars, but in some cases this is exaggerated, and in others the signs are more hopeful. From the paperback exchange to musty old landmarks to smartly run gems, we all have the dedicated book store owner to thank for maintaining traditions and igniting new generations of book lovers in a way that Amazon and company could never accomplish. Many of them have utilized the internet, but they are not subservient to it. Support local independent book stores whenever possible.
Book store owners, please consider sharing your own anecdotes under this heading.
The Standard can always use interesting, well-written articles on subjects of interest to the bookselling trade, in addition to smaller items for the regular columns above. Please query first, however, to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be supplied with submission guidelines, but to summarize, the material should be original, it is subject to editing, you retain copyright, and of course there is no payment other than most everyones satisfaction. You do not need to be a member of IOBA, except for the IOBA Bookseller Profiles section, though we would surely like you to join. We are very interested in the book trade outside the U.S. as well.
Currently seeking a three to five page article on mega-listers that would explain how they ply their craft, the damage that they do, the benefits they provide (if any), and why the search services put up with them (we know but the readership might be informed).
Gangling Victorian pressed spider,
perched above the first initial letter in a nice 1892 Athenaeum Emma all these years,
long legs beautifully arranged, head up proud.
Scientists have just announced the discovery of two newly-spotted moons (named Nix and Hydra) in orbit around the planet Pluto. Although twice as far away as the known moon Charon, and many times more faint, close-up satellite photos from the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed surface features rich in color and complexity. They are reproduced here for the first time.
Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website