The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Depression-era Broadside

Just found this Depression-era, anti-New Deal broadside/handbill entitled "Women of America, Wake Up!" in the "Handy Edition" of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition that I'm slowly restoring.

and larger here.

It was produced by the Women's Rebellion, Suffern New York, Rockland County, Sarah Oliver Hulswit (Chairman).

"Pump-priming" referred to Roosevelt's New Deal programs "including social security, workman's comp, the Writers Project, and the extensive programs of public works (Hoover Dam; Grand Coulee Dam; the Tennessee Valley Authority, Lone Star Lake Dam in Douglas County, Kansas, etc)" (adapted from here)

Alright I was backlogged but that's it for today.

1948 Chinese Opera Theatre Ticket

I just found a January 25, 1948 ticket to the Canton theatre (75-85 East Broadway, New York) used as a bookmark.

According to theater buff Damien Farley at the Canton:
Opened as a home to both Yiddish vaudeville and motion pictures in 1911, the Florence Theatre, the exact address of which was 75-85 East Broadway, ended its existence as the Sun Sing in 1993.

By 1942, the theatre had been rechristened the New Canton Theatre and featured performances of Chinese opera and variety acts. In 1950, the facility was again re-dubbed, this time as the Sun Sing Theatre, and took to exhibiting Chinese language films, sometimes with English subtitles.

In 1960, the theatre was scheduled for demolition when faced with the addition of an upper deck to the Manhattan Bridge far above. However, city engineers were able to save the theatre and the adjoining retail space, through the use of innovative bridge supports which only caused the theatre’s seat count to be reduced, this time to 676.

In 1972, the theatre began to feature a mixed program of film and stage performances. It finally closed in 1993.
Here's an image from the theater's later days. I love the way it's nestled under the bridge.

I can't find a rundown of what might have been playing on that particular evening in 1948, but here's a Chinese Opera mask, just cause it's cool.

Philip Dick in Croatia

I recently sold a 1st of Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to a buyer in Central/Eastern Europe. Along with his payment he sent a letter requesting that I send the book unregistered otherwise he would end up "standing around for three hours in a Croatian customs shed".

Would that not be the full Philip Dick experience? and maybe Kafka-too while you were at it?

Gas Warfare Verse

Just came across a small WWII-era soldier's pocket guide to gas warfare. Inside the front cover is a series of short memory-aide verses about the properties of various deadly gases.

Love the Mussolini fart joke...And what is grandma doing on the front anyway?

This Blog is Rated...

Online Dating

zombie (8 occurences)
torture (3 occurences)
dick (2 occurences)
dildo (1 occurence)

Who knew I was blogging like Deliverance directed by Lucio Fulci?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who's Afraid of Google Books?

Google recently added 12 more libraries to their omnivorous scanning maw (despite two pending lawsuits). As a researcher and a penny-pinching reader this makes me very happy. As a bookdealer and peddler of rare information, this makes me fear for my (already spotty) future earning potential.

I'm fairly sure that Google's project will destroy the market for many mid-high priced scholarly titles (particularly the ones that are only needed to check a footnote or two). And I'm absolutely sure that checking if a book has been "googled" yet will become a regular part of bookscouting. On the other hand if a buyer can use Google Books to confirm that a title is desirable to them (rather than buying blind), they might be more likely to pay a decent price for it.

First editions and books as artifacts/fetish objects should hold their value. And the comparison shopping potential, and expanded market created by online bookselling should drive the premium and one-of-a-kind items even higher. This should be more of a focus for me in the future.

So far the only thing I've used Google Books for was to replace a missing page from a rare, early 20th century mystery novel. It hasn't done me wrong...yet.

Trash Alchemy

A friend called me Sunday to tip me off about two large boxes of books being curbed nearby. That always gets the juices flowing, so I thought I would post a salvage report describing my technique for squeezing the last dollar from someone else's garbage.

When I got to the books minutes after the call there was already another browser, but she was nearly done. I started sorting and putting aside dirt common or truly unsellable books but there weren't many, so I just sealed up both boxes and brought them home before more vultures started circling (Is there a scavenger that drags the whole carcass back to its den to feast in safety? If so, that's my spirit animal.).

The majority of the books were recent and in barely used condition. I turned on my bar code scanner and went to work. There were thirty titles that I added to my FPV inventory (Amazon, ABE, Alibris, etc). Most were priced in the $4-8 dollar range--which I normally don't bother with--but they were free. There were a few outliers priced between $50-150 but I can't say that they will ever sell. All told I added about $350 worth of books to my inventory.

Once those were listed, I was left with about 50 "penny" books ($.02-$3 used on Amazon). Some booksellers will list these (if they weigh 1 pound or less) and try to make at least $.80 on Amazon's shipping credit, but the stacking and packing would drive me to violence, so I don't bother. What I will do though is collect common books into interest lots to auction on eBay.

