The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

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.

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