United States 2012
Part 1: Between the Covers
I'm sending you my notes from New Jersey, USA, where one of the best American bookshops Between the Covers Rare Books is situated and where I am fortunate to work as an intern.
My name is Julia Kulyamzina and I'm a student at Moscow State University of Printing Arts. My specialization is the antiquarian book trade taught by professor Olga Tarakanova. Through her work with ILAB there was created the Internship program, in which our students can participate and learn about the work of booksellers in other countries. Few of our students have already participated in the program, they have been able to gain invaluable experience and get important connections in Australia and Europe. I'm incredibly lucky that I was invited to the United States, where the antiquarian book trade is a very developed sphere. I was also very fortunate to come to Tom Congalton's bookstore and I'm very grateful for this opportunity.
I have been here for one and a half weeks already working in the store that doesn't cease to amaze me and delight with its organized work and great employees. The workflow is divided into different stages, each employee has its own functions, but they all endeavour to capture as much knowledge and skills as they can. For example, it is necessary that in times of heavy load forces could be transferred to the place where they are most needed (for example, during the holidays to deal with a lot of the packaging of the departure orders).
All the people in the store are extremely nice and willing to share the experience with me. Most of the time I have been cataloging new acquisitions. I started with American books, but spent a lot of time with the Russian books as well. In addition, I was able to take part in the whole process of moving books from receiving the order to sending it, and also I got to know what happens to books after they had been described and brought to the database.
At the moment I'm doing a project which eventually will appear as a mini-catalogue of Russian books meaning Russian fiction, books about Russia and in Russian. I hope there are some projects ahead for me and also a few trips to other booksellers. Can't wait!
I would also like to tell you about the store itself. Between the Covers is primarily famous for modern first editions. They have achieved a great success in this field. Of course, the store does not only deal with first editions, there are many items on all possible subjects, from different times and countries. It is online trading in which an easy and at the same time extraordinary website is very important (here is the link http://www.betweenthecovers.com/btc).
There is a great team behind all of this. First of all there are Tom and Heidi Congalton to whom I'm very thankful for their kindness and generosity of knowledge and time. The store employs more than 10 people who are comfortably settled with all the huge number of books in a former school in the town of Gloucester City. I am very happy to meet such a good work mood (and a lot of good jokes!), a passion and friendliness here. It is great fun to work here, to watch the process of work, learning a lot of new things especially because the American and Russian book trades are very different. I hope that all my new experience I will be able to use in Russia and make a change in the landscape of Russian bookselling for the better. Though of course this is all just a beginning!
I also wanted to thank everyone who has been so nice to me since I was here. Especially Ashley Wildes who was so great to let me stay at her home with her lovely parents and helped with everything.
United States 2012,
Part 2: Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, Delaware
I am still in Southern New Jersey enjoying the incredible American hospitality. I continue to explore the antiquarian book trade in the U.S. working at Between the Covers, getting new perspectives on the book trade and learning a lot of new things from Tom Congalton and the members of his stuff.
In the second part of my diary I would like to tell you about my short visit to New Castle, Delaware, where I was fortunate enough to work at Oak Knoll Books (http://www.oakknoll.com/) under the supervision of Robert Fleck. Oak Knoll Books was founded by Bob Fleck in 1974. The company specializes in out-of-print and in-print books about book collecting, book selling, bibliography, libraries, publishing, private press printing, fine printing, book design and others. There is the second part of this company called Oak Knoll Press which provides the book world with fantastic new titles interesting for reading and very useful in work.
Bob Fleck is a past President and active member of ILAB. He has an incredible collection of books about Delaware. He and his wife Millie were so kind to invite me into their wonderful house which, by the way, was built in 1713. I would like to thank them for their hospitality and care.
Oak Knoll Books is very different from Between the Covers in many ways. Bob Fleck focuses primarily on the business side of the book industry, while Tom Congalton is more fascinated with books themselves and searching for unique things. Both are great entrepreneurs and experts in their fields, so I was pleased to see such different companies and approaches to the rare book business.
Oak Knoll has a great team of employees, among them Robert Fleck 3rd and Laura Williams, who are responsible for the old books and new editions respectively. Everyone was very kind to me to show and tell me about the processes of the company. Bob, in turn, shared with me some of the basics, and his habits of business. It's amazing how he manages two such different parts of the business, keeps everything under his own control, cleverly controls all the processes, keeps in mind all the figures and creates a budget, based on a structural analysis of the company. Bob was one of the first people to see a potential profit in using the Internet to sell books. This once again proofs that he is a great businessman. He created a clear structure and accounting which makes his business successful and efficient.
It should be noted that I was surrounded by not just books but by books about books, so I wanted to see and read all of them. However, I had to concentrate on my work, I mastered several processes, got some important tips, managed to learn a lot.
Back from the 36th Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, I will continue my diary. It was amazing event where I got the chance to meet many booksellers and their books. I got an idea on the organization of one of the best American book fairs and could even sell a couple of books at the Between the Covers booth!
To be continued.
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United States 2012, Part 3:
Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair 2012
I would like to tell you about the last part of my American trip which took place in Boston at 36th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair (http://bostonbookfair.com/).
I spent four days in Boston and I was able to see the city which I liked very much. But the fair gave me much more impression and emotions. Most of the time I spent working at the Between the Covers booth, arranging books, communicating with customers, as well as exploring the fair and what everybody was selling, meeting new people and making interesting acquaintances. I got an incredible opportunity to meet the best booksellers!
There were more than 100 exhibitors - booksellers and non-profit organizations, mainly from the East coast of the USA, also from the UK, Holland and other European countries. The fair allowed me to plunge into the atmosphere of kindness, comfort, and cooperation. It was very nice to see how people work together.
Besides the exciting atmosphere of fun the fair gave me the opportunity to see a big range of products, which gives me a good idea of the U.S. book market. This market is extremely diverse, but to highlight popular and most common categories is not difficult: people love to buy and sell first modern editions in America, it is beyond doubt. I would also note Americana, African-Americana, and children's books as popular categories. Almost essential was the presence of ephemera, subscribed copies, fine bindings and illustrated books as well as maps and manuscripts. The diversity of subjects and kinds of books characterizes the market very well as long with the tendency among booksellers to specialize in one or several subjects or to deal with the one kind of books. There were a few events during the fair like lectures, roundtables, and appraisals. But, of course, all visitors came to see and buy books.
There are a lot of fairs in the USA and the existence of such events is very impressive. For some people it's the opportunity to make business contacts, it is a place to sell books but even mostly to buy something valuable, since booksellers always bring the best and most interesting to fairs.
I want to thank Tom and Heidi Congalton and Ashley Wildes for making my stay in Boston so great. It was so much fun!
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