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November 25, 1997

Book Collecting

by Dee Entrekin

Book lovers place great value on their books. However, as their books accumulate, a process of weeding out takes place to make room for new additions. At that point book owners are often surprised to find that the books they want to sell are not worth as much as they thought. Here are a few guidelines many book dealers follow when buying used books. Those specializing in collectable books may purchase only first editions in certain categories, while others may be less selective. A well-stocked store may limit purchases to books that are not in stock and that are in great demand.

Few dealers will buy book club editions, discarded library books, outdated text books, books without dust jacket, or abused and dirty books. They rarely buy paperbacks, opting to trade or allow store credit for those in very good condition.

Most used books offered to dealers have little resale value. Today best-sellers are discounted as much as forty percent when new, and then wind up on bargain tables at prices lower than most paperbacks. One cannot expect to sell these books, used, to a dealer for profit. It takes years, if ever, for an author's book or books to be recognized as important, and therefore have collectable value.

Always buy books by authors you enjoy or think you will enjoy reading, and not for their possible future value. Used bookstores are great places to browse for new authors or to find a favored author's earlier books at bargain prices. That said, you will derive double satisfaction from seeing a favorite author's works recognized by others. In the recently published Oxford Book of the American South, the editors Edward L. Avers and Bradley C. Mittendorf selected author Tim McLaurin as one of thirteen authors whose writings they used to illustrate Southern literature written after World War II. McLaurin has been a favorite of mine since I read his boyhood memoir in 1991. After that, I read his earlier two novels, and his last two as they were published. At forty three, McLaurin has written four novels and his memoir. He teaches writing at North Caroline State University. His books are as follows:

The Acorn Plan, W.W. Norton, 1988. Woodrow's Trumpet, W.W. Norton, 1989. Keeper of the Moon: A Southern Boyhood, W.W. Norton, 1991 Cured by Fire, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1995. The Last Great Snake Show, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1997 Tim McLaurin's publisher for his last two books is Putnam. Recent Putnam firsts are designated by a number line. (See this column in The Harbinger, 9/23-10/6, 1997) W.W. Norton, one of the United States' few remaining independent major publishers, published his first three books. Some other notable authors published by Norton are Rick Base, John Ciardi, Patrick O'Brian, Jean Rhys, Rainer Maria Rilke, May Sarton, James Welch, A.R. Ammons, Anthony Burgress, Malcolm Cowley, Jim Harrison, and Douglas Wallop.

Identifying W.W. Norton and Company First Editions

In past years "First Editions" was stated on the copyright page, and deleted on subsequent printings. Currently they use a first-edition statement with a number row, and occasionally fail to remove the first-edition statement on subsequent printings. The number row must have the one (1) present for the book to be a first edition.


Dee Entrekin owns Entrekin Book Center.


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