Report from the Front – Carol in Colorado

Carol Brussel from Laura Nevada’s Library is liveblogging from the 29th Annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.

8.12.07 –

The seminar is truly over, and all us little chickens have flown away home.* It included a rather astounding diversity of participants. Booksellers, true – new and old. Collectors thinking of becoming booksellers. People running businesses related to the book trade but not actually selling books, for instance, usedbooks101.com. How did I miss this terrific website before? After hearing Michael Ginsberg talk about how many bookstores are not on the internet, and encouraging sellers to scout out other stores, I realized how imprortant this resource could be.

And the FO the FOL. Despite the criticism most sellers can muster about library sales, the numbers of library people that showed up must indicate that their industry is changing. It seems to me that on the one hand, they will be more competitive, listing their own books online instead of having library sales that provide fodder for the rest of us. However, as the esteemed head of school said, there are books everywhere. Perhaps if the FOL people are better educated they can help improve the quality of online bookselling. Then we can all collectively stand and point our fingers at the megalisters. Or, the new term that came up, the scrapers.

And then there were the bookpeople as objects, the Improving the Universe through Profit While Deceiving Your Donors people. I myself, despite what some of you think of me, felt it beneath my dignity to personally upbraid and castigate these decorative youmg dudes. As I say ad nauseam to those within hearing, if I want to run a warehouse operation with employees, I’ll find something easier to pack and ship than books. Widgets, perhaps. They are the wave of the future. Not books. Back to that pesky quote about analog becoming digital becoming free. I’m still chewing on that one and holding up various books against walls, evaluating their potential as objects of beaute.

The faculty at the seminar provide an extraordinary experience that several people commented on, that is, world class booksellers spending a week with newbies as their peers, treating each of us (well, who knows how they treated the Improving the Universe people) with a genuine and sincere interest and completely abandoning any hint of snobbery. This willingness really did make us feel that the arcane degrees of mystery are available to all.

Here’s the bottom line, people. If you are completely and totally happy with your book business, every aspect of it – well, don’t bother to go. If you have the slightest hint of dissatisfaction with what you sell, how you sell it, and the money you make selling it, then hie thee to the nunnery, oops, no, Colorado College. You will not regret going to the seminar, although you might regret the coffee. I went with several objectives. First, I had to see if there is enough unrealized potential in the book business for me to succeed, because, believe me, trying to undercut Joycey in the eraser business is probably not a wise thing, what with her sewing up the voodoo dolls if you get outta line.

Secondly, once you got the book business virus, you got it, and there doesn’t seem to be a cure, so it behooves me to improve what I do. It is clear to me that I don’t want a warehouse and a software program that handles hundreds of thousands of books. Not that that is a bad thing, its just not for me. I have to say, except for the few rare moments when the coffee ran low (and how I missed Kaladi’s, my home coffee shop), I felt deliriously happy about the new worlds opening up. So many new things to know, and so little time.

Every session had some new bit of information, if not boatloads. That is to say, even subjects where I am fairly well-informed were presented in a way that had some new things for me to learn (thanks, Chris!) And what am I saying? Not many of the sessions were covering areas in which I could say I am extremely knowledgeable. That’s the beauty of the seminar. It is true that this is the one place in which one can learn to be a bookseller. It’s more than worth the cost of going. And, except for the few brief moments when I listened to the accountant, and felt the only possible solution to the problems posed by his information was to go home and burn all the books, now, TODAY – its something you absolutely must do if you have even the slightest need.

And its spelled Glaser – Ed Glaser, Ed Glaser, Ed Glaser – (now I’m hearing strains of “Ed Sullivan, Ed Sullivan, we’re gonna be on Ed Sullivan”) running through my head. Mea culpa, mea culpa – I can only plead exhaustion for making such a grievous error as mispelling the name of someone so terrific. What, Mrs. Wordperson make a spelling error? It offends the gods!

*Note – chickens are incapable of sustained flight.

– Carol

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