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Posted By DMB

Another common misconception that I have heard many times over the years is the erroneous regular accusation that booksellers raise prices on their books before a bookfair. My own regular response to this canard is as follows. You live in this city, you frequent the bookshops, you very probably have seen books in various shops that you covet. Maybe you have coveted them for a long time, but have resisted due to price – or other reasons. Imagine this: you visit a booth at a fair, see a book which you know was recently priced at 1/3 or ½ of its price at the fair; or afterwards, the next time you are in that shop, you see the same book back at half or a third the price you saw at the fair. My questions are these: would you then continue to frequent a bookshop when you had this clear evidence that the dealer was a sleazebag or a gouging crook? And further, would you not refuse to even attend any bookfair ever again, assuming, reasonably, that all the dealers were also doing that and all were sleazy crooks as well? Would you not more probably conclude that the entire trade is made up of rogues and scoundrels, and desist from bookcollecting entirely? I expect I would. One would have to conclude that any person who did believe all these things would indeed be a fool – at least if they did not immediately dismiss all used and rare bookshops.

I could go on with quite a few more examples of common assumptions which, if true, would also be compelling proof that these same booksellers universally believe that you and all their other customers, are stupid. And, since there is a finite pool of potential collectors in any society, if any of those things true, we dealers would be effectively committing business suicide. Yet every bookseller receives many hints these things are common assumptions. Perhaps it is a justified assumption since we live in a society where we all are afraid to call a plumber or an electrician or take our car in for repairs. And where the 6 O’clock news broadcast tells us daily about innocent citizens cheated on their roofing or their furnace.

What bugs booksellers is that no one ever makes these accusations directly to us, so we could defend ourselves. For myself I have a hundred retorts for such things, but have never had a chance to use any of them.

The crooked bookseller? Yes? Well, show me a wealthy one. Why have all the used bookstores disappeared? Why didn’t they buy a building with all that money they stole instead of always renting and getting kicked out, because they couldn’t pay the rents that normal businesses do?

There are lots of what I call stupid bookstore assumptions, so many that I’m compiling another pamphlet to point them out. Stay tuned! 

 
Posted By DMB

As some of our customers know our annual sales for the last 3 years or so have been motivated by our need to drastically reduce our stock by October 2017, at which time we must relinquish half our retail space to our beloved landlord. It is for this reason that we offered our entire stock priced at $150.00 and less at 70% off. The traditional sales in the used and rare trade have always been 50% off, excepting when firms are closing or moving. Final sales have generally started at 50% and finished at 90% off with the detritus being free or shipped to the Goodwill. At 70% off a very high percentage of our stock will be sold at a loss.

We know of no other examples of a carefully built and weeded antiquarian stock such as ours where such draconian discounts have applied during the entire week long sale period. Our system of from $150 to $400 at half price and over $400 at 30% off is the more usual systems used by booksellers.

But more pertinent, and perhaps generally unknown outside the trade, is the fact that when used bookstores have sales they are authentic sales. Every day we see advertisements in the media or in store windows offering fantastic savings “up to 70% off” or whatever. Investigation reveals that those high levels exist for only a small percentage of the stock, in small amounts which are quickly sold. Some businesses buy cheap goods as sale loss leaders, others manufacture cheap (and often shoddy) goods specifically for sales. It is understood that these ploys are simply legitimate business practices. But very few people realize that the sales conducted by used bookstores are, and always have been, true sales: the book that was $100 yesterday is $50 today. But the real significance in used book sales is that the offerings are unique, one of a kind. There are usually no replacements and the book you buy could often be a sleeper – a bargain – at its full price. The reason you get it at half price is that the dealer needs money or space and he is sacrificing his treasures for that reason. There is nothing phony going on.

It seems to also be a common belief outside the trade that many dealers raise their prices before sales. I can only say that in 50 years as a bookseller I have never seen a single case of that. If it were tried one would need 6 months extra work just to prepare.

Now, with 6 months to go we have been offering entire subject sections of our stock for sale as lots, at very desirable prices. So far, we have sold our entire stock of children’s books, very painful for me, since children’s books had become my most pleasurable area and I have been buying heavily in children’s books for several years. This is, of course, another of the many reasons booksellers die broke. I make a large and very necessary sale and immediately begin whining about my terrible loss. But that’s the double-edged sword that booksellers must deal with. We love what we must sell. My father, the banker, had lots to say about that.

However, a lady friend gave me a solution to that problem when I told her I was having difficulty getting rid of clothes I never wore. “It’s an excuse to buy new ones,” she said.

This weekend there is a paper show and I will be buying heavily to replace my beloved children’s books.

 

 

 

 
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