Blogging and the Trade - War and… Peace
By Greg Gibson
Hard to believe, for me anyway, but we’ve just shot past the sixth anniversary of Bookman’s Log. Yes, I should have written this entry after the fifth anniversary, and I don’t know why I didn’t. The post dated June 8, 2015 is about my dimwitted attempt to sell rare maritime books through an eBay store. (Results for the 6 months I tried it were one sale and two offers, both for less that 50% of what I had listed the book for.)
Anyway, I looked at the blog roll this afternoon and counted 402 entries since June 2010. For some reason my first two posts, from June 19 and June 12, 2010 had gotten lost in cyberspace. So, I’ve really written 404 entries. Figure an average of 750 words per blog (a conservative estimate) and that’s a little over 300,000 words. For purposes of comparison, War and Peace is 587,287 words long. So I’m a little better than halfway there. Maybe I’ve gotten as far as War and…
I can’t remember exactly why I started the blog. My thoughts on the matter may have been contained in those first two, lost, posts. But I do remember a couple of things I had in mind when I started out. In the first place, I was determined to tell the absolute, unvarnished truth about my experiences in the book trade. Secondly, I was convinced that an interesting blog would draw people to my website and that, in fact, I might even be able to use the blog to sell books.
It didn’t take long (maybe two paragraphs into my first post) to realize that if I did publish an absolute, unfiltered report of my experiences in the trade, my audience would be bored to tears. Also, I’d lose all my friends and nobody would ever do business with me again, since I’d betrayed all their secrets. So, as we all do in life, I was forced to make some compromises as far as details were concerned. I still strive, however, to maintain thespirit of truth in every entry.
I had a little better luck selling things through the blog. After a while people who were interested in the kind of stuff I have on offer realized that the blog posts gave them a first look at new material. However, the truth (yes, the unvarnished truth!) is that it took two years for the blog to gain any traction at all – commercially speaking. Two years of grinding out weekly entries before I ever sold a damned thing! Another way of looking at it is that I had to write To Kill a Mocking Bird (99,121 words) before I ever sold a book. These days about 25% of the material I offer in my blog gets sold, or at least inquired about. So I feel it’s earning its keep in that respect.
But there’s a third, unintended, consequence of all this scribbling. I didn’t really become aware of it until a couple of years ago, but now I delight in it. Bookman’s Log turns out to be a record (a personal and shortsighted record, yes, as any account of contemporary events must be) of a particular era in our trade, a particularly dynamic era, when the codex ceased to be a container of information and became an artifact, a cultural marker, an object of desire. Probably not since Gutenberg has there been such an upheaval, and I happened to be fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to have been smack in the middle of it.
So I intend to keep scribbling away, at least until I’ve finished Peace.
Here are a couple of things from the next catalog, which will be coming out soon.
Cunard White Star Line. RMS Queen Mary.
Folio, 44 pp. on heavy stock, with three folding plates of interiors, tipped in color plates of decorations and full page color plates and plates in text.
This production to celebrate her 1934 launch is as lavishly produced as the ship herself. It features articles by H.M. Tomlinson and E.P. Leigh-Bennett, folding plates, and tipped in color plates of the ship’s art deco features. Bound in heavy paper wrappers printed in gold and red. In very good – fine condition. $250
Ephemera. Humorous Instructions for GIs Returning to America at the Close of World War II.
n.p. (San Francisco): n.d. (circa 1945). Lithographed broadside, 10 x 14 1/2 inches with small vignettes in four corners.
Jovial, innocent, sexist and racist “instructions,” very much of their time, for men returning from occupied Japan. Article 1 will suffice to illustrate the tone – “Upon your arrival in America you will be amazed at the number of beautiful white girls with shoes on, but remember that San Francisco is not Japan. Many of these girls have occupations such as stenographer or beauty operators. Therefore do not approach them with, ‘How much?’…” There is a fair amount of profanity, including an f-bomb, so we can assume this was not an official publication. The words “Eleanor Only” are written in blue pen at the top of the sheet. Old fold marks, else very good condition.$125
Posted on Bookman’s Log, presented here by permission of the author. Pictures: Bookman’s Log.