On Bookselling

Some interesting quotes from Peter Howard, formerly one of the top antiquarian booksellers in the United States:

“There is no possible, rational prediction that a given used or antiquarian book will sell for a given or specific price in a specific period of time.”



“A large collection of used books is difficult and often impossible to sell at a predictable or desired price.”



“Booksellers are entrepreneurs. The success of their business depends primarily (or entirely?) upon acumen honed over time; their special knowledge (absorbed over years), and their force of will. None of these elements is transferable; none can be bought and sold; occasionally they can be hired. Such entrepreneurs are vulnerable to illness, uncontrollable social or personal vicissitudes, changes in economies of scale, and bad judgment.”



“In a downward, declining or changing market, ownership of one’s building is an absolute guarantee of survival… The book market place is changing utterly, more so than in any time in history, this hour, this day, this month, this year.”

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