A Determined Reader and Book Patrol at 5 December 20, 2011 – Tags: , ,

from the 2008 production Traces from the French Canadian theater company Les 7 doigts de la main.

It has been a little over 5 years since I got a crazy idea to start blogging about books and their place in our world. The pace of change in the book universe has not slowed one bit since my first post and neither have the options for sharing and responding to the plethora of information about books that permeate the internet. While the pace of blogging has slowed somewhat recently it is not for lack of engagement nor interest –  the availability of new social media tools have allowed for new ways of sharing the cool stuff I come across. If you miss the frequency I would encourage you to visit Book Patrol at any of these following venues:

You will quickly realize that there is still quite a lot going on 🙂 and I encourage you to keep up with Book Patrol on any or all of these venues. And stay tuned for we have some exciting things in the works for 2012.

Now in honor of Book Patrol’s 5 year anniversary here is one from the vault. Written almost 5 years to the day, The Bookseller Manifesto Part I: I am a Bookseller – New Definitions for a Shifting Landscape, shows that as much as things have changed in the last 5 years we still face many of the same challenges that presented themselves then. Enjoy!

The Bookseller Manifesto Part I: I am a Bookseller – New Definitions for a Shifting Landscape

There are not many industries in the last 10 years that have undergone the volcanic eruptions that the world of bookselling has.

The world of the antiquarian and used bookseller has been turned upside down. A dinosaur of a trade that pretty much moved at turtle speed for most of the 20th century has had it shell torn off in the last decade.

The new bookseller has feared worse. It has become almost impossible to sell new books. Though as a whole the new book world was not as set in its ways as the bookseller in the resale market (I will use this term to refer to the non-new book bookseller). The commonality of product inherent in the new book world has made it the most susceptible to the emerging technologies. There are no surprises – you can schlep to the bookstore to pick up book “A” or you can go online and get book “A” cheaper and quicker. Convenience does a lot of damage to loyalty

For the resale market it is the elimination of any barrier to entry that poses the greatest threat. The only criteria to becoming a ‘bookseller’ today is that you have a valid credit card and you can find a username that hasn’t been taken yet. That is it- no apprenticeship, no schooling, no experience, no knowledge of the trade.

Yet with all this upheaval there has been no change in the definition or label of what or who a bookseller is.

There are a couple of prominent issues currently in play with the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America) that illuminate the need to broaden the lexicon.
The first is the debate over whether to allow auction houses or persons who primarily sell books via auction to become members of the ABAA. Personally I feel that they shouldn’t be allowed, the admission requirements are already too lax and allowing additional auctioneers in will not help things.
The second is the role the ABAA plays in the appraisal market and its relationship with the IRS. A tax expert who is a member of the ABAA recently sent a letter to the IRS on this subject and I wanted to share a snippet pertaining to our topic:

Antiquarian is a vague term that implies antiquities but is commonly employed to describe collectible books of all sorts regardless of age

Let’s just say, like the generic term bookseller, the term antiquarian is well antiquarian and needs to be revised.

The current definition of bookseller according to Webster’s is:
book·sell·er : one that sells books; especially : the proprietor of a bookstore
Of course, on the most basic level, one who sells books is a bookseller. Unfortunately, the bookselling landscape has been so radically altered that the term bookseller has become void of any significant or specific meaning.
Part I of Book Patrol’s Bookseller Manifesto for the 21st Century will introduce new terminology for the bookselling world. The bulk of my experience is in the resale market so these terms will be most suited for that facet of the industry. I look forward to feedback from colleagues in the new book world on suggestions for new terms that apply to their endeavors and to my colleagues in the antiquarian world for feedback. 
The new classifications are:
Bookseller: proprietor of a bookstore (or office) which holds regular hours and is open to the public. The bookseller has a passion for the material he/she offers and has an appreciation of the book as an object. The selling of books is his/her livelihood.
Beta Bookseller: The beta bookseller has a passion for the material he/she offers and has an appreciation of the book as an object though bookselling is not their primary livelihood. In many instances the Beta Bookseller is a Book Collector.
Pseudo Bookseller: A Book Collector with a tax id number with no intent to sell books at the time of purchase.
ISBN Seller (I Sell Books by Numbers Bookseller): The ISBN seller sees the book as a commodity. Some passion for the book might exist. They are limited to selling books produced after 1967 when the ISBN method of book identification was created. Scout Pal is a primary technology for this seller. 
Book Barons (otherwise known as megalisters): Book Barons see books as commodities. They do not own the books they sell nor do they have the physical capabilities to house the books they offer. No passion simply greed. Covertly supported by book resale marketplaces.
Part II of Book Patrol’s Bookseller Manifesto will deal with the fractured world of bookselling and offer some concrete ways booksellers can unite and succeed.
Happy Holidays to book people everywhere!


Thanks to each and everyone of you for making Book Patrol part of your book world.

Happy Holidays and the very best wishes in the coming year.


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