Sunday, December 18, 2011
He's Got a Scrooge Loose
Almost Christmas. Flurries outside my window. Sweet scent of balsam fir from our little tree downstairs.
I can feel my inner Scrooge coming to life as it does this time every year, rather like the monster in Alien bursting out of that poor spaceman’s abdomen. Kane, his name was. Just before the creature exploded from his innards he was euphoric, and very, very hungry. Kept exclaiming how delicious the grub was. I’ve been eating a lot lately, myself. Everything seems tasty!
So maybe it’s just me, but I’m getting awfully fed up with the landslide of Christmas catalogs and Special Holiday Sales on offer from my colleagues. They’re all as tacky, tasteless, and predictable as plastic Santas at the mall.
Without fail the rich guys want to hook you up with a Winnie the Pooh, or House at Pooh Corner, first editions, five figures, or the entire Pooh oeuvre in morocco for about the same. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Pooh when I was very young. I even named my dog Pooh, much to the delight of the neighborhood bullies. Various James Bonds, for sure. Eloise in her jacket is mandatory, as are the Grinch and assorted other Seusses, Jane Austen and Frankenstein first editions, bumping up into six figures. And how can we forget Dickens and his parts? Oy.
Then there are the Holiday Specials offered online by the not-so-rich-guys. As in, “Special Holiday Sale!! 50% off on ALL books under $10.” Good only through the holidays, of course. As if they wouldn't give their eye teeth to be rid of that crap any day of the year.
Gimme a break. It is a fact that people generally don’t buy used or rare books for Christmas. Unlike the retail new book trade, where December can be the month that generates the profit for an entire year, no used or rare book dealer ever turned giant numbers on Black Friday. Collectors, bibliophiles and gentle readers are much more likely to pleasure themselves with books after the holidays. The week between Christmas and New Year’s eve was also good, as I recall from my retail days at Ten Pound Island Book Co.
Helen Kelly of Boston Book Company, Ken Gloss of the Brattle Book Shop, Joe Phillips of Commonwealth Books, and Peter Stern of eponymous represent a pretty good spread in the retail trade, from used to rare, and they heartily confirmed my opinion at lunch last week. People simply do not buy gobs of used & rare at Xmas.
Why hog up holiday bandwidth or murder trees with your cheesy attempts to cash in on L.L. Bean’s market? Leave that to Harry and David.
Lunch was our reward, as Boston Book Fair Committee members, for paying Boston parking fees in order to spend two hours dissecting last November’s successful Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair and scheming on how to improve next November’s event.
One of the byproducts of the recent book fair was a video short produced by Nina See of Commonwealth Promotion. It gives a wonderful overview of the Boston fair and of antiquarian book fairs in general. Check it out.
You’ll notice that, consistent with my Scrooge take on holiday commerce, I am not offering any goodies from Ten Pound Island Book Co. this week.
Instead, I’ll leave you with another link. This one about “happiness” – as in “Happy Holidays” from one of my favorite writers, Jenny Diski.
And seriously, folks… Thanks for being such wonderful customers, colleagues, and friends. I feel truly blessed because of you, and wish you a healthy and, yes, happy 2012.