Libraries now have groups of volunteers who pull the better books from what has been donated so that they can sell those books to book dealers or on eBay. I understand why they want to do that, of course, but it eliminates most of the excitement of a big library sale. Searching for that elusive needle in the haystack is part of the fun and I miss it. Worse, yet I have noticed on at least two occasions that library staff pluck books for themselves before the doors are open to the general public. And worst of all was the time that I noticed one library employee letting her friends rummage through what was for sale at least an hour before the rest of us were allowed to take a look.
This article from the Chronicle-Telegram points out a new hazard that I haven't yet encountered, special scanners with a built-in data base to immediately recognize the more valuable books.
Collecting books for more than a decade, Mittler has slowly refined his bibliophilic taste, selecting choice books he knows are worth a little extra. But at this year’s sale he’ll be competing with people who aren’t so much book-lovers as they are people zealously committed to finding a book worth more than a buck....
They’re called “scanners.” They use handheld scanners to scan the bar codes on books, checking a book’s price in a database downloaded to the handheld device. Some people say it’s cheating, but organizers of the Elyria book sale say they’re allowing the scanners at this year’s sale — simply to be fair.
“These people will go in teams and hit row upon row of books with bar code scanners,” Mittler said.
Of course, some of the really old books don’t have bar codes, so a book dealer’s depth of knowledge can be invaluable.
“Dealers know exactly what they’re looking for,” Mittler said.
Popular these days, for instance, are “hyper-modern” books written just within the past few decades, but still hard to find.I have to admit, that being a high-tech addict, that little scanner is a very tempting new toy. I'm going to have to see what I can find out about them...yes, I'll feel guilty about that.
Some great examples: Any autographed, first-edition book by Cormac McCarthy floats around $600 to $700, while a 2003 limited-edition print of “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, fetches more than $2,000.
“Most people looking at that would see a new book and just pass right over it,” Mittler said. “That’s where a knowledge of book collecting comes in.”