A Book Binge

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes” – Erasmus

Years ago my husband and I ran a small bookstore.  I also sold books through a mailing list, mostly to homeschoolers. I had a knack for picking out the books that would sell. I could tell which books were worth money, and which were pretty much worthless. This was before I’d ever heard of eBay. I held onto the mailing list for a few years after the store went under, but it wasn’t long before the cost of mailing the list became prohibitive.  Besides, who wants to sell a book for $5 on a mailing list when it could go for $20 on eBay? I sold books on eBay for a short time but gave that up too. 

But I didn’t give up buying books.

I love books. I always have. As a child I thought that only wealthy people owned books. Today,when I gaze at my shelves of books, I feel as though I am surrounded by a bounty of riches. Besides purchasing for our own family, I also buy books for my annual garage sales.  Of course, this is only profitable when I can pay less than a dime for paperbacks or a quarter for hardcovers. 

Today it was a $1 bag sale, and David and I bought 20 bags. I estimate we will easily make a $200 profit on these books.

I still know my books, but now I know what my garage sale customers buy. Forget the John Grisham, Danielle Steele and Tom Clancy books.  I pass over those even at $1 a bag.  Instead I pick up chick-lit, science fiction, cozy mysteries, suspense, nonfiction and history but never, ever a Harlequin or Reader’s Digest Condensed book.  I don’t even bother competing with the Amazon and eBay sellers for the hardcover books they are searching for, since I don’t sell on eBay, but I’ll occasionally still find a gem in the stacks, even after the “scanner people” have gone through the shelves, especially if there are books without ISBN numbers on the covers.

Now, forgive me if I am insulting a dear reader who is a seller on Amazon, but I find the “scanner people” at book sales extremely annoying. For one thing, they bring in huge tubs to carry books in, and wheeled carts that take up most of the aisle space between shelves or tables.  Then they scan and grab quickly, not even looking at titles.  The handheld scanner apparently tells them the going price for that ISBN number online, and that number is all that is important to them.  Many of these people wouldn’t know a good book if it bit them. If their handheld device doesn’t tell them it is worth money, then they don’t care about it.  They are not true book connoisseurs, but instead, lovers of money. Then there are those other sellers, the ones who really know their stuff, the ones I call the “book people.”  I’ve gotten to recognize quite a few of these sellers, those who were selling books back in 1995 when I was one of them, and they still don’t use a scanner. I admire these sellers and respect them, even when they are grabbing a book I’d wanted. They can talk authors, titles and topics with an ease that demonstrates their working knowledge of the product they sell. They share my disdain for the  scanner people.

I admire one elderly gentleman in particular.  Unlike some of his counterparts who have greasy hair and wear mismatched socks, this man is well-kept, dressing in dark slacks and a sweater vest. He comes to the sales with his wife and usually leaves with a couple of boxes of history books. He and I were perusing the same section of books today, surrounded by the scanners who were flipping the books over quickly. One of them suddenly stopped and shook his scanner. He punched in a code, shook it again, then stood there staring first at the device, then at the shelf of books in front of him.  Mr. Debonaire pushed past him, impatient to get on with his own search.  I waited a bit to see what this young man would do.  His irritation with the electronic item in front of him was apparent. He punched in a code again, hit his palm against the side, and then looked up at the shelf again, confused.  I almost laughed out loud.  I passed him, too, catching up with the older gentleman. We shared amused smiles.

I gestured towards the young man, who was now frantically calling out to his partner in another section of the room.

“So, do you think he can even pick out a book without his little machine?”

“I don’t think he could find his way out of a paper bag without it,” he replied, and we both laughed.

The best thing about today’s sale, besides the shared amusement with a kindred book-lover and another fun day spent with my husband, was this pile of books I discovered among the stacks:

Those, my friend, are all mine.

And I found them without a scanner.

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