I walk in, quickly grab a cart and walk to the books, all the way in back. I go through the bins quickly but thoroughly, my hands and eyes working together instinctively. Tossing aside the harlequins, the bad vanity press poetry, Oprah books and last week’s best sellers, I sift for gold.
Here a hard cover on WWII submarines, there a crisp Vintage International copy of Lolita. I snatch a pocket book of The Short-Timers (worth $35 to someone in London), take a chance on a History of Smith & Wesson (might keep that for myself), and laugh silently to myself when I come across a long out of favor writer such as Frank G. Slaughter – writer of doctor/nurse thrillers – that I haven’t handled in 20 plus years of doing this. And what is this?
I am the guy who goes looking in dim thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets for old books. Old books that are undervalued, which I turn around and sell online at places such as ABE, BookFinder or Amazon. Or if they aren’t worth selling online, I trade them at used bookstores for ones I like, either to sell or to keep for my own collection. I have been doing this for over 20 years at this point, starting my apprenticeship alphabetizing pocket books in a used book store, one that I would call a dead shop, assuming it was still around. And by dead shop I don’t mean anything bad, only that it is a store that knows exactly what it has, the stock is priced against online sources and sits around for years. As opposed to a live shop, where the stock is moving so fast that the store often has no idea what it has and mostly wants to keep it moving for cash flow reasons. A live shop is where you find the bargains and treasures.
I laugh at the kids with scanners, checking each bar code to see if the book is listed for anything at Amazons buy back dept. They miss so much, not realizing that books printed before ISBN’s are where the real business is and the things that are worth only pennies online are often highly prized at book shops. But then, there is a reason why I am packing up 47 crates of books as I prepare for to move. 47 crates and nothing to read, as the books are all packed. So I head to the thrift store to find something for myself. The only interesting thing (funny how I never see something when looking for myself) is Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. I guess I will give it a try…
So, what are you reading?