I keep a text file of my lots in progress. Once I’ve added a book’s details, I toss it into a box and forget about it until I have a decent-size list. When the time comes, I insert the new titles into a recycled Turbolister entry, weigh the books for calculated shipping, take pictures, and upload on Sunday evening. These lots frequently go for my minimum bid (so I set my prices accordingly) but sometimes I get a welcome surprise.

Some lots that I’ve had consistently good luck with are: pulp era paperbacks with suggestive covers; gay/lesbian fiction and non-fiction; single author or series collections; animal books (horses, pigs, mice, etc); New Age/Wicca; westerns, and many more.

After those two passes, I had about 40 books left that I couldn't find a "hook" for. At this point I pull out books that are suitable for a used bookstore. Make sure they are in saleable condition and screen out the heavily marked, dirty, torn, or out of date titles (the book buyer won't give you as much $$ if you overwhelm them with crap…and if you do it consistently, they will remember you). Ask the buyer for credit instead of cash as most stores will give 30%-50% more in credit. If the bookstore doesn't sell online, scoutpal a few titles. If they do sell online, look for flashpoints they may have overlooked: 1st printings of popular fiction, autographed copies, collectible mass markets, etc. If you can't find anything to resell, find something you want to read, or better yet find business or reference books for your bookselling library.

When I was done at the used bookstore, I had 15-20 titles left. I walked these down to the Salvation Army/Goodwill and made a donation. I got a receipt and a write-off come tax time.

Left with an empty cart and box, I went back to Sal's book rack and started all over.

eBay Unpaid Item Phishing Scam

Just woke up to find a new eBay phishing email in my inbox. It's a falsified UNPAID ITEM REMINDER. Haven't seen this one before:

Checking a UK-based anti-phishing site called MillerSmiles (which seems very handy), it looks like this scam was first reported this April.

Most people with internet businesses should know to never click on an unfamiliar link, even--actually ESPECIALLY--if the source appears legit. You should alway cut-and-paste the link into your browser (and NEVER enter your password information), or better yet, try to search the information independently on the supposed originating site (in this case I just looked on the MY EBAY page to see that no dispute had been opened against me and that the item number was inauthentic).

Since I've never received an unpaid item reminder, and don't know what the real deal looks like, this scam had the potential to hook me if I didn't always follow the above principles.

I wonder if any scammers are actually buying low dollar items and then sending falsified total requests/shipping questions/etc to the seller? That might get me....but scammers are probably too cheap for that, and it would leave a bigger trail.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bosun's Shelf

Found this plan for a bosun's shelf layed into a Popular Science collection of Wood Carving and Whittling projects.

full plan here.

Fairly simple. And an attractive way to display nautical-themed tchotchkes.

Also includes a brief plan for making a broken golf club into a pen-stand or a lamp.

Field Report

Decent scouting this weekend.

More stuff for my own library and eBay lots, than the FPVs (Fixed Price Venues) though.

Found the Ballantine Adult Fantasy LOTR trilogy in the slipcase. I'm keeping the case (even though it doesn't go with my 1st printings) because it has the full Barbara Remington art as a wraparound. Montague Summers' The Werewolf (Summers was a real life Van Helsing-type and did a number of "non-fiction" accounts of Vampires, Witches, etc. Necessary volumes in any slayer library). A number of chess titles in a free box. A Concordance to the Poems of Andrew Marvell ("Condordance" is a flashpoint that booksellers should be aware of). And a rare martial arts title Advanced Karate by Masutatsu Oyama. I pick up martial arts manuals automatically, especially hand-selected libraries from small or overseas publishers.

My favorite find of the day was Sexual Problems of To-day by William Robinson. In listing the chapter titles, I came across this information that should give anyone pause.

From the Chapter "Automobiling and Sexual Impotence":
The sexual weakness in [the] cases developed from three months to 3 years after to the addiction to the speed mania. It is possible that there were other causes. Sexual impotence is not rare in people who have never enjoyed an automobile ride. [However] we know that two of the greatest cause of sexual debility are worry and strain, and the strain of the person who drives a car at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour is certainly very great. We should do our utmost to spread this knowledge among the automobilists. We know how conscienceless and foolhardy some of them are. Human life is nothing to them.
Full text here.

So THAT'S why great granpa always drove so slow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Calypso + Muriel's Treasure

I just donated a book to the Calypso library maintained by Irwin Chusid over at WFMU.

Every Wednesday he devotes the 3rd hour of his show to vintage Calypso. I've enjoyed reggae for a while but the richness and depth of the other music originating from the West Indies was a wonderful surprise for me.

A lot of Calypso involves improvised embellishments to a shared group of traditional tunes (whose authorship is hotly disputed), making them about news of the day, sexual conquests, and the inadequacy of other performers. It's the jauntiest (and filthiest) trash-talking you'll every hear.

The show is on sabbatical for the summer but Irwin is podcasting the early shows here.

