Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Now, more than ever, Books are like Diamonds

Friends of the Thompkins County Library Booksale, Ithaca, N.Y.

I’ve been hanging, far too long, onto a hopeless notion: that the books I own are worth something – they’re not. O course I do have some valuable titles, but many more, acquired over the past decade – first editions in fine/fine condition – aren’t worth as much now as they were when I paid for them. Sure I’ve enjoyed having them on the shelves around me, even enjoyed reading a few of them. But now it’s time to clear space for another collection focus, and I wont get anywhere near what I think they’re worth. Not even in trade.

Sadly this makes it very difficult to do what many authorities used to point to as one of the most enjoyable aspects of book collecting. Trading up, as painful as it is to admit, just doesn’t work anymore – too much supply. With Kindles and iPads, Kobos and Nooks, too many are clearing house. No longer can you scout book sales with much hope of profit. No longer can you enlist your gargantuan biblio knowledge of what’s good, what’s great, to spot winning titles and turn them into gold – not unless you’re 100 times luckier than normal.

Books I’ve reluctantly come to conclude are like diamonds: they’re beautiful. You can be proud to own them; you can spend many rich hours admiring them, showing them off even, but when it comes to unloading them, trading them in, beware, you wont make your money back. Now more than ever, if you love books and want to develop a collection that’s worth something you must think very, very hard not only about the content, but also about the container.

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3 Responses to “Now, more than ever, Books are like Diamonds”

  1. Amy Lavender Harris Says:

    Interesting perspective. Does this mean this is a great time for book collectors; e.g., those of us looking to accumulate for our collections rather than sell? Are the people shifting to digital collections also getting rid of older or rarer print editions?

  2. Nigel Beale Says:

    I’d say yes. There’s a glut on the market, lots of non-collectors are divesting themselves of books…challenge is to know what to look for.

    For what it’s worth here are a few rules I’d suggest following if you collect: buy what you love…then if the books don’t appreciate in value, at least you’ll be surrounded by your version of beauty…next: think very hard about why you’re interested in collecting what you love. Try to develop a uniting idea, a compelling justification for your collection…an argument championing what others may have overlooked…

    I’m currently writing a couple of articles on collecting…identifying areas that could be worthwhile exploring, pls stay tuned.

  3. Erik Heywood Says:

    Living in the Bay Area, I have a huge appreciation for a postcard I once saw that read “Isn’t it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there?” I feel the same way about digital books. If people want to get rid of their lovely books for titles that become mere words in list on their device, I’m happy to buy them. That this ends up being hard on booksellers is a tragedy, but for the book collector who collects the editions he most wants of books he loves to read, it’s a real boon.

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