Friday, September 29, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Book-grading terms are always controversial and usually good for a few hundred bickering emails whenever the topic comes up on an email list. Over the years I've come up with a system of my own, which I now humbly offer to the honorable book-buying public as well as my fellow bookselling scum-
AS NEW: Literally "new". Since most books, once read or even handled, no longer qualify for the term NEW, the use of the qualifier "AS" has led to some controversy, with opponents pointing out that a book is either in new condition or it isn't. Proponents and opponents like to bicker about this point, and can usually only be distracted from it by the sound of someone dropping the phrase "VERY FINE" into the conversation.
FINE: A controversial term for a grade which may or may not exist, denoting a book that has slight wear that disqualifies it from the grade AS NEW, which also may or may not exist. Opponents contend that any book that has been handled cannot qualify for a grade above "NEAR FINE". Proponents generally counter this argument by asking Opponents how many angels they think can dance on the head of a pin.
VERY FINE: A grade between FINE and AS NEW. If the grade "FINE" has been controversial over the years, it has nothing on the long, confused and violent history that has attended the use of the grade VERY FINE. The Bern Convention of 1826 officially allowed the term and defined it as any book showing no signs of wear except for an allowance of 2.5 creases not to exceed .0005 mm. in depth, or bumps on the corners not to exceed 5 microns. Smudges were specifically disallowed, but this was amended by the Paris Treaty of 1887, which allowed for up to 3 smudges with a square area not exceeding 21 mm. The controversy over this point led to the Expulsion of English Booksellers from the Continent in 1889. Although English booksellers were re admitted after the Compromise of 1895, under which smudges up to 37 square mm would be allowed, the bad feelings left in the wake of this controversy are believed by many historians to have been one of the indirect causes of the First World War. Used today by many booksellers on Ebay. Not to be confused with "Very Fined (tm)", which usually means the book has fruit juice stains.
NEAR FINE: Either the top grade even a new book, just out of the box from the publisher, can have, or a grade denoting some general wear. The fact that these two conditions are not at all the same cuts no ice with the NearFiners(tm). Take your pick about which side you are on and hope whoever you are discussing this with agrees with you, or else you are likely to end up with a book stuffed up your nose.
GOOD: Not good. An archaic term mostly used nowadays by bored brick & mortar booksellers who amuse themselves by explaining to befuddled walk-in customers that the term "Good" technically means "Not Good", leaving the befuddled customers to wonder what planet booksellers come from.
FAIR: Poor. Getting the hang of it by now?
POOR: Don't even think about buying it. It not only is probably lacking its covers, some pages and all the illustrated plates, but may well leave you with a nasty rash...
ELSE FINE: A grade used to describe the most minute portion of a book which has been left undamaged. As in: "Ex-library with stamps, embossures, and orange-day-glo spine numbers; covers warped; hinges reinforced with duct tape; 3 plates with crayon scrawls, slight mold odor; pages 47-52 with newspaper recipes glued over text; else fine.
EX-LIBRARY: See "ELSE FINE".
MINT: Another controversial term, used by some booksellers as a synonym for AS NEW. A 1978 research study by Tulane University discovered that the term is mostly used by booksellers who collected coins as children. The study further found that the booksellers who object to it most vociferously collected stamps as children, thus basically boiling the controversy down to the old "stamps" vs. "coins" argument that most of us had with friends at the age of 8 and had left behind by the age of 10.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
There's a certain "bookseller" (term used really, really loosely) on one of the major databases who has gotten hold of a whole bunch of 100-year old Century Magazines and other periodicals and offers xeroxed articles from them. That in itself is a fine service, and quite valuable for anyone who needs a specific article. Nothing wrong with it at all.
The problem begins with their pricing structure- for $19.00 they will send you the article you want, usually 2-6 photocopied pages. In the description the "bookseller" states that "This reference is for personal use only. It may not be reproduced for commercial use. By ordering this reference you are agreeing to these terms".
It gets better. Further down the listings you will find exactly the same article, from the same vendor, offered for $44.00, with the note- "this reference is authorized for commercial use. It may be reproduced in books, magazines, television, or in any manner desired".
Well thank you, God! The only problem is that it's a photocopy of out-of-copyright material. No new content has been added, not even new covers. Nobody can claim copyright on 100-year old, out-of-copyright text, not even somebody who photocopies it.
There are some choice words to describe blowing smoke out your ass this way, in an attempt to scare people into paying twice what they otherwise would have paid. I'm feeling fairly charitable this morning, so I'll simply stick to "stupid".
Friday, September 22, 2006
In the past few years there is a certain school of bookselling on Ebay and elswhere which claims that books which are simply signed with the author's name are more valuable than books with good inscriptions.
And perhaps there really were WMD's in Iraq.
