This is a special guest post by Chris Lowenstein of Book Hunter’s Holiday
Many booksellers I’ve met are notoriously pessimistic, even cynical,
particularly about the future of the bookselling trade. Paradoxically, one
thing I’ve discovered since becoming a bookseller is that optimism —
relentless optimism — is a requirement for success.
Take, for example, my monthly attendance at a large library sale in the area
where I live. This sale offers three large rooms with, rumor has it, 60,000
items for sale. Additionally, ephemeral items can be found in boxes outside
the sale. I always find good books here, and I always try to attend the
sale. Upon hearing that I attended this sale each month to purchase books
for my antiquarian bookselling business, one of my non-bookselling friends
Really! You think you’re good enough to search through 60,000 used books
and identify a single treasure?
Uh-huh. And I’ll guarantee you I can identify more than one treasure.
Indeed, I might add that I am disappointed if I find less than a dozen
treasures per month at said sale. Booksellers with more experience than me
find more than that. And, used booksellers, whose stock is somewhat
different from that of an antiquarian bookseller, often leave with boxes and
boxes of treasure, or, in the words of a cynic, a bunch of old books.
I don’t know how you find can possibly find previously undiscovered value
in other people’s discarded books, she said, shaking her head with both
pity and skepticism.
In my experience, value isn’t necessarily in the book. It’s in the way one
sells the book. It’s in the person to whom one plans to sell the book. It’s
in the knowledge a bookseller has that allows him to identify a ‘sleeper’ at
the bottom of a dusty cardboard box of library discards.
I couldn’t possibly attend a library sale with joy if I went with the
attitude that I wouldn’t find anything of value. Though I have occasionally
attended sales and been disappointed, I return each month in hopes of
letting a book I haven’t previously noticed find me.
Some time ago I found this book at a library sale.
A bit battered, it is an unlikely title by Helen Keller. Despite
enormous challenges in her life, she found reason to be optimistic. And,
despite the challenges in the bookselling trade, so do I.
Book Hunter’s Holiday
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