Category Archives: Getting Started

Chapter 722 Don’t Call It A Comeback, Or, The Bookseller Returns

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Bookmark courtesy of my friends at The Book Shop in Covina, California.

For several months now, I’ve been trying to return to regular posting on the blog and every time I do, it seems my time for writing is thwarted by other circumstances. I’m back. Again. For now. Don’t call it a comeback, because posting may not last and it definitely won’t be daily, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Where have I been the past few months?

Are you ready for this?

I’ve expanded my bibliophilic duties to include along with bookselling another job I used to do long ago and really enjoyed. That’s right, I’ve been working at a local high school since last April.

And I’ve been tutoring some visiting students from China in English since the fall semester began.

As of last week, I began teaching freshmen and sophomore English — five classes of about 30 students apiece.

Why?

There are various reasons, many of which are interesting only to me.  One of the reasons that is worth mentioning to the book-loving readers of this blog is that if there is to be a next generation of book collectors, we who sell books must first encourage a generation of book lovers, of people who understand that reading a printed book is a different experience than reading a back-lit screen.  Many antiquarian booksellers worry about whether the generation coming up — a generation raised on the digital device — will, when they come of age, bother with something as archaic as book collecting.  Some even wonder if they’ll bother with something as archaic as book reading. 🙂

Being a mother of two people who are part of the digital generation, I have an especially vested interest in this concern.  I want my own children and my students to know the satisfaction of reading well-chosen words. The scent of ink sunk into fibrous paper like salve into a wound. The alluring glint of gleaming gilt, beckoning a reader to the contents inside. The story of another, someone whom the poetry of Christopher Morley describes as “A voice of human laughter or distress/A word that no one needs as much as I.” The satisfying “thunk” of a well-read book slammed shut when the story is spent. The passionate discussion of what makes a book great. Books provide pleasure and insight on all levels.

Idealistic?

Naive?

Crazy?

Perhaps.

But so antiquarian bookselling seemed to me when I started Book Hunter’s Holiday back in 2007, and I’m still here.

It goes without saying that Book Hunter’s Holiday will keep on bookin’. I’m not closing the business, but you’ll see less of me online than in previous years. I’ll definitely see you at the 46th International Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco in February. In the meantime, look for some posts to preview what I’ll be bringing to the fair.

See you in the stacks and in the classroom!

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Chapter 658 The Privilege of Calling Myself “Antiquarian Bookseller”, Or, Book Hunter’s Holiday, ABAA

I am happy to say that today I reached a goal I set for myself a long time ago, a goal I pursued even though I wasn’t entirely sure I would ever reach it. Today, my application for membership in the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) was approved at the Summer Meeting of the Board of Governors of that organization!

It still doesn’t quite seem real. Today I became a member of the ABAA.

How great!

How terrifying!

I must be dreaming. Someone pinch me. On second thought, don’t. I think I like this dream.

I can’t remember where or from whom I first heard about the ABAA, back in the days when I didn’t know any booksellers personally, I had babies running around the house, and I barely had time to even read about antiquarian books, but upon hearing about this association of booksellers who work hard to promote the trade, who have a Board of Governors (!), a written Code of Ethics, and exclusive book fairs where only their own members can exhibit, I immediately thought, “I probably am too old to learn to be an antiquarian bookseller and even if I could, I’ll never be a good enough bookseller to be part of that group.” 

Are you wondering why I said such a thing? You might recall one of my many longstanding phobias about bookselling — being told by a better bookseller than I that I am not a bookseller.  Recall:

“I may be a new bookseller, but I know enough to know that when I visit the shop of another bookseller I should introduce myself (oh, the horror!) and identify myself as a bookseller. Still, I always find this to be an awkward moment. I’ve no reason to make assumptions, but my insecurity makes me think the owner will tell me I’m not a bookseller (because I sell online) and to leave the shop. I cower in fear of being assailed with all of the ways the brilliant shop owner knows more than I do. This has never actually happened to me, and I realize there is no logical reason why I should think that it will, but I just do.”

