THE CURSE OF THE NET FOR THE SHOWGOER
As a bookman, trying to make it on my own, time is very precious as you might imagine. Unfortunately, as with many other bookmen in the world, I am drawn to write, a distraction that most certainly doesn’t pay the bills. At this point, I would be happy if it afforded me a coffee and a Danish. The need to write is simply that, a “need”. This is not a want that goes on the wish list for the end of the month and gets the family vote of accepted or denied. This is not something that I have trained for or am really even good at YET… The need to write is in you whether it pays or not I am afraid…
Since setting off on my own in the treacherous waters of semi-professional antiquarian bookselling, I have taken note of a few things that have eluded me I suppose. While I feel that I have been out and about so to speak, I recently had a sudden realization about books and the internet. I think that it is safe to say that we are seeing a resurgence of neighborhood bookshops and trendy comic book depots. The question is not if you can find bookshops, we should be wondering how well those bookshops are doing. Are they just squeaking by and losing all the big sales to the net?
While exhibiting at the Georgia Antiquarian Book Fair over the weekend, I noticed an interesting behavior… I see these folks come in the booth and look around. They pick stuff up and put it down. Occasionally, I get the obligatory, “How much is this” or the like… I guess my signage is found wanting… What struck me was the conscience, deliberate pause of every buyer or near-buyer when I know they were deciding whether or not my $8 price was too much. “Am I the sucker of the day for this guy?” “Am I getting taken?” “Can I get this cheaper on Amazon or eBay?” Even if you make the purchase at this point, you are screwed! We have trained our brains to believe that the internet is cheaper, more reliable, etc… You would think that the opposite would hold true. Shouldn’t we want to purchase from a real person and get the immediate gratification of walking away with something we just shelled out eight bucks for? We save on shipping… We see the condition for ourselves… We know the piece will arrive without the postman trying to shove it into the mailbox that is obviously too small to hold it… NO – THE ONLINE CURSE IS A MENTAL MIND-TRAP THAT WE ARE CAUGHT IN. At best, we will only feel like we didn’t get suckered too bad and that it was worth it because we had a good day. We will still never be convinced that we couldn’t have found it cheaper or in better condition by simply scouring eBay for the next 79.3 years.
I have written about the internet and bookselling many times over the years, but never have I written about something that is going to be so hard to change. We can build bookshops and fun places to browse and meet fellow collectors. We can promote and exhibit at more book fairs and comic-cons. We can buy, sell and trade from each other at “flash” collectible gatherings. NONE OF THIS IS GOING TO KILL THE MENTAL MOJO THAT WE HAVE DISHED OUT! HELL, WE ARE STILL DISHING IT OUT – WHO DOESN’T BUY AND SELL ON THE INTERNET THESE DAYS??? We are our own worst enemy.