All I will say is that the entire history of bookselling, as well as common sense, both indicate that the reverse is true. Of course a nicely inscribed book is worth more than a simple signed copy. People want a story, something interesting, something to catch hold of their imagination -simple signatures are boring. The moral of the story is that there is always somebody around selling something, but just because they claim something to be true does not mean it is, especially if all common sense indicates it is not.
Remember- be careful out there.
You can see our auction by clicking the "Ebay Auctions" link in the right-hand column.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
[From the archives; adapted from a piece about offices, so office dwellers should feel free to feel free to adapt it to their needs]
HOW TO KEEP A HEALTHY LEVEL OF INSANITY IN YOUR BOOKSTORE
Pretend to page yourself over the intercom when the store is full of customers. (Don't disguise your voice.) This is even more effective if your store is small and does not have a real intercom and you use one of those home karioke machines.
Find out where the owner shops and buy exactly the same outfits. Always wear them one day after the owner does. (This is especially effective if the owner is a different gender than you are.)
Make up nicknames on the spur of the moment for all your customers and refer to them only by these names (but never the same one twice). "The Nautical books are over there, Sparky." "No I'm sorry we don't have any new Gardening books, Chachi."
Send email to your entire customer mailing list telling them what you're doing. For example "If anyone needs me on Wednesday, I'll be in the bathroom."
"Hi-lite" your shoes. Tell people that you haven't lost your shoes since you did this.
At lunchtime sit in the big overstuffed chair in the middle of the shop and soak your fingers in "Palmolive."
Put mosquito netting up all around the counter.
Arrive for work late, say you're sorry, but you didn't have time for breakfast, and you're going to be nibbling while you stock shelves. Over the next hour consume 5 entire raw potatoes.
Insist that your co-workers refer to you as Zena, Goddess of Fire. This is especially effective if you are a man.
Every time someone asks you for a book, ask them if they want fries with it.
Send email to yourself engaging yourself in an intelligent debate about a hot book-related controversy. Forward the mail to a book email list and ask other listers to settle the disagreement.
Replace the "free coffee" pot with a full beer cooler.
Encourage your customers to join you in a little synchronized chair dancing.
Put your garbage can on the front counter. Label it "New York Times Best Sellers".
Determine how many cups of coffee is "too many."
Develop an unnatural fear of bookends.
Decorate the front counter with pictures of Cindy Brady and Danny Partridge. Tell everyone that they're your children (works especially well for anyone under 40).
For a relaxing break, get away from it all with a mask and snorkel in the store's tropical fish tank. If no one notices, take out your snorkel and see how many fish you can catch in your mouth.
Announce that there is free pizza, free donuts etc... at the front counter and when people come over, see an empty plate and complain, lean back, pat your stomach, and say, "Oh you've got to be faster than that."
Put decaf in the store coffeemaker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
This newlywed couple is on their honeymoon. They've spent the first couple of days in the hotel room, so they decide to go outside and play a game of golf for the first time in their lives.
On the first tee the husband slices the ball so hard to the right that it goes crashing through the plateglass window of an antiques/bookstore across the street from the golf course.
The couple immediately run over to the shop to apologize, but when they get there they don't see anyone....just broken glass everywhere.
Then the young wife screams when she notices a man with a goatee laying on the floor. The man is in a daze. The couple drop to their knees and begin apologizing. The goateed man raises a finger to his lips and tells the couple that they have done him a great favor.
The goateed man then explains that he is a genie and has been trapped in an antique vase for 211 years. By virtue of the errant golf ball, the vase was shattered, and he was finally freed.
The newlyweds are relieved, but still slightly baffled by the turn of events.
The genie then stands, dusts himself off, and then says with a big smile, "Now I would like to repay you for your act of kindness. I'll grant you two wishes. What would you like? Anything.... Just name it!"
The husband speaks up first. "One billion dollars."
The genie smile and says, "Your wish is my command. I'll have the money deposited into your joint account within 15 days."
The young wife hugs her husband with delight and says to the genie, "For our second wish, I'd like you to make us PAR golfers on any golfcourse in the world."
The genie says, "After this day, playing par golf will be as natural for you as breathing."
The newlyweds are giddy with delight. The young wife turns to the genie and says, "You've been so kind to us, is there ANYTHING we can do for you?"
The genie lowers his head, smiles a slightly embarrassed smile, and says: "Well, I have been locked in a bottle for 211 years, without the warmth of a woman's touch. I would very much like to make love with you. I would understand if you didn't want to, but I am GIVING you one billion dollars...."
The husband and wife are shocked, but they they figure what the hell....it is a BILLION dollars.
The young bride goes upstairs with the genie. While the genie and his wife are upstairs, the husband sits down and begins to read one of the old first edition books in the store. As he reads he can hear the squeaking of the antique boxsprings coming from one of the beds upstairs.
After a couple of hours of strenuous lovemaking, the genie looks down at the young bride and asks her how old she is. "22," she says demurely.
"And how old is your husband?" asks the genie.
"He's 32," she answers.
"32? And he still believes in genies?" asks the bookdealer with a smile.