Give the song "Zombie Jamboree (Back to Back, Belly to Belly)" a listen (2:33:36 into this show)....and pour yourself a zombie. Your life will instantly be better.

Vatican Library: Closed for Renovation

The Times just published an interesting article about structural problems with the Vatican library that necessitate an extended closure for renovation. Scholars are scrambling to get access to one-of-a-kind manuscripts before they are made inaccessible for at least 3-years (much likely longer) and a plea has gone out to the Pope to make accommodations.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Prospect Park Concerts

Just had two nights in a row when I could meander down the road and see a legendary performer in concert, nearly for free. Last night was Richard Thompson, tonight was Ralph Stanley. Opportunities like that make it a little easier paying the rent every month.

This was my first Thompson performance. I was surprised at how peppy and upbeat he was in person when most of his songs end in gunshot deaths, car wrecks, or abandonment. Also I've never seen anyone play that much of a guitar without once slipping into wank territory.

A good portion of the set was from his new album Sweet Warrior. "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" was the standout. It's song written in army slang ("Dad" as in "Baghdad"), about a man trying to give a face and name to blind luck and his increasingly shitty odds of getting home in one piece.

Thompson played with such energy that he even sold me on one or two songs that felt kind of slight on the record ("Bad Monkey" and "Mr. Stupid").

He did a few tracks from I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight + Shoot Out the Lights that were solidly rearranged with horns but sad without Linda's voice. (Anyone know what a "Wall of Death" is? It's some kind of Carny ride, I guess).

During the closer--a Chuck Berry-style rocker called "Tear-Stained Letter" that I've been singing for a solid 16-hours--he snapped a string, played around it, and would have kept going without missing a note but the dude with the backup guitar got the straps tangled.

Very memorable and impressive. I even forgot to mention the downpour that kept turning on and off like a faucet, so that's a good show. He did a similar set in DC that you can find on NPR here (soon). The live broadcast wasn't playing well with Firefox but it may have been my issues.

Ralph Stanley was worthwhile too. Unfortunately the opener was a little too similar in tone and I can only take so much banjo pickin'. I stuck around for "Oh Death" and was glad. For a man who's so chummy with God, I have never heard a song that better captured the dread of being wormfood. Stanley the younger though seemed a little too aware of being smack in the middle of Gemorrah and was dropping too much Jesus and GDub for me to sit out the cold, damp any longer (hearing "Long Black Veil" drifting in the window and I'm feeling some regret about leaving).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

9,000 and counting

So I just listed my 9,000th book: Motor Trend Magazine (May, 1953). I know this makes me a piker compared to some megasellers, but for a one-man operation, it feels like a milestone (not as big a stone as 10,000 mind you, but I'm impatient).

Not counting grouped eBay lots, I've sold 4833 books. That's a 53.7 sell-through (up from the mid-40s before I opened my eBay store), with an average sale price of $26.40 (down from about $28 pre-Ebay store).

This is probably absolutely thrilling to the non-booksellers out there but it is good to run the figures every once in a while.

If I want to kick it up a notch, I am going to need to either A) hire an employee B) raise my minimum resale price for the books I acquire or C) get another big score (the buy that got me started in this business was for several TONS of books).

I can only really control two of those factors and I am temperamentally disinclined to one of those.... I have some thinking to do.

Free Publicity

Patricia T. O'Conner, during her regular segment on WYNC's the Leonard Lopate Show, just took calls and held a discussion on the phrase "to hang fire." Apparently it was recently used to describe the Senate Democrats actions on the immigration bill. O'Conner wasn't sure of the phrase's origin but she traced it as far back as Henry James.

A caller pointed out that it likely came from the days of powder and ball firearms, and described a situation where you've pulled the trigger but your powder hasn't ignited. This could be a temporary state and you should keep your gun pointed in the right direction in case the powder goes off suddenly (this is not the same as a "flash in the pan" with means that your powder has burned away but has not propelled the ball out of the barrel).

In 19th century prose (and in James in particular) the phrase came to mean something like "to pause with intent" or to not say/do something because you want to wait until it will have the greatest effect.

To me this is a much sexier way to procrastinate. Books are piling up next to my desk but I'm "hanging fire".

Hopefully this widely heard call-in will head off some of the blank stares I get when I tell people the name of my bookstore (this is on top of explaining that it's a virtual bookstore, and yes those are zombies on my business card).

I guess I was hanging fire and never got around to absorbing the dictum that a business should have a simple, memorable name that describes what it does.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Restoring the Encyclopedia Britannica

I was lucky to find a copy of the 11th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica recently. I've wanted one for a while. The 11th was the first time the encyclopedia was issued all at one time and it contains entries by notable scholars including; Thomas DeQuincey, Bertrand Russell, Swinburne, John Muir, T. H. Huxley and many more. You can access the full text of the encyclopedia here, but I'm a book fetishist and need the real thing.

