Tag Archives: bookselling

Am I selling or collecting?

Some books which I will not let go, or at least not at a price which would allow them to sell:

My Dad’s Vietnam collection


Southern authors

Beautiful children’s books with African American themes by the likes of Jerry Pinkney or the Dillons

Library and information science books

Books I want to read someday (like I will ever get to them, EVER)

Laura Esquivel’s Law of Love with the accompanying cd of arias

Contemporary fiction, first edition signed, which isn’t worth much right now but ‘might be worth something some day’


Librarians and booksellers must apply a rigorous calculus of keep due to intrinsic worth or ‘might be worth something later’/ reduce price or reposition to sell or check out/ just go ahead and discard / donate. (And of course ocd not only requires me to create that incredibly complex calculus, but to then overturn its results. Every. Time.) Reasons include the scarcity of my most precious resource, time- it is a waste of time to list something that won’t sell, or something I refuse to price to sell- and the need for space so that I can get out there and start purchasing books that will sell.

Then I hold in my hand a book from the estate of The Minister from Denbigh, or Miss Margaret, or a feminist coed of the jazz age, with name and the date in spidery or beautiful cursive of days gone by… 1907? 1924? And I think to myself- without collectors I would not have this treasure in my hand. Personal libraries are almost as revealing as diaries, I think.

So is the book a treasure if it won’t sell? Is the book’s worth solely based on what it will bring when it sells?

It just reinforces a stunning and painful truth. The worth of a book is purely situational, subjective, and arbitrary. Which is fine. I am glad to build my personal collecion. But I am supposed to be a bookseller.

Mama said there’d be days like these. Well, what she said was, there were some books she just didn’t want to let go, and she finally learned that if she thought that way, she would never sell a book. My dad didn’t express the sentiment… he just priced ’em so high they wouldn’t sell. Heh.

Matoaka A Story of the Fight for Americanism by William Grant Burleigh, 1924

Matoaka A Story of the Fight for Americanism by William Grant Burleigh, 1924

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