Quiver of Errors

I don’t suppose anybody out there will weep for the book dealer. But a lot of these folks have only their books to buy their breakfast, feed the electric company, pay the rent. They have to be out there finding wonderful books at garage sales, estate sales, and yes, even Newberry Book Fairs, hunting for what will buy them a new necktie or a Big Mac, maybe even a new suit and a ten-pack of Ramen Noodles. They have to jump fast, buy quick, and play their hunches.

And sometimes they get it wrong. Or sometimes they have to buy a hundred books just to get hold of two they know one of their customers will fork over a nice check to buy. They wind up with a lot of extra books, books they probably can’t sell or just don’t want in their establishment. What can they do with all those books?

Throw them away? Contrary to popular belief, a majority of booksellers actually like books. There are books they will gladly throw away, but these tend to be those copies of The DaVinci Code that got dropped in the bathtub. They just don’t feel like destroying a book somebody would pay a buck for simply because there isn’t room in the store, or in the storage unit, to keep it.

Yes, Everkleer Espresso, this is another story where Uncle Blogsy flies to the rescue. The last time I sat down and counted, there were seven dealers in used or antiquarian books who use my loading dock as their Out Basket. “These are my mistakes,” several say.

There are those who ask, “Uncle Blogsy, why would you accept books that some professional bookseller refuses to sell?” I resent the implication that I am merely a paraprofessional bookseller, but I will pass over it without sulking.

For one thing, I hinted earlier on that space in a bookstore is at a premium. Most book dealers who still have stores won’t stock paperback mysteries or romances at all: not enough profit per inch of shelf space. But that’s good, solid Book Fair Fodder. One dealer has told me straight out that he won’t put any book in his stock unless it seems to him to come up to his minimum price. So I get all the books he figures are worth a mere five bucks. We can certainly deal with five dollar books.

Another thing about boxes of mistakes is that booksellers very seldom buy trash: you will not get loads of paperbacks with all their covers bent backward or cookbooks which have been through a pressure cooker explosion. The books must at least look like decent material for a bookstore, even if subsequent research proves they aren’t.

And, of course, a bookseller can make a second mistake. Back in the days before computers (yes, rabbit fritter: Uncle Blogsy is that old) when most of our book pricing was done through dealers’ catalogs, we learned that dealers have blind spots. Some specialize in literature and don’t know anything about collectible science books. Others deal heavily in science but miss out on art books. The dealers who deal with me are like that as well. Sometimes we turn up treasures they didn’t suspect, or just didn’t want to bother with. First editions in languages other than English are a hard sell around these parts, so the dealer who gave me a book in French that listed at $200 didn’t bat an eye when I told him.

“Couldn’t have sold it anyway,” he said. “My customers wouldn’t even have looked at it.”

That diary of the Lake County sheriff came in a box of book dealer’s mistakes, as did that rather unpromising book with the cover design by Picasso. So we like mistakes around here. (I, of course, never make mistakes, as mentioned before. Sometimes I am right incorrectly, but that’s another matter.)

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