Tag Archives: used books

Ten Commandments of Book Sales…

Having just returned from two large spring book sales, I feel compelled to provide this handy guide to behaviour at such events:

1. Thou shalt arrive early.  Due to a stop at the Dairy Queen in Sussex for supper, we were half an hour late late getting to the University Women’s Book Fair in Moncton this year…consequently, I fear that many of the best books had already been scooped up by other dealers (I also paid dearly the next morning for the chicken sandwich I ate at DQImodium was my best friend for a couple of hours).  For the Saint John Free Public Library Book Sale, I was there at 9:15 a.m. (the sale opened at 10) staking out the local/New Brunswick table.  I stood right next to the table, knowing that if I was on the other side of the aisle, that someone would get in front of me!  Unfortunately, my old nemesis, Witchy-Poo, also came early, and attempted to engage me in conversation (nosy old bat!).

2. Thou shalt not peek under the table covers.  As I was waiting for the appointed opening hour at the library sale, I noticed a man pretending to “adjust” the table cover on the table I’d staked out…if looks could kill, he’d be dead right now!

3. Thou shalt not block the tables or aisles whilst carrying on idle chit-chat.  Look around you…there could be a woman with a crazed look in her eye trying to make her way to the table you’re standing in front of (yup…that would be me!).

4. Thou shalt leave small children at home.  No one enjoys having their shins or ankles rammed by strollers, or listening to children whine or cry.  Letting them rummage through boxes of books they have absolutely no interest in is inviting the possibility of torn pages or dustjackets, which will not endear you to your fellow shoppers.

5. Thou shalt put books thou doesn’t want back where thou found them.  Most sales are organized by volunteers, who have spent hours sorting thousands of donations into appropriate categories.  Leaving a Harlequin romance on the “Collectibles” table makes people like me angry and creates extra work for the organizers!

6. Thou shalt not bring coffee or food to a book sale.  Picking up a book which is sticky or coffee-stained is very disappointing (and the book is pretty much unsaleable once it has fallen victim to a careless caffeine consumer)!

7. Thou shalt not stagger around balancing huge piles of books.  Get an empty box from under one of the tables, and push it along the floor in front of you as you go.

8. Thou shalt not steal.  Most book sales are charity events…do not help yourself to items with no intention of paying for them.  Hope came out of the washroom at the University Women’s sale with a handful of tampons, which she then offered to Anna…”They’re not dinner mints!” Anna exclaimed in horror.

9. Thou shalt not haggle.  The prices are already a fraction of the actual value of the book…that extra dollar will not cause the bank to foreclose on your home!  The people taking the money are not being paid to argue with you either.

10. Thou shalt shop with bills smaller than $20.  Charitable organizations have enough to do without having to run to the bank to get change because some numbnuts tries to give them a $100 bill for a $2 book!

Following these ten simple commandments will make your next book sale experience more pleasurable for all!

I was happy with our purchases at the two sales, netting roughly $1000 worth of books for the $110 we spent…my best find was a newer book on secular effigies from the 13th century, which I will list online for $80.  Jim was happy to get several expensive computer textbooks for $2 each…some of them were still shrinkwrapped!  Anna and Hope each got a stack of reading material too.

The next sale is the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Book Sale this summer…can’t wait!

Update: This post was Freshly Pressed on May 9th…my third honour from the editors at WordPress…thank you!


Filed under books, family, rants, satire, shopping

Frequently Asked Questions About Our Bookstore…

This post is in response to requests from commenters Chase and Lisa to hear more about the day-to-day operation of our bookstore (sparked by the poll for my 150th post).  For those who are unaware, for the past ten years, my dad and I have co-owned a bookstore which specializes in antiquarian and used hardcovers.  Here are some of the questions we hear quite often, with answers (some actually spoken, some just thought in our heads as we think “You moron!”).

1. Where do you get your books?  My dad goes out and mugs little old ladies!  Most of the books are brought into the store, every day, 3 or 4 times a day: people die and their family doesn’t want their books, or empty-nesters are downsizing to move to a smaller place.  We also have a fair number of “street people”, who pick up books in their travels and then sell them to us.  We go to local book sales, and the big Sussex Flea Market, and occasionally, church and yard sales.  Very few of our books are donated to us…we buy them!

2. What’s your oldest book?  I don’t know…let me check the database!  We are constantly adding to our stock, and that information could be totally different today than it was yesterday.  It’s probably something from the 18th century, although we have had a couple from the 17th century.

3. Is all your stock listed online?  No.  We have some 15,000 books including 3 or 4 thousand waiting to be listed in storage…we only list the rarer, higher-priced books online (currently about 4000) because of the time involved.  To give you an idea of how long it takes, we upload about 50-75 new listings a week. 

4. I’ve got this really old book, but it’s been chewed by squirrels, run over by a bulldozer, and immersed in a mud puddle…do you want to buy it?  Only if they were three-toed Siberian squirrels. NO!  Throw it out! 

5. Do you have any [pause] novels?  I take the “customer” to the large double-sided shelves which house some 3000 works of fiction.  The customer still has a puzzled look on his/her face.  No, I mean NOVELS!  At this point, it occurs to me that the customer is looking for paperbacks, at which point I direct them to the store down the street.

6. Do you get a lot of customers from the cruise ships?  No…they don’t make it up the street without being roped into the shore excursions…we call the handful who do come in “the escapees.”  There are also very few readers on cruise ships…cruisers are usually “mall people” far more interested in souvenir T-shirts than good books (this is a generalization, I admit, but it’s based on ten years of observation!).  We average 2-3 visitors for every 3000-passenger cruise ship.

7. I remember this book from when I was a kid…it was blue, about a cat, and about so big [gesturing with hands].  Do you have it?  Not sure…was the cat long or short-haired?  I’m going to need a title or an author’s name (at the very least) to find that elusive book from your childhood.

8. I’ve got a copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and it’s really old…I think it’s a first edition and it’s even signed!  How much to you want to give me for it?  Nothing.  Dickens’ work was pirated by the Americans to the point that he refused to do readings in North America…there are literally thousands of copies of each of his books out there…the odds of the average Joe having a first edition is extremely low!  Many of them have what is known as a “facsimile signature” on them…this is a copy of the author’s signature printed in the book by the publisher…he didn’t actually write it!  I have three boxes of Dickens books in my back room!  Ditto for Kipling, Scott, and Stevenson books… 

9. You’ve got a lot of books…have you read them allYes, every last one, except for the golf ones…I hate golf!  No.  I have other things to do with my time: evaluating, listing, photographing and shelving those books.

10. I paid $40 for this book at [insert name of new book store here] last month.  Why don’t you want to give me $25 for it?  Because new books are a lot like new cars…worthless once you drive them off the lot.  I can probably buy 300 copies of your $40 book online for a buck apiece!

11. Is this a libary?  No.  All of our books are for sale.  The “libary” is down the street.

12. How much are your books?  They’re priced according to size: thin ones are $10, but really thick ones cost $150!  Our book prices range from $6 to $2000, depending on rarity and condition.  Prices are marked in pencil inside the front covers. 

13. What do you do with books you don’t want?  We donate them to the local library or book sales held by local charities.

14. [phone inquiry] I’m moving next week, and I’ve got a whole bunch of books.  How much do you pay for them?  I don’t know…I haven’t seen what you have!  Bring them in, and if we want them, we’ll make you an offer!     

15. Do you like working here?  Yes.  I’ve met lots of interesting people from around the world, including a few famous ones.  I learn something new every day, and I am surrounded by beautiful old books in a gorgeous old building.  It’d be even better if I made money!

Independent used bookstores are disappearing every day…we need readers to survive!  Please go into your local store and buy a book (or two) today!  Thank you!


Filed under books, rants, satire