Do you know about the Bibliophile Mailing List? If you are a book collector or bookseller or aspiring to be either, I highly recommend joining it. The first two weeks are free, and then it is $30/year to subscribe. One can ask questions, posit opinions, and even list books for sale commission free! Even better, the inner workings of some parts of the book business, from what database software to use to which online listing services are the lesser of evils, are discussed often and in great detail. You can check it for yourself here.
I stumbled upon the list in early 2006 and mostly just read all of the posts every day, learning as I read along. I had by this time read all of Nicholas Basbanes fabulous books about books, book collecting, and libraries. I was regularly attending local library sales and exulting over my “finds” at said sales. I was beginning to branch out and buy books at auction. Completely book drunk, I purchased more and more books, even those that were good books outside of the areas in which I was interested in collecting. I began to wonder if I might sell these books for a profit. I don’t know what hubris allowed me to think this. I did not yet personally know even one bookseller. I was a little bit intimidated and afraid to walk into an antiquarian shop. They’re so quiet. Would it be ok to browse? Would I have to buy anything if I spent a lot of time with the owner? How much would I have to spend? What if the owner was “curmudgeonly”, as some book shop owners are rumored to be, and threw me out for my presuming I could find and sell books like him?
One day it dawned on me that I could ask the booksellers on the Bibliophile Group list . I could do so somewhat anonymously, without worrying about being thrown out of anyone’s shop for the arrogance of thinking I could, just like that, become an antiquarian bookseller. So that’s what I did.
Tomorrow: The Letter