Bookselling

Update on Proposed Internet Sales Tax Legislation Internet Sales Tax—What is it? Presently, catalog and online sellers must collect sales and use taxes only in states where they have a physical presence. In states where sellers don't have a physical presence, the responsibility falls on consumers to pay a use tax directly to the states in which they reside. Since the vast majority of consumers don't do that, legislation called The Marketplace Fairness Act has been proposed to shift the responsibility from consumers to sellers by allowing states to collect taxes from out-of-state “remote sellers” that have no physical presence in their state. Where does the proposed law stand now? In May 2013 the Senate, but not the House, passed the Marketplace Fairness Act. The Act contains an exemption for small businesses and calls for states to provide free software to aide online sellers in tax collection. Under it, states cannot collect taxes from “remote sellers with annual gross receipts in total U.S. remote sales not exceeding $1 million in the preceding calendar year.” In response, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee tasked with overseeing this proposal in the House, signaled his gross disapproval of the Senate's bill and issued his Seven Principles to guide drafting the House Bill. In December 2014, Goodlatte reaffirmed his position. What does this mean for my business? Two of Goodlatte's principles are relevant for members: Tech Neutral... [more]

Waste Not, Want Not: Social Media and Time Management When you are juggling an endless array of duties and priorities, as so many booksellers are, fitting yet another “thing” onto your already lengthy to-do list might produce the same effect as chopping onions. I would also bet that for many of us, when work gets extra stressful, social media is the first thing to go out the window. While dropping the ball happens to all of us on occasion, if I have done anything with these little blog posts, hopefully it has been to promote the idea that if you are engaging in social media, then it deserves the same commitment that you would put into other areas of customer care, such as answering inquiries promptly. Putting the soapbox aside now, there is one big distinction between your regular office duties and social media: social media is not confined to business hours. In effect, the clock never stops. How, ye gods, can one mortal keep up with such a beast?? Well, good news: being online 24/7 is impractical, not to mention physically impossible, so give yourself a break. Reaping the benefits of social media, contrary to what you might have been told, does not require you to be constantly plugged in. In fact, you would be surprised at what a small time investment can deliver. The trick is to get smarter about how you spend time online, and to know the difference between wasting your time and investing your time because believe me, it is all too easy to engage in the former while cla... [more]

Recently Anne and David Bromer, proprietors of Bromer Booksellers in Boston, made a $10,000 stock gift to the Antiquarian Booksellers' Benevolent Fund. It hasn't been my practice to single out contributors to our charitable funds for public thanks — but this gift is important on several levels and should be recognized publicly. First of all, I should point out the extraordinary generosity of a donation this size. The Bromer's gift is among the largest single bequests ever made to the Fund, and it adds signicantly to its reserve. This is important: for much of the past decade, grants made from the ABBF slightly exceeded incoming donations. That trend has now begun to reverse, and with gifts such as this one we can now begin condently to speak of a long-term goal of building a self-sustaining Benevolent Trust that will function in perpetuity. The Bromer's gift is also unprecedented in another way: until now, the ABBF had been set up only to accept gifts of cash; with this gift we can announce that the ABBF can, for the rst time, accept gifts of stock as well. This has certain tangible benets for both the Fund and for donors, especially those wishing to make larger gifts. If you'd like more information on how to make a gift of stock, please contact Susan Benne. I'm consistently amazed and humbled by the generosity our members have displayed, year-in, year-out, in their support of our Association's various benevolent activities. Whether through donations to the Antiquarian ... [more]

