07 Sep 2010

“The Great Book Glut of 2010”

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More evidence of the futility of all human endeavor for those of us with very large libraries from Bookride.

1. Auction houses have become much more choosy. Some will not look at a book worth less than £500 and cannot raise a smile for anything worth less than £5000. Few now sell big lots and if they do they tend to make pathetic sums (with a few exceptions.)

2. An older more bookish generation is dying off or downsizing to homes and flats. Their heirs tend to keep very little and sell off the collections almost intact. Books are often regarded as a nuisance and some heirs are amazed that any money is offered at all. In the case of bland book club books, dull biographies, ‘doublet and hose’ history and fat dated remainders there are no offers forthcoming and owners resort to pulping, burning or the municipal dump. Even charity shops can be choosy.

3. Ebooks are having an impact, not at present vast but buyers and sellers are confused and see books in the main as a declining asset – we are undergoing what they call in California ‘a paradigm shift.’

4. Certain categories of book are holding their own and even improving in value and desirability. Books that are uncommon on the internet or command high prices there are much wanted-expensively published scholarly works, abstruse books and those printed in small quantities. Collectables, signed books, limited editions, fine condition antiquarian books, modern firsts, rarities and trendy art books are all eagerly traded.

I think his comments of the changes in the market for old books are spot on. Important books, rarities falling into established collecting categories, will continue to be sought after, and their prices will continue to rise, but ordinary books, mass market best sellers, book club editions, a lot of the titles Oprah likes, reprintings of standard classics will be rendered completely redundant by electronic editions and will wind up pulped. Before very long, no one will be willing to give them storage space.

Ht tip to Walter Olson.


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