Monday, February 09, 2015

Book And Mortar Brickstores

     Awhile back, there was -- as a kind of sideshow to the "mostly Baen authers vs. SJWs" whatever-it-was, or possibly the other way around -- a flap over the author's-eye-view of Amazon vs. the traditional publisher/bookstore model, and to a lesser extent, the reader's perspective of same

     I had trouble really engaging with it.  Just "Meh."  Tonight (or early this morning, depending), standing in the kitchen looking out at the dining room-library, I finally realized why.  There are something over 5000 books in there (and elsewhere), mostly SF, and of that number, less than five percent were purchased new.  Many of those were bought via Amazon.  What've I bought new?  Most of the C. J. Cherryh books, a fair amount of Elizabeth Moon and Lois McMaster Bujold, reprints of Robert A. Heinlein books and his last three new novels and collections; recent Ursula K. LeGuin and Kim Stanley Robinson,* plus H. Beam Piper reprints and most of Michael Z. Williamson's SF.† The rest of it -- thousands of books -- I bought used.

     I grew up not poor but by no means well-off, and a considerable distance from the local public library, which kept a few shelves of SF with the children's books.  School libraries were pretty thin, too, a good assortment by not nearly enough of it.  I was and remain a fairly voracious reader.  Harvey's Book Exchange, a dark and cluttered building filled with used books, had plenty of Science Fiction and you could fill a brown paper grocery sack‡ with books for five bucks.  It was the start of a lifelong habit and I watched the demise of the small-scale used book store in recent years with alarm, though the later rise of Half-Price Books has made up for it.

      Visiting the new-book seller has always felt like an extravagance.  Visiting the used book store was a necessity.  And it still is.  I like my Kindle a lot but I like shopping for books more.
* Oh, dear, looks like I'm some kinda borderline commie.
† Or not.
‡ Ask your parents, kids.


Old NFO said...

Used books, and trading books has always been in my wheelhouse. The military is good for that, as there are always books around. Most bases and outfits I was in had book shelves and it was leave one take one. Even today, I have probably 20-30 books on a shelf in my office, and it's a free trade zone. :-)

Alien said...

Way back when, during the years of Durance Vile (eg., living in the D.C. area, decades pre-Amazon) one of the few bright spots was Crown Books, a regional venture of Haft, Jr. (Sr. was behind the now long defunct Dart Drug chain).

Don't ever ask them to order anything, but they discounted everything, and the "Books Under $3/$2/$1" shelves were like bright light to a moth. Hardcover remainders whose paperback version was impending, or just unnoticed gems, a weekly Jackson easily kept the family in printed words.

Interestingly, and fittingly, the location of my then-favorite Crown is now a McKays.

SPEMack said...

Wandering around in a used book store with a twenty dollar bill that I had hassled out of my older sister was the only way I kept my sanity when my Mom was at Emory for an extended stay.

A delightfully dark, slightly dingy place, with an overly friendly cat and an elderly hippy lady manning the counter.

OLDNFO, the "take one; give one" box during deployment represented the best and worst in American literature.

Hemingway, Twain, and Fitzgerald paperbacks intermingled with bad romance novels, the 50 Shades Trilogy, and Harry Potter

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Robinson? That don't make you a commie. As long as you never reas any of that Asimov guy. Or Clarke! Beyond the pale collectivists.

Or is it pail? Is it about a person that is for a strong centralized government hiding behind a bucket? Or just standing on the other side of one? Never figured that out.

Overload in Colorado said...

Physical vs Digital distribution of media is an interesting topic. Publishers have never liked used product as they don't make any money from these sales. You can't sell a digital copy of something, but it may be easier to copy (pirate) digital media.

The accountants need to figure out if the extra copies of digital media sold because there's no used market offsets the sales lost to pirating (allowing for the fact that digital media allows the publisher to make more profit per copy sold vs a physical copy)(which is why ebooks can sell for less that printed books)

As a Tabletop Game Store employee, I know that players have pirated their D&D rulebooks.

Old NFO said...

SPE, OH HELL YES... Sigh... I saw stuff in there I didn't even know they printed... LOL

Bob said...

I found it sort of ironic recently when a famous science fiction/used book store in the SJW capital San Francisco was forced to close after a minimum wage law was passed there.

Roberta X said...

I found it sad.

FrankC said...

You've got maybe 5000 second hand books on your shelves and you wonder why second hand book shops are closing.
You've got their stock!

Roberta X said...

Possibly. Always figured that was my last-ditch option for income: open a used bookstore.

Cincinnatus said...

A used book store is a great way to make a small fortune from a large one.