What happened between my telling myself I couldn’t do it several years ago and now?  If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know the story, and if you haven’t and you want to know, then you can start here. What happened is that I decided to disregard my phobias and reach out to those around me — to other booksellers and other book collectors for their knowledge, advice, and friendship; to my family for their support in my home-based business endeavor; and to you, the readers of this very blog, who sometimes commented or emailed or introduced yourselves to me at book fairs and reassured me that I was not crazy to try to become an antiquarian bookseller, that I could do it. What also happened was a lot of hard work — learning how to start and run a business; learning the trade as quickly as possible by finding a mentor, reading, talking and corresponding with others; selling books on my website, in printed catalogues, and at book fairs; and going to educational seminars near and far as often as I can.

Does joining the ABAA mean I’m a different bookseller than I was yesterday? No. I think I’ve always done my best to select good books for sale and to conduct my business in a professional and ethical manner and that would continue whether I became an ABAA member or not. What ABAA membership means, among other things, is that I can be and do and learn more by being a contributing member of an organization that is larger than one person working alone in a tiny corner of her dining room in between driving kids in carpools and washing the dishes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this time with regard to my joining the ABAA:

Does this make me a marquee bookseller? I certainly think not. Not even close. What it made me was someone who could be a small part of a larger team. I’ve since made friends with dealers of all kinds and and even occasionally sold books to those marquee sellers, those much higher in the bookseller food chain than myself. You know the ones. They are the quarterbacks who call the plays in the antiquarian book world, and everyone knows who they are and speaks their names with reverence, passing on the legends of some of their best book plays. Even though I’m not (yet) one of these sellers, it’s (usually) a real thrill and honor to sell them a book (or two or three or more).”

No, I am definitely not anywhere near the top of the bookselling food chain.  I do believe, though, that at long last I have earned the privilege of calling myself “antiquarian bookseller” and believing myself when I say it. May I always endeavor to be worthy of the title.

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 578 Questions New Collectors Ought to Ask Booksellers, Or How We Can Help You, Part 2

If you read Part 1 of this post and its related post at The Private Library, welcome back. If you’re just finding this post for the first time, click here, to see what Part 1 was all about. Once again, the always intelligent Private Library has posted more advice to new collectors from the perspective of other collectors. I’m an antiquarian bookseller and I’m answering questions that I am sometimes asked by new collectors.

5. Which reference books will help me identify books that fit my collection?
This is why it is handy to get to know a good antiquarian bookseller. A good antiquarian bookseller, unlike the internet, will have at least a shelf-full (and, I hope, an entire case-full or more) of good print reference books. While it is easy to research current asking prices of books for sale by checking out online aggregators like abe.com or vialibri.net, and one can even pay a subscription fee to learn past auction prices on many titles, it is still difficult to find online accurate information for identifying first editions of various books, examples of authors’ signatures, and lists of important books in particular subject areas. Getting to know a good bookseller will help you learn the important references and bibliographies in your subject area and will help you learn. Over time, you can acquire your own copies of these references.

6. How can I learn the terminology associated with book collecting?
A good place to start is John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors. Buy a copy of the book and keep it on hand when you are reading book descriptions. It will go a long way toward helping you to understand the truncated language of many bookseller catalogues. You can also access Carter’s ABC online at the website for the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB):

Another thing to learn early on, perhaps even before you start collecting books, is the meaning of various book condition definitions. The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) includes definitions of these things here.

Another useful general print resource is Geoffrey Glaister’s Encyclopedia of the Book, a large and comprehensive listing of terms used in papermaking, bookbinding, and publishing.

This list is merely a start. The more you learn, the more you’ll be led to the best reference books in the area in which you like to collect.

7. How do I learn who are the experts in the field in which I am collecting?

Depending on the type of book you collect and the amount of time you have to devote to scouting for books, you may wish to deal primarily with a specialist book dealer. A specialist will not only know and understand your subject area, but, if he is known as a specialist in a particular field, will also frequently be offered books in that field by other booksellers before those books are offered on the open market. Still, there’s a lot to be said for the fun of scouting for books from a general antiquarian bookseller. If you’re in it for the thrill of the hunt, as many collectors are, and you have time to slowly build your collection, make the time to scout out the shop (brick and mortar or online) of the general bookseller or the booths of the variety of sellers at an antiquarian book fair. Check out the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association (ABAA) website to see a directory of some antiquarian booksellers and their various specialties.

