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ILAB Library - All You Need To Know About Rare Books and the Antiquarian Book Trade
Published since 11 Aug 2016
The differences between paper and digital catalogs are obvious, but some of the results of those differences continue to surprise me. For example, in the old days orders from my paper catalogs would dribble in over a period of weeks. I used to mail them all first class, in three staggered mailings, hoping to achieve some kind of evenness in delivery, but customers were always complaining that their catalogs arrived late, and demanding exclusive previews. Others, more laid back, would wait for moments of leisure to read their catalogs, and some overworked acquisitions librarians required days or weeks to claw through the pile of incoming mail to discover where my list of treasures was buried. Digital catalogs, on the other hand, play out in an eyeblink. Everyone gets their catalog announcement via a Mail Chimp email blast within the same hour or so. Those who are highly motivated know that they must read it and respond immediately. Consequently, most of the orders arrive by email within the first few hours of the catalog’s life. Maritime List 238 was posted Sunday night. By Wednesday even the laid back orders had arrived.
Published since 30 Jun 2016
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.)
Published since 16 Feb 2016
There wasn’t much trouble with anything this trip. ABAA’s SoCal Bookfair Committee and White Rain Promotions orchestrated a nearly flawless event, right down to the spacious and well stocked dealer’s lounge, lunch during setup, and a catchy, slightly goofy “Alice in (book)Wonderland” theme, not to mention polite, efficient, and omnipresent security, wide aisles, and excellent lighting. And if crowds seemed a little thin and lackluster (they were) we could blame it on the extraordinarily warm and sunny weather. There can be no greater pleasure on this earth than walking to work hoping not to get too hot and receiving a phone call from your kids back in Massachusetts complaining of sub zero temperatures and snow shoveling tasks.
Published since 17 Nov 2015
In days of old, it is said, herds of buffalo stretched twenty-five miles across the great plains of America; flocks of carrier pigeons darkened the sky for hours as they flew past. That’s the way it was, more or less, last Friday at the opening of the 39th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. The enormous opening-night line stretched all the way up the spacious Hynes lobby and into the rotunda adjacent to the Prudential shopping mall.
Published since 14 Oct 2015
Today’s entry has to do with the way Tahiti looked to Gauguin, but it is also about colleagues, and buying things, and about surprises – about whether or not they can be surprises if we expect them.
Published since 22 Sep 2015
Every once in a while we encounter events that we know will be benchmarks in our careers as antiquarian book dealers. The first shop, with its smell of fresh cut pine shelving, the first big buy, the first book fair, the biggest book fair, the biggest buy, the luckiest find, the first whale (dealer slang for a big buyer) … all these things will be chapter titles in the book of our days in the trade, written out as memoirs, or only recollected as memories. To their number must be added appraisals (for those of us who engage in such shenanigans) – the first one, the biggest one, the one that was challenged by heirs or IRS. The best one. I spent last week on a new chapter in my book of memories. It will filed in my memory bank as “Appraisals, Best.”
Published since 27 Aug 2015
Neither of my kids, doubtless traumatized by having a bookseller for a father, is much of a reader, but both are splendidly visually literate. He’s a photographer and she’s a florist. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and all that other stuff I don’t know how to work, is about images, not words. That’s how we communicate with one another these days. Even our book descriptions depend on images now. Rare is the catalog that is not lavishly illustrated, and if our online listings hope to have any chance of selling, they’d better feature plenty of images. We’re in the cradle period of images and imaging. Some day soon images will be text, and text will be arcane. We will be practitioners of black arts.
Published since 05 Jun 2015
Thus the inadequacies of the general used book store concept, circa 1980, led to the development of specialties at Ten Pound Island. Thus the failure of those specialties to meet the economic demands of an escalating real estate market drove Ten Pound Island out of the retail trade in 1993. Thus the computer and the fax machine put an end to TPI's flourishing postcard-driven nautical book search operation, which itself - owing to the need for a place to store the thousands of books accumulated in the course of this evolution – put TPI back in the retail business. Thus the rise of the Internet and the degradation in the value of low end maritime books, which had hitherto been Ten Pound Island's stock in trade, resulted in TPIs penultimate exit from the retail trade. Thus the paradoxical combination of rising cost and increased availability of rare books drove TPI into manuscripts, ephemera and documents. Thus the failure of provincial book fairs, which had hitherto been a major source of sales and stock, forced TPI into further dependence upon the Internet and the cultivation of institutional customers. Thus sales at TPI dwindled from thousands of mid range transactions to hundreds of larger ones. Thus the intervals between cash infusions increased. Thus the owner of TPI woke up one morning at 3 am with his hair on fire, recalling theorem #1 and thinking, “I've got to get more low end stuff out there on the market, to fill in the gaps between big hits.
Published since 15 Apr 2015
In the week leading up to this year's New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, and its two “shadow” fairs, I'd been in a state of preternatural excitement. Two promoters - Marvin Getman of Impact Events Group and John and Tina Bruno of Flamingo Eventz – were going head to head for supremacy in the satellite book fair market. First Getman crashed the Bruno's turf by scheduling a rival New York shadow show, then the Brunos trumped Getman by moving their shadow show to a new location just across Lexington Ave. from the big show at the Park Avenue Armory. Cold war ensued. It began to get nasty, and I became increasingly excited by the steady stream of blog fodder. There could not be two more different promoters – in terms of personality, management style, and business practices – than Getman and the Brunos. By last Friday night I'd half convinced myself that their collision would result in a black hole of such magnitude that the entire trade would be sucked behind an unbreachable event horizon, allowing us all to go home and rake our lawns. But something else happened. Or maybe I should say nothing happened.
[+] More That's Why I Love My Job ... – New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, 9-12 April 2015
Published since 07 Apr 2015
Okay. Hang on to your hats. Here comes the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, presented by the ABAA. This is the Big Leagues, baby. The World Series of Book. From Thursday night through Sunday afternoon at the Park Avenue Armory, we'll be keeping company with some of the world's finest books and manuscripts – mind-bogglingly rare and valuable items - sought by collectors of inestimable wealth (those unspeakably rich folks obvious to all but known by name only to Bill Reese, Don Heald, and their Continental cohorts); representatives of Institutions of Higher Learning whose annual budgets exceed those of many African nations; young men and women of good breeding who've attended the right schools and have decided to invest family millions in ruinous antiquarian ecstasy; smiling auctioneers and avaricious dealers cruising the floor like so many leopards, attended by their pimps and minions; suave counter monkeys contentedly grooming themselves, waiting for their chance; bloated industrialists, technocrats, and financial guys for whom “to want” = “to have,” and their pimps and minions.