Knee-Saving Booksale Pro-Tip

Not much to add. Kind of speaks for itself. Booksales on concrete or hard title floors are murder on the anatomy (especially if you want to reach in the fruitful, hard-to-get-at corners, underneath tables, etc.). I recommend a recent trade paperback because they use spongy, garbage paper that provides just the right cushion-to-support ratio.

Picture Book Recommendations: Hungry Bunny

As the father to a voracious book-listening three-year-old, I am constantly on the lookout for picture books that can hold up to 30-40 reads.

I have been going through our library’s picture book section a shelf at a time (while I watch my kid out of the corner of my eye). I’m on shelf 27 so far and will have to start again by the time we reach the end.

My screening process is this:

  • A book has to have the right balance of words to text
  • I have to like the art
  • It can’t be about licensed characters, religion, holidays, tedious moral lessons, or written by a celebrity
  • It can’t be a precious book that is clearly aimed at the adults-with-no-children gift buying market
  • it can’t be dumb

I break some/all of these rules but that is my preliminary filter. Also, bonus points if there is a meta, books-about-books element to it (think The Monster at the End of this Book). My kid doesn’t know the definition of “endpapers” for nothing.

Anyway Hungry Bunny by Claudia Rueda is a recent household favorite. The titular bunny is trying to pick some apples and get home to his mother but he needs our help to pull it off. The bound-in ribbon marker represents the bunny’s scarf and he asks the reader to stretch it into shapes to help him accomplish his task.

He also asks us to tile or shake the book to make his work faster and more fun.

It ends with you popping him back in his hole where his mom makes a pie and offers us a piece.

When I read it, I have the next few pages ready to turn because the timing can be spoiled by stubborn pages.

Fun for the whole family. We have read this one at least 20 times.

Books as Depressing, Minimalist, Twee, Lifestyle Accessory

A friend (who must be trying to give me an aneurysm with a web alert for “Gwenyth Paltrow” and “Literature”) sent me this piece from Town and Country Magazine on a library curator/designer to the stars, who finds joy in accumulating the complete works of Jane Austen “in a certain Pantone chip”.

There is so much of this nonsense out there that I barely have the energy to get my WWIC-dander up. This story is loaded with precious moments that make the gorge rise though.

After everyone tired of reading on their Kindles, there was a delightful, if unexpected, realization. Book lovers remembered that books aren’t just for reading, they can also be beautiful objects in and of themselves.

“Everyone” (who’s anyone) is tired of reading on their passé devices and rediscovered the value of the book…as wall-covering.

I imagine this is some kind of end run around Mari Kondo. I have a lot of books but they are all orange; therefore only one joy-giving thing, right?

As a person who often counts on spacial memory to recall where I have squeezed that oversize volume that won’t fit in its proper section. I -might- be able to work with this. “Oh yeah, that one is the third volume from the right nostril. The other one is two over from the nipple.”

This reminds me of the time when I worked in the Union Square Barnes & Noble and a major star’s personal shopper came in to select a library that was all going to be recovered in white vellum. I was (and remain) a dick so I emptied the philosophy section of all the most hardcore philosophy titles (the ones that you would have zero chance of faking your way through at a cocktail party). A year or so later though and that star’s work took a much deeper and more reflective turn so I’ll take credit for that, thank you very much.

Of course, one must respect the con because–as I hustle to pay child care and find books that sell for north of $20–this guy is sipping champagne with Laura Dern, wrapping Taoism texts in handpainted bamboo jackets and draining some of that GOOP money.

Book Scouting Jump Bag

A few years back I published a post on my book sale jump bag, my (unrealistically thorough) list of the items that I would try to bring to a book sale. That kit has evolved quite a bit over the years (not least because library book sales are so cut throat and unrewarding that I rarely bother any more).

The other battle chest I have at -the -ready is my listing/fixing books away from home kit that I keep in a vintage train case (my favorite decorative, compulsively collectible method of storage).

There was a (sadly closed) window when FBA fees on books were low enough that I could profit on even low dollar, common books. I was finding so many when we traveled out of town, that I would ship them from the road rather than fill up the car with dead weight. To do this I had to scout, list, make the books presentable, and box them up for an FBA warehouse, all without access to my usual work station.

This was the equipment I used to get that done.

