Saturday, April 22, 2006

For the bibliophile that has everything

Buying books for bibliophiles can be a pain. If you buy something really new, they probably won't have read it, unless they love the subject/author so much they buy immediately. If you buy something out of left field, you risk saddling them with a book they don't want, but feel compelled to read. A nice book they are unlikely to have is one of David Siegel's Used bookstore guides (examples include Pacific Coast and South Atlantic. Each bookstore listing (and there are hundreds in each book) gives the size of the collection, the specialties (if any) and where appropriate a description of the staff or quality. A top of the line book store like Powell's or Wonderbook will get a long listing, while the store that sells 10 year old copies of sci-fi novels won't get much.

The nice thing about the guides is that you can research bookstores on any route you might be taking. You can string them along into an all day bookgasm or you can be sure to add a book visit on any trip you might be taking. It's fun just to read along. One of my favorite things is to explore a new bookstore and find some hidden treasure. Sure, if I really want something specific, that is out of print, I would try Powell's or Abebooks or Alibris. But there is nothing like wandering stacks of books, unless of course they reek of old book mildew.

I think all the flavors of bookstores have their place. Due to lack of sufficient funds and no current interest in collecting, I don't frequent the really high end bookstores that carry $100 and up tomes. The mid-range store is probably my favorite. Here you can find a trade paperback of good literary fiction while also finding out of print histories. One of my favorites in this category is Dupont Circle's Second Story Books. Rarely do I go in there and not find three or four things I want.

Even the low end has its place. Most people I know turn up their noses at the paperback exchange stores what with their large piles of mysteries, science fiction and, in particular, romance. They remain an excellent way to recycle paperbacks. They usually have a simple formula for trading in books so that you will know exactly how much credit you will get. Combined with the books they carry, they make an excellent place for grandparents. Dump a bunch of your books off, get some credit and give it to grandma. She will be in books for months as she takes hers back to get new ones. I myself can normally find something I want there, and they will take books that Powell's doesn't want.

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