The leather on the small "Handy" bindings was in decent shape. Mostly intact but dry and in need of attention so I thought I would take some photos and describe the restoration process.

First gently wipe the dust from the boards and the edges of text block. You can use a soft cotton cloth, but I use a rubber sponge that works like a magnet on dust/mildew and doesn't let anything back out. Be careful not to rub the dirt INTO the surface and it's probably better to blow or use a soft brush to remove dust from the edge of the text block.

(If the leather itself is powdery, don't try to wipe it all away. We'll take care of that in a later step.)

Next inspect the edges of the boards, and the hinges and look for any largish pieces of flaking leather. Use a very small amount of paste, or book-binding adhesive, (paste is reversible and the more archival but takes longer to set) and stick these back down.

Now let the book dry for at least a few hours (overnight is better).

Next, to treat the powdery leather (also called "red rot"), use a product called Cellugel.

Cellugel is a "consolidant" and will prevent any further material loss and make the leather more supple. I recommend using this product with decent ventilation. I don't think it's toxic (and it drys/evaporates quickly) but the alcohol-like fumes can be a little overwhelming. Apply liberally and gently rub the product in. Make sure to get all of the visible leather, especially the edges which have taken the most stress.

Use paper towels, and change frequently. Avoid getting any Cellugel on the endpapers or text block (protect the text with wax paper if you feel the need).

Again let the book dry (overnight if possible)

For the final step use a product called Renaissance Wax (a micro-crystalline wax). Buff the book like a '59 Camaro and let dry.

Now repeat 34 times.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Just stick your head in there...

Found these vintage X-ray procedural images in the Manual of Roentgenological Technique by L. R. Sante (17th Edition, 1954):

...and this one of an early electrocardiograph in Principles of Electronics in Medical Research by D. W. Hill (2nd Edition, 1973)

I love the postures and expressions of complete, hopeless resignation.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Field Report: Slim Pickings

Not much out there this weekend.

I picked up another Harry Potter 1st printing for an eventual eBay lot; a nice copy of the Miyazaki My Neighbor Totoro storybook with images from the film; an early Boni and Liveright Modern Library and a decent collection of high-grade Mad Magazines from the 60s and early 70s (including a Beatles cover, and issues with parodies of Star Wars, Rosemary's Baby and Clockwork Orange).

Fun but not very easy to sell.

Today was the first day I used Craigslist and Google maps together to really map out my route. It kept the fruitless walking to a minimum but has anyone else noticed that stoop sales posted on Craigslist tend to be oversold? Most of my better finds were picked up on the way to a Craigslist sale.

My plan for next week is to print and piece together a complete neighborhood map, and then laminate it for use with a wipe-off marker. That would come in very handy indeed.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Movie Break: Severance

When I was in Montreal over Memorial Day weekend, I kept seeing a movie poster of a decapitated wage-slave, featuring the tagline "The Office meets Deliverance". That was pretty much all I needed to hear, so I rallied my traveling companions to see it. Crushingly, the movie wasn't set to open until the following Friday when we would already be back in the States.

When we got home I ordered the DVD from Amazon UK and it didn't disappoint.

Severance is a British horror-comedy in the Shaun of the Dead tradition but, instead of zombies, it riffs on the current crop of torture/grande guignol films like Hostel and Saw.

In the film, the sales and marketing division of a weapons manufacturer has earned a team-building weekend at a "luxury" lodge in Eastern Europe. Turns out the lodge is the hiding place for some ugly, black-ops business and the employees end up whittled down by heavily-armed, revenge-driven psychotics who have a grudge against the company.

The actors get a lot of mileage out of the script's management-speak jokes and workaday references to the War on Terror. The setting is well-realized: utilitarian cinder-block buildings and ominous, unlovely woods that are only there to camouflage the people watching you. And the scenes of violence/torture are genuinely disturbing. Perhaps because of this, the film keeps the slapstick to a minimum and the humor is more quiet and character-driven. Everyone is given at least one good scene to come out of type and get us to really like them before they are creatively slaughtered.

I haven't seen most the films Severance is riffing on. I don't find the torture movies all that interesting or scary and none of them are as disturbing or mind-bending as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or a memo by Alberto Gonzalez) but Severance stands on its own and is a solid horror-comedy (with a better developed horror element than Shaun of the Dead). Worth a look if have an All-Region player or are patient for a US release.

Solutions for Modern Living

I found these elegant solutions for modern living in the "shopping" section (interesting products, briefly mentioned) of a batch of House Beautifuls from the 50s.

His and hers cigarette caddy with name plates:

A bird feeder made from a spiral of metal that holds a full ear of corn and allows for perching:

And a device to trepan a hard-boiled egg:

My house would certainly be beautified by these deluxe items.

More Wonderful/Horrible Things

The new issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (the 'zine arm of Gavin Grant and Kelly Link's bounteous Small Beer Press) contains an essay from me entitled "11 Wonderful/Horrible Things Found While Bookscouting".

It was great fun picking and sequencing the list but, since a good rock album can only have 11 songs, there were some outtakes. Here are the bonus tracks.

12. A half-melted Barbie doll wrapped in a bed sheet.

13. An VF/NM copy of Robert Heinlein's 6th Column. Signed and inscribed in the year of publication.

14. A three-ring binder of gay-porn obsessively indexed by endownment and ethnicity.

15. A 5-foot-square, outsider-architect blueprint of a Home for Elderly Women. Designed on a wagon wheel model, each spoke of the building was separated by a garden filled with flora and fauna from diverse climates. Each window on the plan was labeled with a peculiar combination of design styles ("Afgahni/Chinese" for instance) and the plan was very specific about bunk-beds for the fragile tennants.

16. A brown paper bag containing a homemade, 8mm sex movie, together with a mimeo'd copy of letter to a local judge offering this film as definitive proof that the letter-writer's "reproductive reservoir was damaged while lifting an empty(?) box at his dish-washing job. He goes on to state that he "wants a nice little lawsuit with no one getting hurt or catching any diseases."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Found in a Book: Red-wine Braised Chicken

Just found this yummy-sounding, chicken recipe in a copy of Robert Jordan's Winter's Heart.

and larger here.

It's got capers, olives, wine and 10(!) cloves of garlics. So many of my favorite things, how could it be bad? I'll try it out and report back.

Field Report

Looks like a local dungeon-dweller just got married or had a kid because there was a huge shelf-full of role-playing manuals and modules at my local Salvation Army.

Most of them were fairly common but I made a nice pile of Thieves' World, Middle Earth, and Lankhmar material. I also found a module based on the Watchmen comic book (which must have D-lighted Alan Moore), two Robert Jordan first printings for an eBay lot, a like-new Federation and Empire boxed strategy game, and--a sentimental favorite of mine--Bored of the Rings.

When I was a kid my parents were obsessed with Tolkien. We even had a dog named Beorn, after the shape-changing, bear-man in the hobbit. Needless to say, I rejected LOTR out of hand and didn't read it until just before the Peter Jackson movies came out (when I was working for a science fiction publisher and couldn't fake it anymore). I did read Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings though. I mostly remember that the Hobbits (Dildo, Frito and Spam) spend most of the book looking for quaaludes. The cover is a funny riff on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which I collect now.

It's a sad comment on my life that even on my birthday, I end up lugging a forty pound bag of Dungeons & Dragons books 3 miles uphill. But it's my burden and you can't bear it for me Spam.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Zombie Commute

So Alice (my GF + DP) woke me the other night to tell me she had a zombie dream. This is a woman who can't stand horror films and still has traumatic memories of 28 days later which she saw more than 5 years ago. Why does SHE have all the luck.
"The zombies were like the ones in 28 days later - quick moving, and you didn't want to be even scraped by one otherwise you would be infected and have to be killed pdq. They were in NYC and for some reason were not really taking over - they were just relegated to certain areas. The zombies weren't really kept there in any way, there were just certain areas that you knew had zombies and you avoided like crazy. I think most people were carrying guns (maybe not too different than reality) so we thought we had to get guns as well, so we could shoot the zombies as they were coming at us.

There were two places in the dream where we would encounter the zombies. One was on the subway at an above-ground stop between Brooklyn and Queens (natch), and the other was in some additional room in a house I guess we lived in.

The subway zombies were scary because the subway was regular--full of commuters etc.--but then at this one stop zombies would ricochet into the car and start ripping people apart. The MTA's solution was to open both sides of the train at this stop and hopefully the zombies would shoot through or the passengers would just try push them out. In the dream we went on this subway line a few times and each time we came to this stop we had a strategy for where to stand to avoid being the ones pulled from the car and infected/eaten.

The second place the zombies were was in the additional room. We tried to avoid this room because we knew that was where a zombie would be. Each time we would have to shoot our way in (I guess we had guns by that point). It would just be one zombie in the room, but each time we went back there would be a new one.

The conclusion of the dream was that we saw a group of people walking down the street doing some kind of incantation (maybe?? I don't know - they were chanting) and then the next time we kicked the door open to the door way there was no zombie - just a cute black cat that ran out
into our house.

What a happy ending."

Actually the kitty-kat in my house ending is absolutely chilling for me. Dander is much more infectious than a zombie plague. Love the part about the open subways doors. If you live in NYC, you know that this is exactly how the MTA would confront a Zombie apocalypse.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How to Pack Books with a Fresh Direct Box, Part 2

Continued from "How to Pack Books with a Fresh Direct Box, Part 1"

After cutting off the four long flaps, cut the remainder of the box into two "manta-ray" shaped pieces:

Place your oversize / coffee-table book between the "wings", lined-up with the bottom crease, then trim off the excess at the top (if you're clumsy, mark the cardboard and remove the book before cutting):

Now fold the "tail" around the book and tape it on the reverse:

Lastly, flip over, fold the "wings" around the body and tape:

That's it. Each box will do 6 books (4 trade size, 2 oversize). They're even freshness dated! Now drop the book in a puffy or wrap it in B-flute and you're done. Overkill...perhaps, but my method has been called "bomb-proof" by more than one customer (did I mention the kevlar wrap?).

