Saturday, 13 July 2013

Some thoughts about buying books, with special reference to art books in Ramsgate and Amazon.

When it comes to buying and selling books I am something of an expert, my family have run bookshops for a considerable time, I have a bookshop which is trading at the moment I also publish local history books and as a publisher I have about 150 books that are in print and available, both directly to the public and to the book trade. I also sell books online via Amazon, Ebay, ABE and from my own website.

Now I would guess that it is a fairly small proportion of the population that regularly buys themselves books from a bookshop and an even smaller proportion that regularly visits a secondhand bookshop. Apart from the avid readers who always seem to have their heads in a book and the ardent book collectors who are striving to acquire the most desirable editions of books, there are also those few people who have an interest in something – be it WW1 aviation, medieval, history, embroidery or the occult. If I visit someone I always look at their books, that is the books not acquired by merely being alive, the cookery, gardening, books bought for some course to further their career, the bestseller picked up on the station or in the supermarket and the inevitable presents, to see if they fall into the bracket of a person with an interest. 
 Working all day in a predominantly secondhand bookshop it is these people who I mostly encounter and so I find it easiest to get on with them.

Anyway today I have been working on the art books in my bookshop, my primary objective here being to make as sure as I can that they will sell, in the days before the internet this would have involved mostly checking the date code in them to see how long they had been in stock and reducing the ones that had been on the shelf for a long time. These days another factor is to try and make sure that the books are priced to compete with the books for sale on the internet.

First impressions when looking at the secondhand books available via Amazon would lead one to the impression that all books are available secondhand priced at 1p, which when you add on the postage equates to £2.81 however this is not exactly the case and in many cases it is not the cheapest that books are available via Amazon for 1p. 
 Now in the last few months I noticed the sales of the books I have listed on the internet declining, the only exception being the local history books that I publish that I sell via my own website. Obviously I asked the other booksellers I know that list online and they seem to be experiencing the same decline.

I think part of the problem is that the whole process of selling online is becoming much more automated and this is partly because secondhand book prices have for the most part become much lower, so the whole business of examining a book properly and listing it accurately becomes uneconomic. So many of the secondhand books listed on Amazon, Ebay, et al, don’t carry any description at all and many of the cheapest sellers have a poor feedback score meaning I would be reluctant to buy from them.      
 This is a bit of a project a promise if you like – this post I mean and I will endeavour to add to it later.

Ok a complex issue, the photographs in this post are of the art books on the shelves and for sale in my bookshop today, if the books on the shelves in your house looked like these I would be able to tell you were interested in art. Whereas if you had a lot of art books that basically boiled down to the big book of world arts, I would know you got a lot of Christmas presents from someone you once told you liked art.

There is a sense in which some aspects of having a collection art books has been replaced by having the internet, it has certainly replaced the big book of world art.   


  1. As the first post here, I would just say that other posts either attract zero comments or repeat tedious and unpleasant comments from The Holyer Trio. They have destroyed this blog and I won't be visiting this blog again.

  2. Good bye - sorry to see you go.

    1. What a pleasure, 5:44, since you have never ever contributed to the thread of any debate but confine yourself to attacking others, you will not be missed. See you are now infesting ECR's blog with your rubbish though.

    2. Holyer living down to form as usual and how on earth does Mystic Anon 8:12 know whether anyone has contributed or not. Their post is mere insult serving only to destroy debate. This blog certainly is becoming mere bickering and empty opinion.

    3. I thought you were going, 12:25, so why take so long about it.

  3. Oh dear, the Manston Aquifer man is online. I'm off to sit in the sun.

    1. A post of zero content or interest again Mr Holyer.

    2. So what is the content and interest of yours, 12:40. If you are going, old chap, please get on with it.

  4. Michael this was really interesting, a thoughtful insight.
    I think all retail has changed beyond recognition over the past 5 years or so as a result of internet.
    I would not like to be struggling in retail I think.
    Very interesting what you have said about price.

    Now I try to get rid of books because I am a terrible hoarder but I have also moved house a lot, they are heavy to move & take up space and should I need the book or information within it it can be tracked down. Mr TP would look at my over loaded book shelves and roll his eyes at my claiming to get rid of them!
    So the books I keep - well i have quite a few on sex - as you said good to have a hobby.
    But I have far more on maths & science!
    And quite a lot on toilet related matters - not plumbing /work books - but history of, sanitation around the world, etc that sort of thing.
    I was always fascinated by all things toilet before I even met Mr TP. In fact I have a collection of toy toilets too.


Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.