Book Fair Futures, 2012

            It’s too early, of course, but trends are emerging, and I thought I would alert those of you who are already making plans for the end of July.  This gives you time to invest your money wisely so that you can then come and spend it all at the Newberry.

            For those of you who just came in, we sort, price, and pack books all the livelong year.  They go into cardboard boxes labeled “History”, “PB Mystery A-L”, and such.  And these boxes are numbered, so we know what we’ve got.  At the moment, what we’ve got is 1800 boxes packed and awaiting your eager hands.  Last year, come Book Fair time, we had about 2700, so we’re on a pace to match or better last year’s collection.  (The estimate is always rough because boxes come in different sizes; I swear I’ve been given bigger boxes this year.  Yes, we could use all boxes of the same size for better statistics keeping, but books come in different sizes, and we’re more interested in book-keeping than in bookkeeping.  Oh, the laughs come hard when you’re working with statistics.)

            Even less exact a science is comparing what we have now with what we had last year by subject.  I usually create a working list at the end of May so I can start designing the display, so the data I am about to impart comes from comparing my collection of 1800 boxes right now with the 2,347 I had at the end of May, 2011.  See, the working list breaks the boxes down by subject, so I know where we’re going to have the most books.

            The predictions which follow are based on a theory that in any given subject I should have roughly three-fourths of the number on last year’s working list.  If this year’s number is way off from that target, it is theoretically of interest to my customers.  (Are you still reading, scrambled grapes?  I promise I’ll throw in another bad pun or two before we finish.)  None of this is a guarantee of what will really happen come July, but if you know a better way to predict these things, I’ll let you handle my stock portfolio.

            We seem to be headed for bumper crops in the areas of Books & Authors, History, Literature, Proofs (we’re at triple last year and climbing), Poli Sci (it’s an election year; we’re up about 25%), and Records (I am going to fill that room with vinyl and shellac.)  Paperback Romance appears to be at 400% of where it was last Memorial Day.    Bring a friend who can help you carry.

The only areas we’re really amazingly down in are Archaeology and Health (goodie: fewer diet books!)  In Chicago and Show Biz, we’re going to have a respectable showing, but probably not as much as last year.  Last year we had two massive Show Biz collections come in and one immense Chicago donation.  We’re returning to normal in those subjects.

            Any subject may increase by July, of course, depending on what happens next.  EVERYBODY seems to be donating mysteries, so I expect that will climb.  Science Fiction looks as if it is set on rocketing to new heights (ho-hum; told you the bad puns were coming).   I am expecting a couple of large donations, one of which promises to be largely Lit, and the other of which may be Science.  And there’s no telling what may be lurking just around the next square on the calendar.

            So what can you learn from this, mincemeat macadamia muffin?  If you’re interested in history, literary criticism, politics, or romance (or any combination thereof), save your pennies.  And if there’s an LP you gave away twenty years ago and still regret, prepare to flip through boxes of albums, because it surely should be a record year.  (Pun number two.  Wasn’t really worth wading through all that prose for, was it?  Never mind, cloved clams, the Book Fair itself is worth wading for.)

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