The Dodman Says
What’s The Right Price?
That the internet has changed bookselling is hardly news. With so many closures, good secondhand bookshops seem like an endangered species (so thank goodness for the survivors), but the obvious shift from high street retailing to homes (and sheds) is not the only difference in trading today. Among the fundamental changes that have resulted, pricing has become visible to the buyer and comparable across many sellers.
Once upon a time shoppers had to rely on the pricing skills of the bookseller, and their own knowledge of collecting, to determine whether a price was fair. There were some shops where you could guarantee a good deal (all hail the much missed Two Jays, in Edgware) and some where you certainly would not (unnamed, but must collectors will know who they were/are). Things are different now. A quick glance at Abebooks or Vialibri will give an indication of the market value of almost any volume, severely undermining the bookseller’s traditional pricing method of knowledge, gut feel and guesswork. Mostly this means that prices have come down.
When I compare the prices pencilled into old book shop stock with what I can charge for them now on the internet, they are generally higher, even if the price was set years ago! That’s good news for shoppers of course. However it also works the other way and means that a book is much less likely to be undervalued, reducing the chances of snapping up a gem for peanuts because the bookseller doesn’t know the true value.
Even then, value is a moveable feast. Books come in and out of fashion among collectors and prices can change quite markedly over time. One thing online booksellers are very bad at (mea culpa) is reviewing the prices of their old stock, so there may be some online bargains to be sniffed out yet. Suffice to say, (and I would add this wouldn’t I?), at Dodman Books we aim to price every book competitively.
A Buyer For Every BookAs an optimist (is that a rarity among booksellers perhaps?), I firmly believe that there is a customer for every book that I have to sell. This is probably delusional, but if so, is a fiction I nurture which encourages me to list more obscure titles, occasionally supported by a sale. Who knew that “A Short History Of The Chartered Auctioneers' And Estate Agents' Institute”, 1970, £25 (!), would be snapped up by a buyer in Australia. Well maybe not snapped up; it took three years to sell, but sell it did, much to my surprise.
And there you have the modern book buying conundrum. Obscure books are infinitely easier to find if you are an online buyer and you know what you are looking for. (And I’m sure that sooner or later, someone, somewhere in the world will come looking for “Mathematical Process Models In Iron And Steelmaking”.) But if you can’t get to a book shop, the serendipity of not knowing what you are looking for but discovering it on a bookseller’s shelves is lost. How else would you discover that “Moon Walking For Dentists” is available? It is, by the way: £15 if you’re interested.