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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bookish Natterings...


Y'all gotta excuse me, but every so often I talk bookish stuff here.

Over on the Biblio list there has been talk about whether it is better to be a specialist or a generalist bookseller. Well, as a specialist obviously I think I'm right and the rest of y'all are wrong.

But that's probably not right either. There is certainly an advantage to being a generalist if you have an open shop -unless you're very well-known and have limited space.

In the end I think it is not really a question of generalists vs. specialists so much as that very experienced booksellers who know many ways to buy and sell do better in the lean times than those who do not have as much knowledge, experience and bags o'tricks. That's not a slam at newer booksellers -we were all new once. But bookselling, like magic or riding or flying or writing or acting or cooking or being a trapeze performer, is a continual learning process that takes time and constant practice, and is a skill one acquires by degrees, and over time. If you are doing it right -observing and learning as you go along, you will always be more skilled at it today than you were yesterday, but you will never be as good at it today as you will be tomorrow.

If one takes that attitude I suspect you can be either a specialist, or a generalist, or a bit of both, and be just fine. In the end the very best books to specialize in are those that can be sold quickly for a lot more money than you bought them for.

OK, enough about books.


5 comments:

Mike said...

I bet if you are a trapeze artist you don't really get to learn by trial and error.

Colonel Colonel said...

I'd never thought about it before, but you're right. Circus performers have a shorter learning curve. Sword swallowers and fire-eaters, lion tamers- not a lot of room for "oopses!" there.

catalyst said...

I once sold a fairly valuable book to a California dealer who nickled me down. I don't know why I did it. But SWMBO has just given, GIVEN, I say, a collection of books I valued in four figures to her son. I think I'm learning backwards.

Phoebe Fay said...

I think you just posted this so you could have an excuse to put a picture of Jean Arthur up.

Oh wait. No. You'd never need an excuse for Jean Arthur.

As for the whole specialist/generalist debate, I figured out long ago that I'm a generalist right down to my core. Probably couldn't be a specialist if my life depended on it. I'm far more about the breadth than the depth. Oh sure, I dip down when something catches my attention, but the next year I'm on to something else. Too short an attention span.

Not like I make any money to speak of at it either way, but the theory of making a living is still out there.

My v-word is abihi. Looks like the Alibris logo. Interesting. Veeery interesting. But shtupid!

Colonel Colonel said...

Catalyst- I think I sold that guy a book once...

Phoebe- That's right- I don't need any excuse to post photos of Jean Arthur. It's always a good day to post photos of Jean Arthur.