Lots of people still buy real books. Len Augsburger forwarded this article from Slate about how technology is helping bookpickers make a living.
Here are some excerpts.
I make a living buying and selling used books. I browse the racks of thrift stores and library book sales using an electronic bar-code scanner. I push the button, a red laser hops about, and an LCD screen lights up with the resale values. It feels like being God in his own tiny recreational casino; my judgments are sure and simple, and I always win because I have foreknowledge of all bad bets. The software I use tells me the going price, on Amazon Marketplace, of the title I just scanned, along with the all-important sales rank, so I know the book's prospects immediately. I turn a profit every time.
I'm pretty sure I first heard about the practice of shopping for books with laser scanners in a story on NPR, which, as I recall it, disparaged their use as classless. And, really, it is precisely this. The book merchant of the high-cultural imagination is a literate compleat and serves the literate. He doesn't need a scanner, because he knows more than the scanner knows. I fill a different niche—I deal in collectible or meaningful books only by accident. I'm not deep, but I am broad. My customer is anyone who needs a book that I happen to find and can make money from.
When I first started this work, I would wake up every morning with fingers stiff from prying apart books in order to get a better look, and a clear shot at the barcode. On average, only one book in 30 will have a resale value that makes it a "BUY." One man's trash is, of course, nearly always another man's trash.
Lately, I've been averaging about 30 books sold per day. I pull them down, fit them into padded envelopes, print postage at home, and drive my packages to the post office before closing time—six days a week. After this, I usually go out looking for more stock, and after that I often stay up late making new listings online—describing the physical faults of my books, deciding on prices. I work up to 80 hours a week.
To read the complete article, see:
Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman
THE BOOK BAZARRE
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