If you don't live in one of the urban centers served by Fresh Direct, move to one. But until then this method will work with any clean strong boxes and it fits well with the general recycling ethic of buying and selling used books.

How to Pack Books with a Fresh Direct Box, Part 1

I promised a few posts back to talk about Fresh Direct boxes and how useful they can be for the bookseller. Fresh Direct is an internet grocery store that delivers food to your home. They have a nice selection of fresh / organic food, it's cheaper than B+M grocery stores, and it's easy to reorder the same items.

Anyway they deserve the plug cause it's a great service, but what I really want to talk about are the boxes the food comes in:

I find these all over my neighborhood on recycling day (and a few neighbors save them for me). They're always clean and bundled together, they're easy to spot with the distinctive green lettering, and they come in two standard sizes that are perfect for oversize books. The shorter box is good for filling and stacking (strong, not too heavy when full), and, by cutting the boxes down with a utility knife, you can make them into corner protectors / stiffeners for shipping.

First (with the box flattened) cut off the four long flaps:

You can fold and tape this around a standard / trade-size book and it will protect the corners in transit.

[Note that the book is first wrapped in plastic. This waterproofs the book and stops the tape from harming it.]

Look for the thrilling conclusion "How to Pack Books with a Fresh Direct Box, Part 2"!

Nightmare Alley Photoplay

Just picked up a beautiful photoplay of William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley from Triangle books, 1948.

"Photoplay" is a collector's term for a movie edition of a book. They usually include one or more photos from the film (or stage play) or posed shots of the actors. The cover is usually based on a scene from the film with painted or photographed images of the actors (I suppose there's a point when movie editions cease being considered "photoplays" but go ahead and call that paperback of Hostel: Part II a photoplay. You'll really class it up).

Anyway Nightmare Alley is a fantastic noir that goes from the Carny Geek world, to a Fifth Avenue Penthouse, and back again. It's a cult work in all of its forms--novel, film, comic--and this Triangle edition is about the best version of the book I've seen. It's got a wraparound, photo-montage cover, with images from a carnival and a fake mentalist show. The spine has a woman in a corset and stocking sitting in an electric chair and each chapter head starts with a tarot card. You don't get much cooler than that.

Also pictured is a Triangle James M. Cain omnibus. Triangle titles are usually pretty crappy, budget affairs but these two are definite winners.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Field Report

After two weekends in a row of ominous weather, I finally got a full 9-5 day of stoopsaling in. It definitely paid off:

You can barely see the couch! This took four trips back to the apartment and numerous spirograph circles around the neighborhood. Some of my nicest finds were these early Olaf Stapledon chapbooks:

A salesman's dummy of Wonders of the Tropics...Adventures of Henry M. Stanley (this is a sample version of a deluxe book that shows off the binding and contains most of the plates from the full edition. It also has entry pages at the back for subscribers....Someone must collect these, I just haven't found that person yet). A 1st Ed, 1st Printing of a Rita May Brown:

And novelizations of Leave It to Beaver written by Beverly Cleary! (who knew?)

There was a gay pride at my end of the park and I discovered the Lesbian Herstory Archives, which was having a booksale. It's been around since 1974, it's in a beautiful building, and they have copies of nearly every work of lesbian fiction and non-fiction ever published. I offered to sell them a few key books to fill gaps in their collection, but they weren't having it.

By this time, having only consumed several cups of a beverage the diminutive locals call "Lemond" or "Lemnad":

I decided to call it quits and grab some tacos at Taco Nuevos Mexico on 5th Ave between 11th and 12th (best tacos going IMHO). You don't want to sale hungry. You lose your poker face and end up paying too much.

.....OH OH and you can almost see it up in the top photo but I also scored a Bang and Olufsen turntable and a pair of JBL speakers for $20! Pretty sweet huh?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Antiques on the Cheap

I just picked up of a copy of James W. McKenzie's Antiques on the Cheap for $1.99 at the Salvation Army (The author would definitely approve). It was written pre-eBay (1998) but it's still filled with valuable tips and very wryly and humorously written.

My favorite section in the book is on auction strategies (real go to a farm-stand in a field auctions, not sniping from your desktop). I don't drive and I live in the city so regular auction attendance is out of my reach, but he paints a very vivid picture. He describes how dealers size each other up, how to suss out someone's high bid, how (and when) to use aggressive bidding to scare off a newcomer and more.

He suggests an experiment for the auction preview: find a nice item in an otherwise undesirable box lot, then sit back and watch it migrate from box to box as dealers try to conceal, or move it in with something else they want.