Listing Stuff:

  • miniature laptop
  • thumb drive with my upload database and browser search bookmarks
  • bar code scanner
  • numeric pad (for faster ISBN entry)
  • my preferred marble trackball mouse
  • USB hub/extender
  • long ethernet cable
  • magnifying glass (for reading microscopic publication data)
  • mechanical pencil
  • post-it notes (for price marking)
  • tape measure (for entering box dimensions)
  • bathroom scale (for weighing approx 50 lb boxes)

Book First Aid:

  • various erasers
  • bookbinder’s adhesive
  • brushes
  • sticker peeler
  • bone folder
  • filmoplast and scotch tape
  • ronsonol and/or rubbing alcohol
  • scissors
  • rags and microfiber cloth

Packing Stuff:

  • utility knives
  • packing tape
  • flat boxes
  • void filler (usually flat brown paper shopping bags)

Many of these items could be found where I was staying but I tend to work late and you don’t want to wake someone up at 2AM to ask them where the scissors are kept.

As I said, the situation has changed dramatically and I don’t tend to find profitable FBA books in the kind of bulk that I used to, so now I tend to carry them home or ship them to myself via media rate.

I keep this kit together though for the day when I am roaming the road in a kitted out book-scouting wagon like Clint Eastwood in The Gauntlet.

New Bookplates: Johannes Gutenberg as played by Arnold Swarzenegger

I found these first two plates in a curbed pile of books from the estate of a recently deceased local author. The artist signature looks like “M. A. Rasko”. Perhaps this is Maxmilian Aurel Reinitz Rasko (Hungarian-American, 1883–1961) who according to a (paywalled) NYT’s obit did portraits of U.S. Presidents. I have at least one duplicate of the muscleman plate if another collector wants to offer a trade.

The next plate from “Byrdcliffe”, is Pan and owl-themed. Signed with artist initials but I can’t make them out. Possibly this was ex-libris from the Byrdcliffe Artist Colony in Woodstock, New York? It was founded in 1902 during the Arts and Crafts-era (which would fit with this design).

Bookselling Tool: Plastic Film Sealer

Hand Impulse Heat Sealer and Poly Tubing

My book packing setup has evolved a lot since I started selling (probably thirty-thousand packages ago). Materials and sources have come and gone. Storage space has become more of a premium. Increasing postage costs and “free” shipping have made packing light essential. So, I’m always looking for items that:

  • streamline
  • simplify
  • reduce the cost of shipping.

The most recent addition to my packing arsenal is my Plastic Film Sealer and it accomplishes all of the above. Water-proofing a packaged book is important as you have no idea what kind of weather it will travel through; if it will be left on a porch or dropped in a puddle. Before this I used to struggle to keep correct size bags in stock and then have to tape them down to size. Now I keep a single roll of plastic tubing (12″ wide and sealed at the outside edges) and seal it to fit.

The sealer is always on but only active when you lower the handle. It makes a seal in a second or two (there’s a heat dial which you can adjust for thicker films) and then I cut it from the roll. The only complication is the “bubble effect” with the trapped air around the book. To get around this:

  • I make the initial two seals
  • puncture the bag with an awl near the edge
  • squeeze out the air (using a sheets of cardboard to apply even pressure)
  • make a third seal to close the awl puncture

That’s it. The heat sealer was ~$20 on eBay and was called a “Hand Impulse Heat Sealer”. The tubing “LDPE Poly Tubing” was ~$70 for 1000 yards (enough for 3000+ books at a cost of about 2 cents per book). I’ve done probably 1K packages and replaced the heating wire only recently (It came with an extra, so I’m not sure of the cost on that). The 12″ width on the tubing is fine for 99.9% of books because you can align them in either direction, but I’ve subbed in clear trash bags for the occasional elephant folio sized item.

This could also be useful for the FBA seller but you will either need to get tubing pre-printed with the assinine “Don’t let your baby play with this” text or apply it as a sticker.

Where’s the @#$%ing Search Box?

Just paste:{your search terms}

into the address bar; replace “{your search terms}” with…your search terms, hit enter and search away.

Sorry for the clunkiness. This theme doesn’t have a search box and adding it as a plugin is paywalled. I would have picked a different theme to start but I never suspected that searchbox was a “feature” and I already resized all my graphics for this one.

Thanks to Nosegraze for the tip. It works with all WordPress sites.

Shopping Alternatives: Discogs

Because of the shabby way I am treated on a certain ubiquitous shopping platform (one I can’t afford to boycott as a seller), I haven’t bought anything from them in almost two years. It ain’t much, but it’s something. Even in a major metropolitan area, it is surprisingly hard to do without said platform though, so I thought I would share my finds when I come across better shopping experiences.

Link to homepage

Discogs should be the musicophile’s first stop (after your favorite local record store).

