Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Condensed Milk, Electricty Substations and Bunty
Later, the snow had thawed enough for me to drive to work and deal with the orders. When I arrived, the cows looked at me imploringly and mooed in unison. It's becoming quite oppressive. I don't know what they think I can do.
Many people would regard the process of picking and packing the book orders as quite tedious, but I find it endlessly fascinating because of the surprises it brings. When I put the books on sale, I often have a certain idea of the type of people who might buy them, but half of the time I'm completely wrong.
For example, the 1970 Bunty annual that I expected to sell to a woman in her 50s is ordered by a man called Mohammed Al-Ahmed, whilst the pulp Wild West novel that I thought would be bought by a man called Len in his 60s, ends up being posted to a woman in Slovenia. I given up trying to guess who will buy the books (and can anyone tell me why nearly seventy percent of my Biggles sales are to Australians?).
If high street bookselling often gave me a disappointing glimpse of humanity, this is the antidote. It is hard not to feel an affection for these strangers, with their secret passions and ecclectic, eccentric interests. When I pack the books I wrap them carefully, as if they were presents for a friend.
One important lesson I've learned is that no book is too dull to put on sale. Why anyone would want a 1929 book about the industrial processes behind the manufacture of condensed milk is beyond me. I also find it hard to see the appeal of a 1957 book on electricty substations. Surely, it's horribly out of date, unless there's an electricity substation nostalgia market. But both titles were snapped up.
However, there's just one book I just can't shift, even though I've reduced the price several times: