Thursday, May 27, 2010

"What Are You Looking For?"

Not a day goes by that someone doesn't phone or email wondering what kind of books we buy and trade. The short answer: books we can sell quickly that we don't already have fifty million copies of. Thus: recent fiction, recent higher-end nonfiction, recent murder mysteries, recent science fiction and fantasy, and enduring literary classics (Huxley; Orwell; Hemingway; Hesse; Vonnegut & etc.). Plus anything that we are currently ordering in new copies of (Steig Larsson; Malcolm Gladwell; Thomas Bernhard; Zadie Smith; Hunter S. Thompson, etc.). The new book wall in the front room is a convenient Cole's Notes of the kind of books we'd like to see every day, and we always try to add a little extra when new books originally purchased from us are returned for credit or cash.

That said, certain kinds of books are never good candidates for trade or resale: worn or damaged books; most debut novels; stuff widely available on the bargain tables at Chapters and Book Warehouse; books that everybody's book club read 3-5 years ago (Camilla Gibb; Miriam Toews; recent Michael Ondaatje; Sue Monk Kidd); books on topics that our customers don't care about (sports biographies; travel picture books; manky mass-produced kids' series (Animorphs; Goosebumps), spiral-bound cookbooks; diet books; textbooks, etc. Plus most bestsellers that you can buy in an airport bookstore or at Costco (Dan Brown; John Grisham; Danielle Steel; Stuart Woods).

In general, we only buy and trade books that we know we can resell. That way, the shops are always full of recent and interesting titles, and you don't have to wade through thousands of mediocre or badly dated books to find the good stuff.

Our trading policy is largely identical to our buying policy, except that you receive a higher rate for trade credit, based on how quickly we think your books are going to sell. Unlike most other book stores, our trade credit doesn't expire, can be used at either one of our stores, and doesn't have to be combined with cash. That said, trade credit can't be used to purchase new books (everyone, even the staff, pays cash for them), and material that is being offered for trade has to meet a basic common sense test. (Eg., a box of John Grisham and Stuart Woods pocket books never equals a bag of used Bukowskis, Murakamis, Fantes and recent graphic novels).

New Arrivals, New Shelves, New Cookbooks & Kids' Books

We just spent the last week and a half building new shelves up at Main Street to accommodate a recent influx of cookbooks and kids' books, including out-of-print back issues of Art Culinaire magazine, a recent Cordon Bleu guide, and specialty titles by Rob Feenie, John Bishop, Charlie Trotter, Michelin three-star Pierre Gagnaire & etc. About 200 books in all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Classics Collection in @ Main Street

One of our best scouts just returned from a sale in the Pacific Northwest with a car full of classic paperbacks, including a stack of old orange Penguins, and lots of inexpensive popular favorites (Orwell, Huxley, Hemingway, & etc.). Almost 1000 books in all, which will be hitting the shelves over the next few days.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Future of Print

Via the New Yorker, a thorough and detailed look at Kindle v. iPad, Amazon v. everybody, print v. digital, & etc. Worth reading.

On a related note, I just spent two and a half weeks on the road in the USA, where I noticed several things:

1. Almost a third of the bookstores that were open when PFB first opened in June 2000 have now closed. Of the used bookstores that remain, most are no longer buying books at all. Sales at those stores, based on my first-hand, limited, and admittedly anecdotal observation, are awful. The few stores that still regularly buy for cash are, like us, seeing more good books than they ever have before, and almost all of their owners told me that they expect 2010 to be their "best year ever."

2. Books @ PFB, new and used, are by and large cheaper than those at stores located in major US metropolitan markets (Seattle; Portland; San Francisco; Las Vegas).

3. Paperback exchanges that only carry mass market paperbacks -- a concept that's always struck me as an incredibly flaky business model -- are done, a victim of rising rents and their owners' reluctance/inability to buy for cash. The survivors' stock, which ranged from great to middling ten years ago, is now uniformly terrible.

4. Thrift stores in the States are now charging as much for recent books as we are. This doesn't make much difference to me, but it should to any bookstore owner whose business model is predicated on heading to the local thrift store first thing in the morning and loading up.