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Dear Mr. Dearborn…

By John Waite

A New England Correspondence Archive: Descriptive Notes and Approach to Valuation Recently a Massachusetts antiques dealer sought me out to evaluate an archive of approximately 100 autograph letters received by one Edward B. Dearborn (1807-1886), including many related to teaching, mostly in rural New England schools in the late 1820s and early 1830s. What at first appeared to be a boring batch of correspondence written by a group of nobodies turned out to be a fascinating window into the culture and practice of teaching in early 19th Century New England, and also provided a case study of how an appraiser assesses a unique collection of material that doesn't include traditionally collectible famous personalities. Most people are familiar with Teach for America, the organization that recruits “high-achieving” recent college graduates and professionals for two years of teaching service. Yet the idea of reaching into colleges to employ students or fresh graduates to teach in communities that lack educational opportunity is hardly new. The arrangement goes back at least to early 19th Century America, when students at colleges such as Dartmouth, Bowdoin, and Wesleyan often taught for a few months each year to gain income needed to continue their studies. Dearborn, the recipient of the letters, taught school for decades before being appointed as Librarian of the New England Genealogical Society. A graduate of Hampton (NH) Academy, he prepared for college, but never attended. At... [more]

Enter the Blogosphere I promised another Facebook related post this week, but instead I think it's time to switch gears and get acquainted with some other social media options out there before you start to think that I'm on Mark Zuckerberg's payroll. This week I will consider the pros and cons of blogging as well as some of the better sites out there that support the endeavor. The fact that anyone with an internet connection and an email address can start a blog means that there is a huge range out there in terms of content as well as quality. And indeed, it sometimes feels like everyone and their cat has a blog these days. But as you will see, although it's a fairly easy thing to set up, it takes more than good intentions to sustain a blog over time. Nevertheless, the idea of having your own virtual soap box makes blogging an attractive option – and then of course there's always the hope that your blog will go viral and land you a six figure publishing contract and movie deal. Unfortunately, more often than not it will go something like this: Mr. Whiskers gets a great idea for a blog, writes two posts, and then gets “too busy” to update it for a year or three. Needless to say, don't follow Mr. Whiskers's example (I hear he's kind of aloof anyway). Blogging, like the rest of social media, takes a commitment from you in order to be a useful tool for your business. It can be a tougher pursuit in terms of time management because most blog entries tend to be quite a bit lon... [more]

The following is an excerpt from the third chapter of Collecting, Curating, And Researching Writers' Libraries, A Handbook, edited by Richard Oram and Joseph Nicholson (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014). This chapter deals with the role of the bookseller; other chapters deal with the roles of librarians, curators, and researchers, with accounts of some libraries, a list of authors' libraries preserved in public and private hands, and interviews conducted by Oram and MacDonnell with five well-known authors who describe candidly just how they organize and use their books. In this chapter MacDonnell outlines the five-stage process a bookseller employs when assessing a writer's library: defining what is in the library; assessing its salability; providing valuation; preparing the library for sale; and finally, negotiating its sale. The full article, as well as information on how to order a discounted copy, can be found here. III. The First Order of Business: Defining the Library A bookseller's first order of business when dealing with an author's library is defining just what comprises the author's library. This sounds simple, but books are often mixed with magazines and miscellaneous papers, and the day may soon be coming when an author might have more titles stored on his e-reader than on his shelves. An author might also have listened to audio books, now lurking on CDs or MP3s in some nearby device like a laptop, or iPhone, etc. Distinguishing an author's library from a “household... [more]

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Catablog

By Simon Beattie

Two weeks ago, I was in York for the inaugural York Antiquarian Book Seminar (a British equivalent of the highly successful Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar). The whole experience was hugely invigorating. Here were 25 students, young and old, starting out in the rare book trade, full of promise, eagerness— and questions! One of the sessions I led was on cataloguing. For, as Roger Gaskell notes in his Terms of the Trade, "a large part of the trade in antiquarian books is conducted by catalogues, whether printed or online, and books offered in shops or at book fairs will usually be accompanied by a written description." It's those printed catalogues I want to talk about today. Earlier this year, Lorne Bair, on this very blog, waxed eloquently on the benefits of producing printed catalogues, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. People often ask me about my printed catalogues (six to date), so I thought I would share something of their history here. I set up on my own in January 2010, and right from the start I knew I wanted to do printed catalogues. I could have just sold books by e-mail, sending out PDF lists of what I have (and I do do that, too), but book collectors like books, physical objects that they can carry around, read on the bus, write comments on, mark by turning over the corner of a page. Because it is so easy now (and, of course, much cheaper) to create one's own catalogues, in Word or whatever with a few scans dropped in, that is what many booksellers do, but ... [more]

