Can I have some bait with my Kerouac?

The 1st of September heralded the start of my new three year lease. I have been at my current location for four years and am giving this location three years to get its act together. We were rumbling along okay until the train under the road project which commenced last June saw our passing trade plummet. We are slowly getting back on our feet but a strip shopping centre can be fickle. Icy weather last week saw our customers stay away in droves but now spring is in the air and more people are out and about.

Changes to the eBay Australia media rates have also lead to an upswing in online sales despite intense competition from the dreaded drop shippers. It really irks me that I have to charge the Goods and Services Tax of 10% when I am undercut by those that don’t have to, or may have to, but haven’t bothered to get registered.

I’ve been selling the usual suspects in the shop, Lee Child, Maeve Binchy, Wilbur Smith, David Baldacci etc paperbacks I would not put on line but do well for me in store. No offence guys but Australian domestic postage makes selling second hand paperbacks somewhat problematic. My classics also do quite well and I struggle a little to keep a decent supply but have found ordering in new budget editions allows me to keep a decent selection.

In fact September looks like being a very good selling month as I have just sold one Dutch and one Polish language novel. I made sure to tell the customer I have LOTS more Polish language books. When I start selling the weird and the wonderful I am really moving them out.

Jack Kerouac

I cannot get enough Bukowski or Capote or Kerouac or Hunter S Thompson, they just don’t come in second hand and everybody wants them. The first time I went book buying in the States I thought the book stores would be littered with second hand copies but if I picked up 10 books in total in my three state odyssey I would have been lucky.

When I called in at the wonderful but no defunct Long Beach Books and asked for Beat authors the lady at the counter asked me if I wanted fishing books. I blame my execrable Aussie accent, though luckily another customer was able to interpret for me. Beat books not Bait books, you know.

That afternoon I spent out the back of Long Beach Books is a memory I will always treasure. I loved the orange crate book shelves. I loved the possibility that the book I was buying might have been sitting on the shelf for decades just waiting for me. I had a customer looking for Tallulah Bankhead’s autobiography and Long Beach Books was looking like my only hope before I flew home.  After a little poking around I found a copy for just $6. I posted it home in a priority box as my container was somewhere between Chicago and Los Angeles and my excess luggage was already, you know, excessive. Tallulah arrived at home a few hours after I did. In the meantime my customer had moved to Sydney but I hung on to it as I figured he might come back for it. Two years later I finally managed to unite book and new owner (and get the balance he owed on it)

Visiting Long Beach Books  was like getting to visit the Taj Mahal of second hand book stores, that and Barrons Books in Anaheim where I bought several Mbag full of books in the last couple of weeks surface Mbags were still in existence.  The seemingly endless expanses of rows upon rows upon rows of books to someone coming from an single overstuffed couch of a bookshop (just an 80 square metre space) was a delightful experience.

Where am I going to find the likes of these stores again?

Therese Holland

McLeods Books

10 Station St

Nunawading 3131

ph 0398777214

open 7 days

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Discussion

  1. P. J. Grath

    As a philosopher-turned-bookseller, I used to dream of opening a Books and Bait Shop. It’s the perfect northern Michigan solution. Now, seventeen years later, I have yet to add bait to my inventory but haven’t forgotten that old dream!

    1. Therese Holland

      sounds fishy to me

    2. Nora

      You could always get a live bait vending machine:
      http://livebaitvending.com/

      There’s one by the lake here now, but I first encountered it outside a grocery store in Ohio… nowhere near anywhere you could fish. it was however near a college campus, so I suspect the majority of sales were to drunken frats.

  2. George

    Well, Therese, those types of stores are disappearing as the numbers of customers looking for those types of stores continue to grow.
    Almost every store I visit in my travels has some hidden gems because most the people in our business are seldom willing to pay
    the higher rent necessary to serve the mainstream book buyers who don’t have time to hunt them down.

    There are very few days someone doesn’t come into at least one of our stores looking for ANYTHING by Hunter S Thompson. Naturally we sell every one we get within a day or two. Kerouac is sought every week and Bukowski is asked for once or twice a month and Capote is in sufficient supply that they are often sold by not mentioned much by customers.
    Being in a busy literate city does make it easier to obtain inventory but still there are more local books stores closing than opening.
    Did notice a “Beat Museum” store that has been in business a couple of years just a block or so from City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco when I was there in May. Don’t think they had extra inventory though and what they had was interesting … and pricey.

    I still bought a few of them and sold them for almost no markup because the way things are going we are almost sure to get them back to resell time and time again. Just another reason we don’t choose to do internet sales – some books we sell 10 times or more.

    A customer told me his regular bookstore in Toronto – about 2700 kilometers away (1700 miles for American readers) – thinks he will be the last books store operating in Canada – I think a lot of us have the same feeling.

    Good luck – but when you have the good luck to get a good book – don’t send it out of your area (unless it is to someone here in Calgary who is almost sure to pass it on to me) … smile.

    1. Therese Holland

      Dear George

      I find that some books just don’t come back -fantasy and science fiction rarely gets traded back and a lot of people comment that they hang on to their Sci-fi and Fantasy books. Don’t see classics come back either not to mention military books. Crime, thrillers, romance and chick lit comes back and that is, usually, about it.
      I think that might be somewhat a reflection on the comparative expense of buying new books here and that a lot of people here pass books they buy from me on to family and friends. I have one customer who posts them on to a sister in Perth which is 3000 kilometres away. There is an Australia wide flat rate 3kg satchel that makes that reasonably economic to do if you have 7/8 regular paperbacks.
      I did have an ex pat Aussie living in Canada come in and buy some scarce UK children’s readers by Sheila McCullagh when he was home on holiday (he saw them on on-line) so you might get those.

      Therese

      1. Nora

        Scifi, fantasy and classics either don’t come in at all… or come in in a flood as someone moves, cleans a house, disposes of a dead relatives collection… then they come in 200-2000 at a time. Yes, I have HAD someone pull up with an entire pickup truck loaded completely with nothing but vintage scifi. delightful, but oh god, finding somewhere to put it all while you sort it…

        General classics seems to turn up a little more regularly, but are also prone to flood syndrome. You get 200 at once… or one that someone found they had a second copy of while cleaning.

        The books we turn over the same copy the most times are usually westerns. Some of the romance, mysteries, etc, people read and keep. The westerns almost always come back and go out again. Eventually the western section hits the point where I actually have to clean out some excess stock. it’s been sold X times, to all X customers for that book and I’ll not be able to sell it again. Time to sell if off in a lot on ebay. send them off to a different corner of the country.

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