Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Trading in books

I received some Powells store credit for Christmas and, greedy bastard that I am, I decided I wanted to up the free book action by trading in some more books. While the end result of trading books is almost always delightful (I got how much for that?), I find the process a bit unnerving.

When you unload your books on the counter, the salesperson quietly sorts them into the keep pile and the no-thanks pile. Once my no-thanks pile was substantially taller than my keeper pile and I felt like someone in a Bible story whose offering was found wanting. Every once and again the salesperson will glance at you. I get the feeling they are trying to figure out what sort of person I am who would either own or return the books I am presenting for trade. It also doesn't help that you have to carry your loser unacceptable books back home.

I then a feel a little guilty about the books that didn't get picked. I will probably go ahead and keep Legends of the Outer Banks and Tar Heel Tidewater, as I don't have many books about that region. Others will hang around the house and then probably go to Goodwill.

The haul was rather good today, which is nice. I picked up the new Michael Pollan, Dan Simmon's the Terror, Ivan's War and a few others.


Brack said...

I would get the same feeling at the local Plan 9 record store when I would try to swap old CDs.

My Stabbing Westward and Red Hot Chili Peppers discs were met with snorts of derision from the hipsters behind the desk.

Tripp said...

I gave up on swapping CDs when I realized I was getting about 75 cents a CD. At least with books you walk away with something you can use.

Tripp said...

And to be fair to Powells (which I love) I think the silent treatment is meant to hide whatever reaction they are having.

Levi Stahl said...

You've hit the seller's anxiety exactly, but having worked behind the counter at a used CD store (where, contrary to the bad rep record store clerks get, we were instructed to be polite and friendly), I can tell you that there's a similar anxiety. As the buyer, you know that with every CD (or book) you put in the no thanks pile, you're ruining that person's day just a tiny bit more. (But really, you can't buy that crap. What's your boss gonna do with ten copies of Pocket Full of Kryptonite?)

Personally, I'm much more wrapped up in books than in music, so it's a good thing I only ever worked in new bookstores; having to pick through used books and assess value would have been far more difficult for me.

Anonymous said...


You are completely right about quality. I recall a buyer at Moe's of Berkeley holding the line because once you start buying crap, all you have is crap on the shelves. So I also sell books to the paperback exchange stores which take just about anything. There are normally treasures to be found there, if you have the time to look. And you like science fiction.