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Dan GregoryThe recent closing of two important American bookstores, Serendipity Books in Berkeley and the original Borders Books in Ann Arbor, has provided quite a bit of fodder for “doom and gloom” observations about the future of the bookstore in general. Much of what has been written about Borders has centered on the rise of ebooks. And a recent post at The New York Times website tried to tie the closing of Serendipity Books to ebooks. Some of this is on target, and some of this is nonsense.

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The beautiful campus of Colorado College.

A plane leaves Philadelphia bound, eventually after a layover in Dallas, for Colorado Springs. Among its passengers sits a punk rock cataloger and her pillow pet, a fluffy purple unicorn named Edmund. Except for the fact that a twenty-five year old is toting around a fat pony nothing seems particularly noteworthy or exceptional about the journey this woman is taking. Little do the other passengers know our courageous heroine is on her way to the 2011 Colorado Rare Book Seminar.
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Herman MelvilleCNN had an interesting report yesterday on a respected but understandably obscure biology volume by Peter Lawrence called The Making of a Fly: The Genetics of Animal Design that had an asking price of $23,698,655.93 on Amazon (plus shipping). So perhaps the usually prescient Herman Melville was wrong when he wrote in Moby-Dick, “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.” Was the seller crazy? And was Amazon crazy for letting the seller put that price on any book, let alone a book about a fly (not a flea, but close enough)? Not exactly.

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Good Books in the Woods

Good Books in the Woods

Last week I flew down to Texas for a quick consultation with Jay Rohfritch and his parents, Marta and Dick, the team behind Good Books in the Woods, situated right outside of Houston. Jay had won my consulting services during the charity auction run each year at the annual Antiquarian Book Seminar in Colorado Springs – the proceeds benefit the local libraries that donate reference works for instructive use during the week.

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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

Matt keeps haranguing me to write my damn blog entry. That is in those few spare moments when he isn’t haranguing me to tidy up my workspace.

Today I had an excuse. I went off on a secret mission to meet with a couple of other booksellers about opening a jointly run rare bookstore. Read the rest of this entry »

Much is often made of the category of “Books Into Film.” These, as we all know, are often modern first editions, and often fiction, making them a perfect fit, and they are thus most avidly catalogued and offered for sale by modern first editions dealers such as ourselves.

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When Tom acquires large libraries (as in 75,000 books large), we often find sprinkled within them old rare book catalogs. The other day we came across one that was particularly noteworthy, an elaborate and illustrated 1889 rare book catalog from the 19th Century New York bookseller J.W. Bouton. He had been issuing catalogs for 30 years at that point, and this appears to be both a 32nd anniversary catalog, and an excuse to re-list a lot of good stock that had not yet sold over the previous several years (what bookseller can’t relate to that?).

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