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V13 2010 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 41, October 10, 2010, Article 26

CONFESSIONS OF A USED-BOOK SALESMAN

Lots of people still buy real books. Len Augsburger forwarded this article from Slate about how technology is helping bookpickers make a living. Here are some excerpts. -Editor

Confessions of a Used Booksalesman I make a living buying and selling used books. I browse the racks of thrift stores and library book sales using an electronic bar-code scanner. I push the button, a red laser hops about, and an LCD screen lights up with the resale values. It feels like being God in his own tiny recreational casino; my judgments are sure and simple, and I always win because I have foreknowledge of all bad bets. The software I use tells me the going price, on Amazon Marketplace, of the title I just scanned, along with the all-important sales rank, so I know the book's prospects immediately. I turn a profit every time.

I'm pretty sure I first heard about the practice of shopping for books with laser scanners in a story on NPR, which, as I recall it, disparaged their use as classless. And, really, it is precisely this. The book merchant of the high-cultural imagination is a literate compleat and serves the literate. He doesn't need a scanner, because he knows more than the scanner knows. I fill a different niche—I deal in collectible or meaningful books only by accident. I'm not deep, but I am broad. My customer is anyone who needs a book that I happen to find and can make money from.

When I first started this work, I would wake up every morning with fingers stiff from prying apart books in order to get a better look, and a clear shot at the barcode. On average, only one book in 30 will have a resale value that makes it a "BUY." One man's trash is, of course, nearly always another man's trash.

Lately, I've been averaging about 30 books sold per day. I pull them down, fit them into padded envelopes, print postage at home, and drive my packages to the post office before closing time—six days a week. After this, I usually go out looking for more stock, and after that I often stay up late making new listings online—describing the physical faults of my books, deciding on prices. I work up to 80 hours a week.

To read the complete article, see: Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman (www.slate.com/id/2268000/)

THE BOOK BAZARRE

AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS: Are your books carried by Wizard Coin Supply? If not, contact us via www.WizardCoinSupply.com with details. We are interested in further expanding our already exceptional selection of in print titles.


Wayne Homren, Editor

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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