Book aesthetics

I’ve been trying my best lately to bolster the Cinderella part of bookselling by frequenting second hand bookshops including those that trade via third parties like Abe Books. The service from the latter is excellent— if the trader says they will deliver by date X, they do and usually the contents are packaged so well I’ve yet to take a delivery with any sign of damage.

I’m quite choosy when I buy like this, rejecting anything that has splatters of coffee or food stains over the pages. A few marginal notes are ok but not over-zealous use of the yellow highlighter pen. It’s easy to be choosy when the book is on the shelf in front of you. But when I buy on line I’m relying on the description of the book description and sometimes those are, shall we say, a little optimistic.

Something described as being in excellent condition that arrives with crease marks on the spine or a few corners turned down are perfectly ok. What I don’t like is when a book described as ‘like new’ arrives with the outer edges all brown or yellow where they’ve been sitting on a shelf somewhere for a very long time. True that the book has not been read before but it looks grubby and smells a bit fousty. All aesthetics I know but it doesn’t make me want to pick it up. So I end up buying a pristine copy of the same book which really feels like a waste of money.

Sometimes I think I should let the seller know I’m not happy and ask for a refund but then inertia kicks in and I decide it’s not worth the hassle of queuing in the Post Office to mail it back.  I suppose if the amount I’d spent was higher I would probably make a complaint but when it cost me less than a coffee in one of the chains, I put it all down to me just being too picky.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on October 22, 2013, in Book Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. You have every right to be picky. I do buy quite a few SH books off Amazon etc, and find that over half the time, the condition is worse than described, or the edition is not the one pictured. Unless it is borderline, I always ask for a refund or price reduction. When selling my own discards – I try to be absolutely truthful about condition – which given how OCD I am about book condition is usually excellent. I can’t compete against the 1p books on price though.

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  2. I have two reasonably local Oxfam bookshops and I do buy quite a lot of fiction there, but otherwise I use Abe Books too. For the most part I have had good service but I do wish there were more places locally that I could browse round. There is a very good shop about forty miles away but it is so tucked away down country lanes that it is really only feasible on good weather days when I have the whole day to spare.

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    • Me too. there is an Oxfam bookstore in Cardiff which is about 15 miles away but not much else unless you want romance or fantasy which is easily available at a stall in the market. Forty miles is quite a trek even for a book fanatic…

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  3. I prefer buying my second-hand books in person, it’s more fun that way. And I know the condition and whether it’s worth it upfront. The bargains are also better I think.

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  4. I visit my secondhand book store often; one that goes by the name of Afterwords. I love the hunt for hidden treasure; that is: the book someone sells that does not seem important to the seller but which the purchaser has been waiting forever to arrive through inter library loan. Then there are the books that are signed by the author or others that have sincere inscriptions from the givers which do not mean as much to the practical recipients who re-sells them in Afterwrds. I love gently used second hand books.

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  5. I love abebooks have found some good things through that site.

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  6. I really don’t like that musty smell, either. I buy a lot of secondhand online and most of the time, the book is as described. But it makes me really mad when it isn’t, and I’d complain about broken spines and dog-eared pages. So I don’t find you that picky at all!

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