evannichols (evannichols) wrote,

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Books, Books, and More Books

One of my responsibilities at the store is to go through the stack of books that R (the owner) brings in from estate and garage sales, and price them. Usually this means just seeing what the going rate is on the ABE bookseller website for a copy of the book in similar condition. Typically one finds dozens or hundreds of copies listed, but not always. Like a trade paperback version of Anne McCaffrey's "The Dolphins' Bell" (a Dolphins of Pern short novel). I only found one, a hardback for $85. (Yow!) So I looked on Amazon and Half.com, and found only a few others, mostly hardback and all expensive. (I took a guess and listed it at $55. If it sells quickly, we'll know that was too low.)

All that was interesting, but it was the common ones that got me thinking. We had a whole bunch of novels from the early nineties come in. The original owner must have promptly covered them with the clear mylar wrap (you know, like a library book), read them once, and left them on the shelf since. So here are these hardback books in excellent shape; and when I look them up, there are hundreds of copies of them listed, starting at $1.00. These sold for $20 to $30 originally, and now they can be had for a DOLLAR? And that got me thinking. There must be thousands of titles out there like that. Each one represents months of effort by the author; they worked hard to groom their novel, present it to agents and editors, and finally it went to print. It sold for a while, first as a "New Release," then on the regular display, then the discount table, and finally remaindered for next to nothing. They may be great stories, but for whatever reason they didn't lodge in the cultural awareness the way some books do. They had their run, and now are just drops in the ocean of used books, a small title lost in a monstrous catalog. It's a little sad. I guess the redeeming quality is that they are out there. Those books and the names of their authors may not be often sought after in the lists, but the record of their achievement will live on, for years after the writer is gone (for decades? Centuries, perhaps?) It's not immortality, but it's something.

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