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Loaded Down with Books?
Here's a little advice on how to shed some of your surplus


There comes a time in every bibliomaniac's life when, for one reason or another, we must part with some of our books. The reasons I've heard include everything from spousal threats to public safety. I once knew a woman who was evicted from a 4th floor apartment because the sheer weight of her books endangered the structural integrity of the building. She actually slept on stacks of books!

So how do you get rid of some books so you can go out and buy more? It depends on how much time you have, what sort of books you have, what you expect in exchange for them, and other considerations which I will attempt to clarify here.

"Do you buy books?" This is a question which I and my fellows in the book trade hear often. Selling books to a dealer involves little effort or risk, and is the way to go for most people. You need to be realistic in your expectations as to how much money you'll get, however. A dealer will pay between one fourth and one half of the figure for which she thinks the books will ultimately sell. If you have uncommon books for which the dealer has an immediate buyer, she will pay you more. If your books are more common, and likely to be in the dealer's inventory for awhile she will pay you less. The dealer's margin is her reward for placing your books in the hands of someone else who truly wants them. There are ways for you to do this yourself but the proceeds are rarely worth your time and effort as a "do-it-yourself" dealer.

The key to selling books yourself is being able to identify potential buyers and focusing your efforts there. Unless you have a specialized library or some very desirable books that make this possible you shouldn't fool around trying to sell them yourself. For example, it would be a lot easier to identify people or institutions who might be interested in your library of 18th century travel books than it would be for your recent fiction, star biographies, and romance paperbacks. If you're really determined I'm sure you could sell the latter yourself-a little here at a yard sale, a little there at a flea market, etc. But how much is your time worth? Unless you are able to identify potential buyers for your books so you can move them quickly and all at once you will almost certainly earn a pauper's wage for your efforts.

Auctions are another liquidation method of which individuals can avail themselves. They are interesting and quite unpredictable. Your proceeds depend on who is doing the bidding, and you will pay a percentage to the auction house. Again you will do best if you have a specialized library or particularly desirable books-and an auction company that handles such material and knows how to promote the sale. That way you stand a much better chance of flushing out collectors who may be willing to bid up to market prices for your books. On the other hand general auctions usually only mention that some books are part of the sale, and sell them right alongside the other miscellaneous junk and treasure. Dealers may haunt such sales but collectors usually don't-at least not in numbers-and then you're selling at wholesale again. And that's before you pay the auctioneer's premium. In that case you'd be better off selling to the dealer in his shop.

When all else fails you can give your books away, and there are many charitable organizations that will take them-churches, schools, hospitals, prisons, and libraries to name a few. This should be your last resort, however, if you'd like to see your books in the hands of someone who truly wants them.

In the end the best approach depends on what books you have. For the average person I'd recommend selling the dealers what they'll buy and then donating the rest to your charity of choice.

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