He also reveals the two types of people you should never bid against: excited young couples and the family of the estate holder. Neither type will allow reason to get in the way of acquiring something they want.

The rest of the book is devoted to tips on selecting sure-fire stock for an antique store (tea tables, wing back chairs, art pottery), and simple repairs that can make overlooked items very desirable (rewiring a lamp, restoring a trunk, cleaning a bottle with lead shot). Great techniques. I just skimmed a few chapters because I won't be doing any refinishing in my one-bedroom apartment, but I will definitely revisit in the future.


I just came across these Alex Schomburg illustrated endpapers on two science fiction titles from the John C. Winston Company (c 1950). Both books were by Milton Lesser but I assume these were endpapers for the entire Winston juvenile sf series.

and bigger here.

Are those great or what? You got your giant robot, a rocket, flying saucers, deep-sea diving, blown-up cities, Fu Man Ming the Merciless, a jet-pack equipped astronaut...

Yeah, I feel the same way.

There's a reason that a wise man once said "The golden age of science fiction is twelve".

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mii Celebrity

I finally made it! My Zombie and Robert Mitchum Miis got picked up at Wii Fanboy. These went up a while ago but my feedreader didn't catch it.

Must make more. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

God help me...

but I just started cataloging my own books with LibraryThing. Some part of my brain believes this is goofing off. Actually I have book lists in like 6 different places so getting them all together--in a manner that allows for remote access--will be pretty sweet.

So far I've only hit the ones I can reach with my short cord barcode scanner. Gonna try for one shelf a day.

Detective Book Club

Just found this blow-in card for the Detective Book Club used as a bookmark in a paperback mystery:

While book club edition are generally the bane of the rare book dealer, If I could send in this card and receive cool, well-designed books like the ones pictured, I would do it in a second.

The Hardcase Crime subscription plan scratches the itch to some extent.

Bookselling Tools: The Phone Cam

When I'm out stoopsaling, I carry a well-stocked utility belt: a palm pilot (with my buying lists), pocket handbooks of 1st edition points, a five-borough atlas, canvas and plastic bags, a fold-up cart, a cliff bar + apple, coffee...but the one thing I can never remember is a pen or pencil. I have no idea why. It's kind of pathetic.

I do, however, alway keep my bee and sperm confusing cell phone at the ready. When I see a stoop sale sign, I shoot a picture:

Then I can toggle through the gallery and plan my route. You could use a full-size digital camera (with more legible results) but the phone cam is handier. Also if you have an Alfred back at the BatCave, you can send "What the hell is this?" pic messages when you find mysterious items.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Love on the Dole

Four Square Landsborough London 1958 (orig pub 1933). "Mortelmans" Cover.

I was going to restore this one but if ever a book should look shabby and beaten down....

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Wistful Ohio Girl

Just found this photo in a 1923 South Webster, Ohio High School Yearbook:

Nice bob, elaborately-laced patent leather shoes, and I like the way the tree silhouette frames her. Looks like she's sitting on the roof of the school. I'm going to return this one to the yearbook. I normally keep old photos for my ephemera wall (especially of wistful looking, long deceased women...yeah...I don't know) but I don't want to disturb the history.

Field Report

Another promising day cut short by pissy weather. I did okay for a short 2-hr burst.

Here's what I got:

One sale had a nice variety of blues and folk CDs: Elmore James, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Fred McDowell (which I'm loving), Big Bill Broonzy.... I don't specifically buy CDs to resell but if I'm curious about a disk and it doesn't work out between us, I pop it on Amazon or trade it in.

He had music books as well. As I was plucking the good ones from the table I heard a woman behind me say "Well there WERE a lot of folk music books." Heh heh. I wish I had the chutzpah to give her a bookmark and say "You can buy them from me tomorrow," but that wouldn't win me any friends.

Two nice Golden books. Love the art in the Huckleberry Hound. Hope I can undo that amateur tape repair to the head of spine.

An interesting autographed history of pulp/comic illustrator Everett Raymond Kinstler who eventually painted the official White House portraits of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Lastly my favorite find a McLoughlin Bros edition of the once-popular children's book Sandford and Merton "In Words of One Syllable" (they even apologize in the preface that the protags names have two syllables). The cover shows a comfortably dressed boy tying a snake around the leg of a Dapper Dan. Apparently that's to keep him from getting uppity with the vocabulary words.

Walking in the rain

Just walked home in the clammy, horizontal rain, trying to keep a package dry. I passed a barefoot, 15-16 year-old girl in a bride's maid dress, sprinting after a yippy dog and crying out hysterically. 20 yards behind, followed her barefoot family.


I tried to say you shouldn't chase a dog if you really want to catch it. But they weren't hearing it. Should have kicked off my shoes and helped.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Park Slope United Methodist Book Sale 2007

Today was the annual Park Slope United Methodist Book Sale. I've attended for several years but this was the first year in its new space, and (I think) the first year it appeared in book sale finder.

