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Once upon a time I found out that I was related to Oscar Wilde. To most ten years olds this wouldn’t mean very much, or anything at all. If you had told any of my fifth grade friends that I was related to a legendary Irish wit, indeed maybe the only wit that ever mattered, who also happened to be a homosexual, they would have snickered like children do when they have a preconceived notion that a word is funny. Most of them probably had no idea what wit meant, let alone what it meant to be witty. They wouldn’t have realized the significance and hope that such a relationship gave me.
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The Roof - Between the CoversBetween the Covers of a RoofApril showers bring the roofers, at least they did today. After 85 years of weathering the precipitation, our old school building had one leak too many and it was time to call our friends at DJK Roofing (Darren always does a great job at a fair price, so I’ll give him a plug here). Unlike previous repairs of decades past, in which a new layer of asphalt was added each time, it was necessary to strip a large portion of our roof down to the cricket (the wooden sloped layer that looks like the deck of a ship) and build up again. Several layers of patches over eight decades had created a buckling effect which left small pools of water after each rainstorm, and the only way to eliminate the puddles was to remove the buckled layers. But fear not, by this evening the good ship BTC will be right as, um, rain. The good news: no books were hurt – the leak was spotted down one of the classroom walls.

— Dan

Lots of Books

Tom Bloom's illustration for our List 41, from 2003

While working in the database yesterday I happened to notice that this week we topped 100,000 books photographed and available on our website. It wasn’t a milestone that we were strategically aiming for (as what sane bookseller would?), it just kind of happened. It reminds me of Ken Lopez’s response when Kevin Johnson asked him where he finds first editions: “I don’t know. They just keep showing up.” The fact that we can now claim 100K books on-line at BTC also reminds me of the last time I mentioned a numeric figure to Terry Belanger. Terry replied: “That may well be. But anytime someone quotes a statistic to me, I’m reminded of what Dorothy Parker once said. [Pause while he patiently waits for you to run through all the Dorothy Parker quotes you might have in your own head, and then continues with a smile] She said, ‘If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.'”

Now the challenge is to find a nice home for each and every one of them…

— Dan

This morning Matt and I were discussing our blog, and how remiss we were in posting to it. The problem is, we’re busy buying, cataloging, and selling books. It’s kinda a full time job around here. We concluded that if we’re going to blog more often, we’ll have to blog about what we’re actually DOING between the covers. I mean, AT Between the Covers. So, to restart the blog with a report of what I’ve been up to, this week I created a dozen new catalogs, each devoted to a different classic science-fiction author.

Specifically, we now have pdf catalogs you can download from our website on:

Poul Anderson (3.35 MB)
Isaac Asimov (3.62 MB)
Ray Bradbury (2.03 MB)
Arthur C. Clarke (3.26 MB)
L. Sprague de Camp (2.96 MB)
Philip K. Dick (2.73 MB)
Philip Jose Farmer (2.62 MB)
Robert Heinlein (1.52 MB)
Frank Herbert (2.08 MB)
Robert E. Howard (1.74 MB)
Ursula K. LeGuin (2.31 MB)
Larry Niven (2.70 MB)
Andre Norton (2.17 MB)
Frederik Pohl (1.42 MB)
Clifford D. Simak (1.33 MB)
Roger Zelazny (1.60 MB)

Many book dealers have stopped issuing catalogs entirely. Others are happy to put out a couple a year. With an inventory of a third of a million books, we have to work a little harder than that. I think 12 catalogs in a week is pretty good, even if they do follow our author-catalog template. Next week? Another dozen sci-fi authors, or course.

Our continually growing list of author and subject specific catalogs can be found on our website here.

 

The old school building that houses Between The Covers can be a wee bit scary at night after everyone has gone home for the day, but this week nothing compares to the scarily good graveyard dessert created by our own Ann Paul. Below is a picture of the tasty treat. We would have included a second image but moments after this one was taken the camera person was knocked to the ground and nearly trampled. Thanks, Ann!

 

One of the great things about working for a bookseller is the diverse number of items you’re exposed to on a weekly basis. While handling books is always a joy, I didn’t expect such a wide variety of posters, pamphlets, original artwork, assorted ephemera, and other novelty items – which is my catch-all name for bookstore displays, promotional items and other assorted merchandise used to advertise books. Recently I was exposed to another category of non-books yesterday when I cataloged a collection of vinyl albums featuring prize-winning authors reading from their own work.

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Each morning upon arrival here at the wondrous world of Between the Covers I settle into my chair and I am often greeting by a surprising new item from antiquity left to me for further investigation by my delightful benefactor, Mr. Tom Congalton. Some mornings it’s an ancient, dust-covered tome, while on other days it’s a stack of yellowed correspondence in some nearly indecipherable hand. This morning it was a box – but not just any box. It was a box containing a book that I was told to catalog but not open. What was I to do?

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So for the past eleven months, when I get tired of answering emails, cataloguing books, or talking to collectors or colleagues on the phone, I closet myself away somewhere and start going through the boxes of 75,000 books we bought from an auction house. This process consists of me standing at a large table, and touching every book, trying to separate the good from the bad from the ugly.

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As any rare bookseller will tell you, the fun of being a rare bookseller is not the SELLING rare books part, it is the FINDING of rare or valuable books. Life can be pretty amusing if you consider a large part of it to be one never-ending Treasure Hunt.

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When we first discussed doing a blog at Between The Covers, I was told I could write about anything. That kind of freedom sounded wonderful until I realized I was writing on a topic of which I have only a limited knowledge. So with that in mind, and with the new decade starting tomorrow, I think it’s high time to look back on my three-month-plus tenure at BTC and list a few of the things I’ve learned.

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