Here’s why:

  • Their catalog data is excellent: On most sites you are lucky to find an album garbage streaming and maybe one listing each for CD and vinyl (with all the variations jammed together under those single headings). Discogs offers discreet links for every version of an album (original pressing, reissue, imports, promos, mono, stereo, cassette, 8-track, etc), all with careful discographic data. This data is compiled by obsessive collectors and is always a schooling even when I look up albums I know well.
  • Every professional record dealer lists there: In this, they are like ABEbooks, where you can find every bookdealer. This give you the best chance of finding the item you want and the most realistic price.
  • The record credits for every track on every record (almost) are hyperlinked: You can go down a deep rabbithole stalking your favorite bass guitarist, engineer or songwriter.
  • You can use it to catalog a collection: Because of this you can see how many people have and want the records you look up (giving you a pretty solid idea of how desirable it is).
  • It’s a great venue for selling: There’s no monthly fee. Their cut is more than reasonable (invoiced via paypal) and unlike SOME venues that will tell you “You need approval to list Popular Music and Popular DVD products.” about a completely arbitrary selection of music, you can sell what you want.

Check it out. And here’s a link to my modest discogs storefront. I’m more of a listener than a dealer. The record guys at estate sales are way too hardcore for me.

Recent Hunting

My haul from a recent hunting trip. Most of the stuff in the top photo was from a house cleanout. No mind-altering wallpaper this time. The biggest excitement was having to doubletime rifle through dozens of stacked, splitting boxes two steps ahead of the trashmen who were hauling everything away. This is a scary proposition because I usually find the best stuff on the second or third deep look after I have cleaned out all the obvious.

Highlights included nice, jacketed Asimov Physics 1sts, Mary Astor’s A Life on Film (HC 1st), Adultery For Adults (an interesting ’60s period piece on the practicalities of committing adultery discretely and sustainably) and a first of the Norman Mailer Marilyn Monroe bio with photos by Avedon, Beaton, etc.

Nothing extraordinary but a lot of stuff to ship off for fulfillment by Amazon which has become a steady and growing set-it-and-forget-it revenue stream.

The rest came from my habit of GPSing thrift stores whenever I’m in a new town. Found one that had a 79 cent DVD sale and I picked up some classics including the complete M*A*S*H for $6.

In the “just for me” department, I picked up a nice inlaid wood fliptop box a tiny rope monkey for the shadow box and a peculiar (and bad-ass) looking Japanese vegetable (?) knife made of Vanadium steel. Anyone have any idea what this is for?

Estate Sale Cleanout 1

The items in the next photo were the fruits of a trip to a stretch of “thrift” shops I’ve come to ignore because they believe you can ask internet premium for things that you are NOT going to deliver to a customer’s doorstep.

Saint Mario must have thrown me a star me because I found about a dozen rare Nintendo Gamecube titles (including late period RPGs and a SEALED Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance), all for $2 each. I also found a copy of Linda Lovelace’s Loose Lips: The Last Interview signed by punk /porn scribe Legs McNeil.

Rare Gamecube titles

All in all and fun few days of scouting that kept me up until 3 AM listing.

Psychedelic Grey Gardens

I bought a pile of books at a house cleanout recently. The place had 18 rooms and I kept getting lost and forgetting where I put down my piles. It didn’t help that the wall paper in the place was–bold.

Psychedelic Grey Gardens 1
Psychedelic Grey Gardens 2
Psychedelic Grey Gardens 3

That is some deep-pile purple and teal shag carpeting. The place was a bit dilapidated and kind of had a psychedelic Grey Gardens vibe. The owner was a practicing family/children’s counselor and had a large library of decently preserved children’s books (including some uncommon Black/African-American titles). Standouts were The Legend of Africania (which features a white demon tempting an African Prince to ravage his land for diamonds and gold and turning people of other races into business-suited profit drones), and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (with a 7″ record), beautifully illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. I might not be able to give that one up but most of these will be hitting my Children’s Books and Illustrators catalog in the next week or so.

Vintage children’s books

My other favorite book find was the commanding: Look Younger, Look Prettier with a great 70s day-glo cover and some fairly bonkers yoga illustrations.

Look Younger, Look Prettier

I think I saw that last routine at a Miley Cyrus concert. 

Can a gawky Louisiana farm girl transform herself into an international beauty? She can–in fact she did. Virginia Castleton Thomas was that girl who stared in awe at ‘beautiful ladies from New Orleans’ and resolved to transform her own life….Look Younger, Look Prettier is the distilled essence of the methods by which the transformation took place, and which can be used by any woman seeking the kind of beauty that does not wash off at night, but reflects  the glow of good health and spiritual serenity.

Look Younger, Look Prettier (jacket copy)

Some other things don’t wash off so easily either as illustrated below:

“Laura’s vacations helped create family disunity.”