Friday, January 18, 2008

Making a Living from Old Books

Books are so darn heavy in groups of more than five or six that I never imagined that people living on the streets would bother with pulling them from trash bins for their resale value. But, from the sound of this New York Times article, the practice is not uncommon in the city.

By 9:15 most mornings, Thomas Germain, a ruddy-faced man in a yellow slicker, is pushing his oversize black wheeled suitcase down 12th Street in the direction of the Strand Bookstore on Broadway. Sometimes, the suitcase is stuffed full of books; sometimes the books fill a box or two or three that he balances carefully on top of it, a mass of swaying literature he rolls all the way from Greenwich Village or SoHo or Stuyvesant Town.

By 9:30, he’s often sitting outside the Strand, waiting for the store to open, drinking a breakfast of Budweiser with his friend Brian Martin, who’s pushed and pulled his own collection of books to the same destination in a large, teetering grocery cart.
Hundreds of men and a smaller number of women eke out a living scavenging books in Manhattan, according to Mitchell Duneier, author of “Sidewalk,” a book about the subculture of sidewalk book scavengers and vendors. Some of them sell their books on the street; others, the less entrepreneurial, or the more impatient, go for the surefire cash at the Strand. When the store opened that Monday morning, Tommy Books and Leprechaun each in turn emptied their boxes onto the counter, where Neil Winokur, a Strand employee, quickly sorted them into two piles.
Read the whole article to find out about one enterprising "rookie" who made a great find for himself and for the bookstore. Despite the obstacles faced by these guys, I think this still qualifies as a "feel good story."
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