Book Collecting 101?

So, hi there! This is Lynn blogging this time. As she said in the first entry, Cheryl is the computer expert and writer of this team, I’m the bookseller and bookcase builder. I suspect Cheryl’s entries will mostly be about odd and interesting old books she’s currently reading, literary issues she’s thinking about, and computer stuff that’s annoying her. My entries will usually be about book selling and retail business stuff.

For instance, the other day I had a nice lady in the shop who earnestly asked me if I had any books that could help her get started in book collecting. A little discussion made it clear that I was dealing with an absolute beginner. She knew nothing about book lore, antiquarian or otherwise. Zilch, nada.

I mentally switched to helpful educator mode and began the daunting task of instilling a little book-learning in the woman. I asked questions: Why do you want to collect books? What kind of books do you like to read? Are you interested in collecting because you love some kind of literature or are you looking at this as an investment opportunity?

She wasn’t trying to collect for the money-making part of the business. I recommended she collect books she cared about and not worry too much about whether they were great collectibles or not. Unfortunately, there’s no one source book of information about book collecting, a book that will tell a beginner everything they need to know about books. Fortunately, I’ve conducted an in-shop seminar for beginner collectors in the past and Cheryl and I have some hand-outs that give definitions of book collecting terms, source materials, useful websites , etc., that can help the beginner get started. She seemed grateful for the free information.

My customer and I talked about bookmanship for about an hour. She had all the usual questions about first editions, what makes books valuable, and all that. I’m always tempted to point out that if it were easy (book dealing and collecting, that is), everyone would do it, except that it seems like everyone IS doing it. It just seems to me that many people are doing it wrong or at least for the wrong reasons.

I guess what I’m leading to is a question: Should I resume the book collecting seminars in the shop? We did a few of them but they weren’t very well attended. I also felt a bit guilty when I had to disappoint a newby by telling them that the really old book they inherited from Grandma really wasn’t worth much money, so sorry, but that I’m sure it had sentimental value to them.

So that’s the question. Is anybody in the East Bay interested in a book collecting seminar or series of seminars here at the shop? I realize that this is early days to ask this, since we probably don’t have more than a few readers but I’ll ask the question again in a month or two. And again later on. And I’d be happy to answer, if I can, any questions our readers may have. Thirty years in this business (off and on) and I’m willing to share what I know. Anybody interested?

–LK


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