Saturday, September 20, 2008

Used book sale 

Used book fair! And walking distance from my house, too.

I remembered reading about it while on some errands with my husband. Once errands were complete, I went right there while he went home and then out to an evening class. I got to the sale maybe half an hour after it started, on its first day. There were more people than I would have expected at 4:30 on a Friday, but then again I'm not much in on the used book circuit (yet). Many people were a few decades older than I, but many were my age or a little older, in their thirties. A handful of kids clustered around the dozen or so boxes of children's books.

At least one man was a dealer or a scout. He had some kind of wireless handheld device, entering numbers and choosing books based on the readout. He had a pile of several dozen books that he was going to buy. He picked out one on Nazi doctors that I'd never seen, and I asked him if I could look at it and write down the title and author to track down on eBay. He agreed but cautiously, so I made sure I kept his book in plain sight and wrote quickly on a pad of Post-Its I was carrying. (I think the book will be relevant to my psychology of killing studies). He relaxed a bit when I put the book back on his stack and thanked him. He only briefly made eye contact and continued punching numbers into his wallet-sized handheld. I assumed he was entering ISBN numbers. I know there are wireless services that run ISBN numbers and return information on the price of used copies, first editions, and oddities that affect the price collectors might pay. He seemed so data focused, and he was buying so many books, that I'm sure he was a dealer or a scout for a dealer.

Books were in cardboard boxes on card tables and in cardboard boxes on the linoleum floor. I pored over both levels, both sides of each aisle. I found a book by Slam but didn't buy it. I have all his books on how soldiers act in combat; his other books are about particular battles or particular wars. They're excellent, and the stories are detailed down to he level of the individual, but often I don't know the higher level history of the given conflict to benefit from or even really understand the story he tells in a particular book. So while i still get excited seeing his books, I don't have a need to collect them all. I almost picked up a college textbook on marketing. I did some marketing consulting while at Accenture, and I did a self-study, crash course in the subject and loved it. Marketing is a nice intersection of my interests in capitalism and psychology. But I decided the books there were outdated. I'll talk to my brother, who's getting his MBA from Tuck, what he recommends reading. Even if I have to buy a new textbook, I'll know it wil`l be worth reading. I am good at identifying the right people to vet particular types of books for me.

I got a few prizes. I am pleased. I ended my journey through the labyrinth of books with a stack I could barely carry in one arm. I knew I couldn't take home that many - I only have so much space, and my husband only has so much patience with my "gentle madness" (Nicholas Basbanes's term for total obsession with books). So I cut my stack in half somehow and replaced the now-rejected books in their respective sections. I put back a book on the history of Google. I may return tomorrow. By the time I left, around 5, the crowd had thinned dramatically.

I got a book on geometry that uses folded paper. I'm happy.

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