I’ve just made my yearly pilgrimage to my city’s largest used bookstore.
For years I have been both buying and selling there, and the latest result suggests this may be my last trip there as a seller.
I have long maintained that the whole print vs paper argument is a false binary. I buy many e-books. But I buy paper, too, when looks matter more. My latest for-sale pile represented two genres where I feel this is so—cookbooks, and a handful of adult coloring books I over-purchased in my initial new-hobby honeymoon period.
The coloring books, at least, are a trendy category. I hoped to get about $20 for the whole stack. So, what was my net take?
Just $7. The clerk explained it to me as follows: assume the store is going to sticker-price it for 50-60% off the cover price, depending on the book’s age and condition. That brings most of my $10-15 books down to four or five dollars. Now, divide what’s left in half: that gives the store a buck or two per book to cover overhead, and the rest for profit—which he has to share with me. Now do I understand why he only offered me a dollar a book?
Now, let’s look at my financial breakdown on this transaction. Even if you overlook the price I paid when I bought the books in the first place, I still spent $6 on bus tokens to get myself there and home. There wasn’t even enough profit left to buy a coffee afterward!
So, what does this mean for my book-buying habits in the future? It means there is a big opening for the e-book crowd. I have to stop looking at paper books as tradeable, exchangeable commodities. At these prices, they are not. They are permanent objects that will be in my place forever. So I need to be sure I love them before I pay.
I guess it’s time to start looking at all those downloadable PDF coloring books they sell on Etsy these days. At least if I get stuck with a clunker from there, it won’t take up any shelf space.
Image credit: Here. That’s a bookstore in Oregon, not the one Joanna mentioned.