8. How do I learn when there are book sales and book fairs in my geographic region?

Shopping for books at book fairs is fun. Where else do you have a gathering of booksellers who sell a huge variety of books under one roof? Book fairs offer one-stop shopping and the chance to see a range of books of all kinds. Library sales, too, can be fun places to hunt for prized tomes hidden amongst the ordinary books. In order to go to book fairs and library sales, you need to have them on your calendar. Book Sale Finder can help you find upcoming library sales, book fairs, and even auctions in your area.

9. What tools will help me keep track of my books and the prices I paid for them?

Keeping record of one’s books, especially if you hope to sell them later, should be a high priority for the new book collector. There are quite a few computer programs that can help you keep track of your books, their authors, their catalogue descriptions, and the price you paid to purchase them. Don’t wait until you have collected hundreds of books to start keeping track of them. Your life will be much easier if you catalogue each book as you get it. (Oh how I wish I took my own advice!) Here are a few that, depending on how extensively you wish to catalogue your books, are worth examining:

Book Hound is designed for booksellers, but could be used by a collector as well.

BookTrakker has both bookseller and book collector editions of its software.

My Book Collection is easy to use and practical for collectors.

Collectorz.com is useful for those who collect books with an ISBN number (that is to say books published in last 40 or so years.)

If you’re new to book collecting, allow me to be the first to say welcome! And thanks for taking the time to get acquainted with some of the basic points I’ve written about. If you have any other book-related questions I can answer, please ask away in the comment box below.

And don’t forget to read all about what experienced collectors have to share with new collectors over at The Private Library.

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Chapter 540 I’ve Joined The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA)

In my quest to become an antiquarian bookseller over the past three years, I’ve done a lot of different things: I found a mentor. I’ve attended Rare Book Seminars and Rare Book Schools. I’ve sold books online and at book fairs. I’ve (finally) issued my first print catalogue. Now I’ve started to think about other milestones I’d like to reach. The first of these is to join a trade association. While I aspire to join the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), I don’t yet have enough experience to be considered for membership. I do plan to apply for membership in that organization when the time comes.

In the meantime, I recently became a member of the Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA). The organization was founded in 1999, around the time bookselling was beginning to migrate online and many book search services began to collect listings of books for sale from anyone and everyone. Longtime booksellers were concerned about the lack of standards they sometimes saw in the written descriptions of books listed for sale online, and they formed a trade organization to “address key issues of establishing trust between bookseller and book buyer, helping to train future generations of new booksellers, advocating for our members, and acting as a clearinghouse for information.”

Not only does IOBA have a Code of Ethics for its booksellers, it also has a Book Buyer’s Bill of Rights. It’s got a glossary of Book Terminology and Definitions of Book Condition and a nice list of reference works useful to collectors and sellers.

Thinking of becoming a bookseller? They even have a section on their website (written by my very own mentor, Mr. Z) called “So You Want to be a Bookseller?” that will give you some food for thought and some concrete ideas for getting started in the book trade.

I’ve saved the best for last. The site also lists books for sale and has a good search function for seeking out that elusive title.

Now that I’m a member of IOBA, I’ll soon be listing some of my books for sale over at IOBA as well as on my own website. If you’re a bookseller, consider becoming a member. If you’re a book collector, consider browsing for books at IOBA next time you shop. The experience of buying and selling books there promises to be a good one for both buyers and sellers.

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Chapter 516 Catalogue #1: Dante Alighieri

It’s finally here! Book Hunter’s Holiday Catalogue #1: Dante Alighieri. Click on either the picture or the link below to download a PDF (electronic) version of the catalogue. Feel free to send me an email with your address if you’d like a print copy: chris AT bookhuntersholiday DOT com. If you’d like to order an item from the catalogue, you can do so at our website.

Catalogue #1 – Dante Alighieri

Finally, the February issue of Americana Exchange has featured the catalogue in a new section on the site, one that allows the reader of the catalogue to turn each electronic “page” of the catalogue like a traditional book. Click here to read about the new catalogue and to see it demonstrated on the new section of Americana Exchange.

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Chapter 495 My First Appearance in Print

Today I received the Fine Book & Collections 2009 Compendium in the mail. Now that the magazine has gone to an online-only format, the annual Compendium is a print version I have been eagerly awaiting.

