Megalisters Hit the Mainstream September 13, 2008 – Tags: , , ,

Mick Sussman’s essay “Attack of the Megalisters” appears in the Book Review section of Sunday’s New York Times and brings to light the work of this new breed of online bookseller.

Before I talk about the piece I want to give a tip of the hat to the book coverage at the New York Times. While the book sections of most newspapers are disappearing or crumbling the NYT has expanded their coverage of the book world. Yes, it is still mostly populated by reviews and the the inherent politics that surround them but they have opened the doors to coverage of other aspects of the book universe. Sussman’s essay for one, though it deals with those who exist at the bottom of bookselling food chain, brings much needed exposure to the ever growing non-new book world. The addition of Steve Heller’s Visuals column and it’s focus on book design and illustration also enlarges and enriches. Then there is Paper Cuts “a blog about books and other forms of printed matter, written by the editors of The Book Review.” It’s the “other forms of printed matter” that makes me smile.

There is still hope.

Now on to the Megalisters.

Highlights:

The mention of Larry McMurtry and his recent memoir “Books.” Though, it’s almost sacrilegious to even mention McMurtry and the “McMurtrian ideals” in a piece on the bottom-feeders of the book world it does provide a vivid contrast. It illuminates just how long the continuum is in regards to people’s relationships with books. For McMurtry the tactile experience, “the pleasure of handling a fine copy of a rare book,” is one of the joys of his book life.
For the megalisters that tactile relationship is based on a “scanning” experience. Pick up the book, scan the bar code, let the software price and put it on the shelf.

Lowlights:

“the state of the art in used-bookselling these days seems to be less about connoisseurship than about database management”

“The megalisters — a name originally intended as a term of abuse but now accepted by the accused”

“What we are trying to do is provide cheap books for everybody” – G. Seth Beal COO of megalister Thrift Books.

Wondering about the staying power of the paperback editions of the current bestsellers? Eight of the 15 titles on the Times’s paperback bestseller list from a year ago are available on Amazon for a penny each!

“rare but not collectible” – a new breed of book “sought after not as artifacts or for resale value, but for their content,” apparently the part of a new strategy that “involves a selective embrace of e-commerce, focused mainly on a category of book that scarcely existed before the Internet”

“What method are the smaller used-book sellers using to survive?”
“Hit ’em where they ain’t” by turning the labor-intensive “hand selling” approach into an advantage, says Gene Alloway the co-owner of Motte & Bailey, Booksellers, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The traditional independent bookseller, or the “mom-and-pop operation” as Sussman frames it, is now referred to a “hand seller.”

and the one that takes the cake and still has me shaking my head

“hand sellers have allies in marketplace sites like Biblio, which keeps out the penny sellers with policies like a $1 minimum price.”

Oy vey!

Sorry Biblio, you’re still part of the problem not the solution.

Previously on Book Patrol:
A Megalister Exposed

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