How to Behave at the Used Bookstore

| 7/26/2010 5:39:59 PM

DescantRule number one: “When you enter a used bookstore, do not ask if it is a library. A common preliminary to that question comes from the man who stands in the entrance, looks around, nods his head sagely and astutely observes, ‘Books, eh?’ ”

So begins David Mason, a bookseller of 40 years who plies his trade at his eponymous shop in Toronto. In the latest issue of Descant, his essay “The Protocols of Used Bookstores: A Guide to Dealing with Certain Perils That Could be Encountered in a Used Bookstore,” is both witty and genuine, by which I mean: The 44-point piece made me laugh, even as his great love of books—and great respect for others who also love them—offered a gratifying glimpse into the world of bookselling. To point:

19. When the proprietor of a used bookstore asks if he can help, he is not beginning his campaign to sell you something you don’t want or need, like a new suit or the latest fad. He actually is interested in directing you to the appropriate book. If you answer, “Just browsing,” he will assume you are afraid of him. You should answer, “Only if I don’t find something on my own.” Remember, the bookseller wants you to buy a book, indeed he depends on it. But unlike many businesses he only wants to sell you a book that you want. The bookseller knows that he may never own another copy of that book and he wants it to go where it will be appreciated.

Note/Poetic Justice: “The Protocols of Used Bookstores” is not available to read online, so if you wish to fully inoculate yourself against the certain perils, you’ll either have to pick up a hard copy of Descant or order what appears to be the stand-alone essay from David Mason Books (check under “Special Announcements”).

Source: Descant

Ford Prefect_1
7/30/2010 2:44:47 PM

This article sounds great, but the fact that it is not available online gives us a glimpse where the used bookstore business is headed. Don't get me wrong - I love books and used book stores - but I'm 48 years old. I grew up with books and magazines, but the printed material we enjoy today will soon become tomorrow's outdated and unused technology. Writers will always write, but in the not so distant future publishing, and bookstores, will be very different. That change of course has already begun. I'm afraid we're seeing the end of used book stores, much as twenty years ago we saw the end of record (vinyl LP) stores. With electronic books, can there be used books? Perhaps someone will find a way to nicely reformat some of the classics found on the Gutenberg Project site so that they can be resold, and that will become a new endeavor for current used book store enthusiasts - like myself.

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