I try NOT to get there 45 minutes early because it's just ugly, lines around the block, booksellers staring each other down, the mad dash.... Instead I strolled up at 9:13, locked my industrial dolly to the cast iron fence, said my bookseller's paternoster and went in.

Stretched along the entire left hand wall (about 20 yards long) was an army of scanners burrowing through hoarded boxes that I would never see, and I immediately started sweating buckets from the body heat. I asked myself "why don't I just go home and shop on eBay in my air-conditioned living room?" But no cut-and-run for me.

The scanners and scoutpals are more numerous at these things every time and I am definitely behind the technological curve. I use SP but only to confirm books I hand-pick, and I still key in ISBNs while I douse for a signal with my phone antenna. The bleeding-edge booksale tech seems to be bar code readers, checking books against a database in a palm pilot/pocket PC (no phone signal needed) with an ear bud that plays a tone for every book that meets user presets. I'll probably upgrade to this eventually, but it looks about as fun as taking inventory at Barnes and Noble.

Every bookseller has a plan of attack at these things. I start with general non-fiction, then science, history, art, reference, biography and finish up with children's books and general fiction. My theory is that most of the books being weeded from fiction are the popular, penny titles that I don't want to look through anyway.

I'm glad I stuck it out. The scanner Special Forces disappeared after about an hour and a half (even though the volunteers were bringing out new stock), the air conditioning finally kicked in and I got to at least glance through all of the approx 8-11K of books. It's definitely a better space for the sale: more aisle space, the ceilings are higher, and there were fewer trampling deaths.

I ended up with 3 filled Fresh Direct boxes (FD boxes are the urban booksellers best friend, more on these later) totaling: 80 books for resale plus a small pile for friends and a few volumes on antiques, web tech, and bookselling for my reference library (Also a bio of Jean Seberg, the very day after I found my self asking "What happened to Jean Seberg anyway?"). I buy about half and half ISBN and pre-ISBN titles. The scanners generally leave the older stuff and the titles I select are good for ebay lots if they don't command much alone.

Here's the Boot-A:

Some neuroscience titles, first American printing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban plus Lemony Snickett #5, a book on occult jewelry, Large Print DaVinci Code, a few 80s horror movie novelizations (Swamp Thing, Sword and the Sorcerer, Krull), first paperback of Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth and more. Best find of the sale was Five Classics of Fairy Chess by T.R. Dawson; one of those handful of sneaky Dover titles that are actually quite rare (I might do a list of these in the future). Just read the wikipedia entry on Fairy Chess but I still don't have a clue.

Thanks to all the polite, cheerful volunteers whole kept the tables neat and managed everything smoothly. Now I have to go catch a drink with the two friends I snubbed at the sale.

Amazon's SOLD, SHIP NOW notification e-mails

Amazon just revised the contents of their sale notification e-mails. They used to be fairly straightforward, containing the item details, the ship-to address, basic invoice information, plus the "reply-to" was set to go directly to the customer.

Now, because of some real or anticipated abuse of this info, the e-mails only contain an order ID number and pages of disclaimer info that is helpful to no one. A bookseller now needs to paste the ID # into the Amazon "Search Your Marketplace Orders" form and print the shipping information from there. This new confirmation process isn't much more difficult that ABE or Alibris (though at least those e-mails contain a unique link to the order) but you don't get the customer's e-mail address and that's a problem.

In the past my standard op in completing a sale was to send an e-mail thanking the customer, stating the expected shipping times, and of course flogging my bookstore. This final step headed off a lot of questions and gave the process a more human touch. I have no doubt that the new order process will degrade the used book shopper's experience and will cost me--and other "full service" booksellers--a lot of repeat sales. And if it costs me, it costs Amazon because used book sales, as a category, probably account for Amazon's highest profit margin. They don't have to buy these books, warehouse them, process the sales, nothing...they just take their eyeball tax (around 16-18% of each sale) straight to the bank.

I heard this was coming but it's going to be a mighty pain-in-the-ass. It's interesting that Amazon is going this route while Alibris--notorious for their Berlin wall between customer and bookseller--finally made direct communication possible.

Has anyone tried Amazon's dodgey sounding ASON (a windows application for downloading orders)? The last thing I need is another bloated, always-on application hogging my system resources.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Mii and Mine

If you own a Nintendo Wii it's a rite of passage to create Mii avatars of everyone you know (especially since there are precious few decent games to play).

Here's me mii:

The beard is kind of aspirational...and I have no idea where he got those red pants.

Here's my Zombie Mii:

I want to do a screen full of Zombie Miis, but until they add blue-green flesh tone and dangling innards, it hardly seems worth it.

Here's Robert Mitchum:

He adds a certain doomed, world weariness to my Wii-Tennis sessions.

Sorry this is totally off topic but it will probably net me some page views...