9/01/2007

Trafficking in Books

At the top of my emails this morning was the notice that my next Amazon.com book order had been shipped. But, it was not really from Amazon itself. And now I understand more about how that works. I used to think that when the used books arrived they came from used book 'stores' in all parts of the US. Hardly.

I love books. I buy books, particularly used books - I mean if you can't get them at the library for free at leave save a little.
And some books aren't availabe. For instance, after my friend Lee Shepherd reminded me of "See Here Private Hargrove" written in 1942 by Charlottean Marion Hargrove - (see More than a TV show post if you are interested)- I wanted to read it again.

So, where else would I go - Amazon.com. When I typed the title into the search box a list of places to order and prices popped right up. I picked the cheapest, $2.98 plus$3.99 shipping. The description told me that: it was a hard back with yellowed pages, a few water stains on the hard boards, and a musty smell."
Look, its a 65 year old book. And, one that I wanted. One click and it proceeded to check-out.



Several days ago the book arrived, neatly wrapped in brown paper, and hermetically sealed in clear packing tape - from MA.
In the same mail delivery I received another book, also a used book from Amazon, a book of enviromental stories, shipped from Kansas. Someone wrapped this book quickly with a piece of bubble wrap and stuck it into a tyvek-like mailing bag. My name was scrawled across the front with a black sharpie. Both books arrived in good order.

I looked at the two laying side by side on the table - and I started to laugh. A perfect picture of how the used book business is being conducted - out of basements, bedrooms, attics, and garages across the country - one book at time. Amazon is the hub that connects the buyer to all these individuals.

One reason I am so up-to-date on this piece of the underground economy is that there are two of those book sellers in our family. Our 21 year old granddaughter Juliana has been operating her book business from her bedroom all summer. And, Jamie, our 16 year old grand-son in California has also turned his bedroom into a book profit center. Juliana lucked into a free mother-load of used college textbooks at the end of the semester and has been passing them along at a nice profit. Jamie is selling our daughter's books to help clear space in her attic. Both list their books with Amazon.

Jamie has adopted the mailing bag approach and prides himself on instant turn-around for his customers. Juliana is a more careful packer and expedites shipping of her product, in case the customer is in dire need of the book for a class.

When we were in CA Jamie gave me a short course on "how to get into the used book selling business." I am still cogitating over it. Its not hard. Its the "letting go" that has me stalled.

Jim said he would wrap and mail if I would list and sell. He is hoping to clear shelf space.

What's my problem? Why am I hesitating?

Because I make poor decisions when I give away books.

Recently I cleared a shelf in my office and took a bag of books to the library. Now - - I NEED two of the books I gave away.

Who knew.

I may have to order them from Amazon.com - used, ofcourse

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