books: economics of the thrift store redux

In this post I will consider the fact that it doesn't really matter what you pay for books provided you know what you're doing.

When you're out scrounging, price is relative.  50 cents is twice as much as a quarter, but really, what's the difference?  A buck for a hardcover or two bucks, what's it matter?   But perception is king, and so the place that charges a buck for paperbacks and two for hardcovers is "expensive", the target of complaints from the oldsters and generally shunned by the other book hustlers.

I made the rounds yesterday, hitting some fresh stops as well as staging a return visit to 'the expensive store' for a closer look at their hardcovers.

My payout was roughly the same, 19 bucks.  Listings were way up, on the shoulders of one of those fortuitous discoveries that make all the hours of scouring crappy books in dingy shops worthwhile- in the back corner of the bottom shelf I came across four viticulture books- winemaking, for those not in the know.   It's one of those golden subjects- there isn't much available, especially good, technical information, and the audience is boundless.  I snatched them up without even flipping the pages to check condition.  I picked up another few good internet books as well, one on professional stage hypnosis and a couple of solid Eastern Philosophy titles hidden among the crummy evangelical tracts in the religion section.

This joint is one of the few still holding the line against 'boutique' pricing- their pocket books are a quarter, larger paperbacks are fifty cents, hardcovers are a buck.  I bought two hefty stacks, with the old gal at the counter exclaiming "Oh, you're a BOOK GUY.  We love book guys!  Let me give you a discount!"
I got out with the books and two great old coffee mugs for $8.

Three of the viticulture books listed for ~200, and as of this morning two had sold for $99 & $69, respectively.  Along with one of the Eastern books for $10, that's a tidy profit.

At the 'expensive' place I also spent $8, on three hardcovers and a paperback.  As noted previously, the have a lot of nice books because people don't buy them.  Going over their hardcovers with a gimlet eye, I found a couple of hot off the presses titles that I thought would work, and it turns out I was right- listed a bio of Gandhi for $20, a new-ish military SF book for $15 and a book on fishing one particular lake in New Zealand for $10.  The paperback, a weird poetry book I would have ignored except it was signed and in pristine condition, listed for $15.

And this, I think, points to why minor fluctuations in price are meaningful to the book scrounger.

At shop #1 I bought anything that looked halfway saleable, ended up with about a grocery bag full of books plus two nice mugs for my eight bucks.

At shop #2 I had to first identify the likely internet books, then take a closer look to make sure they were as recent as they looked, and then spend that same eight bucks on four books.

Shop 1, aside from generating more direct income from higher listings, also supplied me with about half a box of stuff for the shop.  Shop 2, anything that didn't work online would be a net loss, the purchase price being higher than whatever trade I could milk out of them.

Just a few more random thoughts on the topic.

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