SELLING ON FACEBOOK? In my last post I talked a lot about the advantages of having a Facebook account for your business, including interacting with customers and colleagues, sharing content, getting “liked,” and learning about trends in your field; or, as one friend of mine put it, “the warm fuzzies.” So let's switch into copper baron mode here and discuss the other dimension that you've all been wondering about: how do we turn the warm fuzzies into customers and sales? The truth is that it takes time to build a following and reap the rewards of social media engagement. The real reward, in my opinion, is realized in the long-term with enriched interactions with your audience, a boost in your reputation, and more sales through your website as a result. But I would be remiss to not discuss a few other options at your disposal, so I want to look at two specific features that have been hot topics lately: Facebook storefronts and Facebook advertising. To make things simple, I'll split these services into two posts and begin today with the storefront. I actually have some pretty firm opinions about selling on Facebook (which I will share at the end for those of you who are interested), but I believe the choice is always yours. What works for one brand may not be right for another. And full disclosure: I am writing the following after careful research, not through personal experience as in previous posts, so please keep that in mind and if something piques your interest, do ... [more]

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My Favorite Catalog

By John Schulman

“Here are the rules,” says Dr. Ragezhi. “You can use my Time Portal to travel back to any year. You can bring up to $1,000 cash, which will change to the currency of the time. You have one hour and if you don't make it back to the Portal you're stuck there forever.” A tall man with a sharply trimmed gray beard and steel-rimmed glasses, he steps back and looks at me severely. “And don't step on any butterflies!” The last thing I hear as I punch “1940” and enter the Portal is his sardonic chuckle… The cast iron painted sign hanging over the sidewalk in front of 51 W. 47th Street reads “Wise Men Fish Here,” with three cartoonish men attempting to land a whale with their rods. I open the door to Gotham Book Mart and step inside. High walnut bookcases wall the room, crammed with modern literature and little magazines. Towers of books in the window prevent much light from coming in, although ceiling lamps give the store a warm glow. The middle area has tables piled with small pyramids of books. At least twenty customers browse the shelves, reading and talking. Midway down the left-hand wall sits a large oak desk, spilling over with papers, catalogs, envelopes and invoices. A short woman with bright gray hair and a broad, mirthful face, stands behind the desk, inserting catalogs into plain brown envelopes. “Young man, this is your lucky day. We've just published our Twentieth Anniversary catalog, 'We Moderns.' It goes in the mail this afternoon.” She tosses... [more]

Hello. And greetings from England. When I was asked by the ABAA to become a contributor to The New Antiquarian, I was delighted. But what to write? Much is made of the differences between British and American English—two nations divided by a common language, and all that—and I'll admit that I enjoy discovering differences between the two forms of English on my regular visits to the US. There are words which American booksellers use which we don't in the UK, such as inventory ('stock' over here) and booth, at a book fair (we say 'stand'), but one thing I have particularly noticed in the last few years is the use of the word 'rare', as in 'rare books'. (The word 'antiquarian' is another difficult one, but I'll leave that to Laurence Worms over at The Bookhunter on Safari.) So, what of 'rare'? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "of a kind seldom found, done, or occurring; unusual, uncommon, exceptional." (Pleasingly, the earliest citation in the OED for this use of 'rare' is to do with books: "That book is rare And straunge to gete", Bokenham, Lives of Saints, 1447.) Certainly, I've always thought it to be part of some sort of scale: uncommon, scarce, very scarce, rare, very rare, unrecorded (or whatever). Just recently, my business became a limited company, and I was wondering whether to change the name, from 'Simon Beattie' to 'Simon Beattie Rare Books'. An American bookseller friend commented that if I called the company 'Simon Beattie Rare Books' I wouldn't be a... [more]