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In addition to the great Gift Guide for Book Lovers and a slew of great articles, the 2010 Bookseller Resource Guide included in the Compendium lets you know where you might consider shopping to fulfill all of your bookish needs.

Wait a minute. What’s that?
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Hmm. Let’s zoom in a little bit on page 89, to the first listing under the heading “Book Dealers”:

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🙂
It’s the first time I’ve advertised my business in print! It’s a humble ad, not nearly as pretty as the half-page and full-page ads by some of the other dealers, but it’s in there. This is also the first time that my logo, originally drawn in the early 20th century by my great-grandmother, has made it into print, and I think that’s kind of neat.

Another milestone reached. I feel so official!

Thanks for letting me toot my own horn today.

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 452 A Week of Enthusiasm, Frequent Mistakes, and Small Victories

I’m busy with some summer activities with Thoughtful Husband, Tom, and Huck this week, and rather than not blog at all, I will re-post some of my earliest posts. Those who are new to the blog might be wondering who I am and how I came to be an antiquarian bookseller and why I bother to write about it. If the prospect of reading about my early enthusiasm, frequent mistakes, and small victories doesn’t amuse you, rest assured I’ll be back to all new posts next Monday. I hope you are having an enjoyable summer! We are enjoying every last minute of it before Tom and Huck return to school.

The first post I ever wrote, almost two years ago, in September, 2007:

Introduction

Well, hello there. I am an antiquarian bookseller, just getting established in the business. This blog is a repository for my thoughts and observations along the way. My business, Book Hunter’s Holiday, takes its name from the title of a memoir by one of the greatest booksellers of the 20th Century — the good Doctor A.S.W. Rosenbach. He is an inspiration to me.

Here’s all you need to know about me to understand the perspective that will be offered on this blog:

After resigning from my job as an English teacher to stay home and raise my two sons, I was lonely for books. Books have been a constant in my life since I can remember, and, being a mother to two little boys under the age of two often didn’t allow time for reading anything more than the front page of the local newspaper. When my youngest son (now seven) turned two, a friend recommended I read Nicholas Basbanes’s history of book collecting, A Gentle Madness. Mesmerized by the topic, I sped through the thick tome, drowning in a downpour of words. So ended what I have come to regard as the Great Reading Drought of 1998-2002. Little did I realize then that what I read would open a floodgate of opportunity.

Although I’ve had bookish jobs since about age 15 – for a local bookstore, in a university library, for a book publisher, and, after college, as a high school English teacher — my response to Basbanes’s book was, “Why didn’t I know about this before?” Although I am ashamed to admit that I knew very little about antiquarian books or bookselling, I am certain that had I been more aware of the world of antiquarian books, I’d have started my career in that field immediately upon receiving my undergraduate degree.

I began avidly collecting books in 2002 (though I was collecting books while teaching without being aware that that was what I was doing) with an eye towards turning this hobby into a business when my youngest child entered first grade. In addition to simply collecting books, I read as much as I could on book collecting and bookselling. I attended any book fair within a 200-mile radius of my home. I was fortunate enough to find a local ABAA bookseller who was willing to take on the task of being my mentor, and I even got the great experience of working for him at the 2007 ABAA Fair in San Francisco. Only a few weeks ago, I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Market Seminar at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

This fall, my youngest son enters first grade. For the first time in ten years, a significant chunk of time can be freed up each day to focus on establishing my business in a professional manner. I have a business license, a resale number, and a website. I am exhibiting at my first book fair in September and expect to publish my first print catalogue in the coming months.

I am just a beginner, but I consider myself a bookseller. I have been an English teacher and a Mother, and though I would consider myself successful at both, I am a master at neither. Those titles, however, were conferred on me the day I earned my teaching credential and the day my eldest child was born, when I knew little about the level of expertise required by either job. I have (thankfully) improved from the early days of both jobs, but recognize I still need to learn a great deal more. Nevertheless, I thought of myself as a teacher and as a mother from day one, never as “trying to be a teacher” or “trying to be a mother”. Likewise, though I am just beginning, I consider myself a bookseller — a beginning bookseller who aspires to be an antiquarian bookseller.

Hope to see you in the stacks!

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