The end of an era?
When I hear people talking about the end of an era, I think they mean the end of the traditional book business and the beginning of the Internet-based book business. However, when I hear that phrase, I automatically reflect on some of the people I have known in the book business who have most affected my life in books. [Read more]
Discount protocols for book dealers
In bookselling, where there are no hard and fast rules, discounting practices vary considerably. How can one determine what is acceptable and what is not? Here, one dealer offers his observations on this sticky subject. Of all the protocols that have evolved in the book trade, discounts generate as much fractious debate as any topic. They're a hot-button issue, and are continually evolving. And why not? In the book trade, unlike many other trades and professions, there is no licensing or certification, no universally recognized final authority, code of conduct, or professional standards. For these reasons, I had serious doubts about tackling the subject. Besides, anyone foolhardy enough to put into writing what is—at best—a loosely followed set of behaviors influenced by a constantly shifting consensus, runs the risk of being accused of "laying down the law." That is certainly not the intent here. That said, and with no angels in sight, I'll rush in. [Read more]
Dealing with deadbeats: how one dealer keeps "no-pays" at bay
Think for a moment about the most unpleasant task you must perform in your business. Is it the annual cleaning of the bathroom? Packing up unsold stock in a driving rainstorm after a horrible bookfair? After hashing over all of the possibilities, most booksellers would probably agree that collecting overdue bills ranks at the top of the list. And, it's a job that's not made any more agreeable by the responses you get when pursuing an unpaid bill. You've heard the lies about the check being in the mail, the overt hostility as if it's all your fault for sending the book, or worst of all, the pathetic excuses rooted in the messy personal lives of customers whose intimate biographies you'd rather not know. [Read more]
Cracking the case: how detectives catch up with book and art thieves
The following accounts are of an unusual nature, but are nonetheless all true. As a sworn officer with twenty years of experience in the police department of Philadelphia, I have had the opportunity to serve as an advisor to Central Division Command. Working in this capacity, I've encountered various crimes involving the theft of books, art, and antique items stolen from the business community of Center City, PA. [Read more]
Courting customers: strategies to create enduring customer relationships
Although you might think customers are notoriously disloyal, the truth is, most people don't like the uncertainty of change and often actively avoid it. This is good news for book dealers! [Read more]
First things first
Many of us first came to appreciate the importance of edition points in college, when we learned, to our chagrin, that the third edition copy of the Sociology 101 text that we cleverly purchased used from our frat brother for five bucks and a six pack would not suffice for the $79.95 fifth edition that was required for the class. Indeed the primary orientation for the general book-buying public has always been upon the latest, and presumably, most current edition of a book. [Read more]
Condition, condition, condition
After 17 years in the business, I have become convinced that there are only two types of booksellers: those who grade their books accurately and those who do not. The fundamental difference in mindset between these two groups speaks volumes about their differing approaches to the trade. Ultimately, I believe that a dealer’s attitude toward the topic of condition comes to be reflected, for better or worse, in all of their key business practices. [Read more]
Standards for describing out-of-print books
The temptation with inexpensive books is to give them as brief and simple a description as possible. A simple "VG" is enough, some believe. But put yourself in the place of the buyer. You want to describe the book to your customer. What if the actual condition of this book is as follows: "VG copy, slight bump to a couple of corners, dust jacket shows very light edge wear. Clean, bright copy." Describing this to a customer is going to be a great deal safer. No one is disappointed. [Read more]
If it ain't fine then don't tell me it is!
Over the past year or two, every magazine, periodical, newsletter and scrap of paper devoted to bookselling has had at least one article dealing with the grading of books. All of them were down to earth, easy to understand, and very informative. So, why, why, why, are so many booksellers ignoring this information?
Could it be that these people have never seen a book in truly "Fine" condition? Perhaps they don't care as long as a sale is made (considering that the book is not returned)? Could it be simply laziness? [Read more]
Cost-effective packaging for booksellers—Part 1
Packing books is an inexact science, a balancing act among four factors; appearance, performance, speed and cost. Effective, attractive packaging does not require you to treat a $6 book the same as a $600 one. Economics dictates that you package books as quickly and inexpensively as possible without compromising the safety of shipping or creating an aesthetic horror. To save time, you need to make each shipment much like every other one. Yet each book needs to be treated uniquely, according to its size, condition, and value. [Read more]
Cost-effective packaging for booksellers—Part 2:
Selecting packaging materials for your mail-order business
If you do a lot of shipping, you will need to know the costs of packing and shipping a book, otherwise you don't know whether the shipping charge you levy is adequate to cover costs. This is far easier if you use new materials. It's difficult, if not impossible, to gauge costs if each shipment means rummaging around for the proper box and padding materials. Here are a few recommendations: [Read more]
Detecting and derailing postal racketeers
Last March a 52-year-old woman from Snohomish,Wa., discovered that her coupon-clipping days were over.
For five years the woman had been manufacturing cash register receipts and sending them to major companies under various names and addresses to obtain manufacturer's rebates. From Proctor and Gamble alone, it was determined she received at least 4,000 refunds totaling more than $8,000 in 1993 and 1994. After local postal inspectors completed their investigation, the woman pled guilty to opening mail not addressed to her, a federal charge that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine. [Read more]
The art of packing books
Before packing a book, it is well to consider the journey that book will take to get to the recipient. One trip to a postal sorting facility is usually all it takes for anyone to understand the need for careful wrapping, sturdy cardboard and boxes, and clear addressing covered with strong clear tape to protect it. It is a surprise that books arrive at their destinations in one piece at all. Proper packing can help insure a safe journey and a satisfied recipient. [Read more]
The many faces of thieves
The man out front is in his early to mid-40's, clean-shaven, of average build, and slightly balding. He's wearing a lightweight sports coat and chinos. In his left hand he holds a large Macy's shopping bag. He pauses, checks his watch, then steps casually through the entrance of the bookstore.
At the front of the shop a clerk concentrates on a large stack of books. She looks up, smiles, and then continues shelving the new arrivals. She's seen him several times before. He calls out a greeting then continues through the shelves.