BookAdventure! Oxnard

The Oxnard library sale was as good as the Ventura library sale was bad. Huzzah, home team!

Less densely attended, perhaps because less well advertised. Layout was neat and easy to navigate. Books were not sorted by category, but only broadly into kids, adult non-fiction and adult fiction, which made it more of a treasure hunt.

I overheard an organizer saying that the hodge-podge non-assortment cuts down on the hoarding behavior of some dealers, who tend to corner a massive pile of books to sort through at their leisure and then only buy a fraction of them, keeping the others out of circulation in the meantime. Bad dealer behavior! (The new generation scanners make this less of a problem -- although I don't think I saw anyone with a scanner at this sale.)

Same organizer, same conversation, mentioned an interesting tidbit about relative book economies -- certain books in library collections become dead weight because they are just too specialized to have much local demand, and so the library can't justify the shelf space they take up. But precisely because said books are of such specialized interest and so likely to be rare, they can go for a pretty penny on the open market. Lucky for the dealers that even though the Friends of the Library recognize this reality, they lack the resources to separate the wheat from the chaff in their discard piles and rely instead on volume to fund their operations. More fun for everyone!

One consequence of the non-sorting of the books was that I kept being surprised by pockets of religion books intermixed with all the others -- and good religion books, too! Serious theology, not just wishy washy spirituality.

And then there are the unanticipated gems that are just too ... unique ... to let get away. I walked out with about 3/4 of my selections being in Christian theology and history, but the rest made up of such things as a thesis on the condom industry in the U.S., a couple reprints of 19th-century reference works, and an antique book called The American Standard of Perfection, which turned out to be, of all things, a manual for identifying and grading chickens.

The one item that made my knees buckle for the joy of finding it was a student edition of Oedipus Rex, with the Greek text at the top of the page and extensive commentary and notes below. I even warned myself as I reached to examine it, don't get too excited, Rachel, it's probably not in the original... But it was!

The ladies at the cashier's table gave me a slight discount on my already-a-bargain books, in part for the volume and in part because they were having trouble adding up the numbers. As I left, one of them said to me, "Enjoy!" Her partner said to her, "She's going to sell them."

I was strangely, irrationally offended by that comment. I almost wanted to correct her, except that she was right, I probably am going to sell at least some of them. Maybe it was the implicit suggestion that re-sellers don't enjoy the books they buy, or don't buy books they enjoy; that we're only in it for the money.

There is good money to be made in the book resale market, even as saturated as it is. And I can understand some resentment from library volunteers who serve at book sales out of a love for books over the reality that their best customers (and also sometimes some of their worst) are not going to go home and love the books, but resell them.

But frankly, I doubt that there are many non book lovers among the ranks of the book sellers. The money isn't that good, and the level of specialized knowledge it takes to turn a profit, much less make a living (which I am far, far from doing) just isn't worth attaining unless you find the subject matter intrinsically interesting.

I think I need to start making a point to get to know the book sale ladies. I'm sure they won't hate me just because they know I'm a small-time dealer (which they already suspect, evidently), and it never hurts to cultivate good relationships with your sources.

I also need to stop trying to read the minds of the book sale ladies. Maybe there was no judgment in that simple remark, and it's only my neurotic need to have everyone think I'm great that makes me assume that she assumes anything about me one way or the other, other than that I might be seller.


David and Sarah said...

I can just see you paging through those books....
We made our Easter menu tonight. It was strange to not assign you to anything. And I have to boil my own eggs this year to decorate. Poo.

Steve said...

It was refreshing to read this; I figured that Amanda and I were the only ones to go through this tension between both love and profit as we spent much time selling used movies and non-used makeup, often going into stores and taking out a big haul but always being driven by the curiosity of what we'd find that we'd actually watch or use. (I never had much need for Netflix because I had plenty of interest to watch from my inventory.) It does take a lot of specialized knowledge to turn a profit (which is why I've mostly stuck to movies and never made headway in video games), and there's a certain sense of, you know, having _earned_ that money by being aware of the particular world you're interested in, and what is valuable to people. Still, being at the counter and having the cashier ring up a zillion items and always commenting "This is a great one; I wish I had seen it out there..." or, sarcastically, "Boy, you must really like movies, huh?" makes it somehow seem kind of tawdry and deceptive. I keep wanting to explain myself and defend myself as well. Of course, now that we do this full time, and ringing up several thousand dollars worth of stuff at Costco and calling the credit card to get it past the fraud alert, the level at which I reach embarrassment has been significantly raised. :)

Blogger said...

Back when I sold makeup (before we decided to pool our resources and specialize in DVDs), sometimes the people at the counter would make up stories for me: "Look -- she can't decide which shade will be right!" they'd comment to each other as they're ringing up a rainbow of a dozen foundations, or "I know -- you must be the drama teacher at a high school." Yup, I would always agree, whatever you say. Buying DVDs, we also get a lot of, "You're giving these as gifts, then?" Mm-hmm, everyone on my list is getting "Dr. Dolittle 2" this year. (Keep an eye out for it.) -- Amanda

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