The fair is over. I made some money. I needed it.
What else is new?
Well, for one thing, Boston's hotels have uniformly adopted a new ripoff algorithm. The moment room demand reaches a tipping point, rack rates go into overdrive. Boston was crawling with rhumatologists on book fair weekend, and demand for rooms was at an all time high.
|A couple of prominent rheumatologists, doing what rheumatologists do|
These Docs don't care what they pay – they're doctors. But little people like us will suffer. I'm on the book fair committee and when our promoter, the capable Betty Fulton, announced that she'd gotten us a block rate deal at $279 per night, I was outraged. “I'll find a better rate,” I fumed, “if I have to check every hotel in Boston!” Which I did, only to find out $279 was the lowest rate available. Fortunately, while I was sputtering, my buddy John Thomson of Bartleby's Books, was working the Internet. He found us a nice little B&B not far from the Hynes, which he and his wife and me and mine enjoyed for $179 a night. Take that, chain hotels!
The line on opening night was as long as I've ever seen it, and the fair seemed busy all three days.
|Nicole Reiss presides over the annual scrum at the opening of the Brattle Book Shop booth|
As usual, I got conflicting reports about business. Some folks did well; some were disappointed. I did not talk to anyone who had a really terrible fair. Maybe if you have a really terrible fair you don't talk about it.
The one new wrinkle at this year's event was the “Discovery” feature forwarded by Julie Roper of Commonwealth Promotion. This was a program in which dealers agreed to bring a number of books priced under $100. Signing up for the Discovery program got you a notice in the book fair program, a special logo next to your company name,
and a “Discovery” sign to show interested parties where the cheap stuff was hiding.
The idea, of course, was to get young folks interested in the collecting game, and results, as was the case with income reports, were mixed. One fellow around the corner from me sold his only Discovery book to a 65 year old lady. Another colleague, with a booth full of spectacular rarities, reported no Discovery inquiries. Youngsters were probably intimidated by the bibliographic splendor. I know I was. Yet another dealer marked all her Discovery books with yellow slips of paper – but sold not a one. Despite mixed results nearly everyone I spoke with approved of the idea – at least in theory - and agreed we should keep trying. Julie Roper told me she went a little easy on the publicity this year because she wasn't sure the program would meet with a positive reception. Well, it did, Julie. And I hope other ABAA and regional fairs develop the idea, and continue to promote it.
Meanwhile, across town, the “Shadow Show” brought in its usual early morning throng.
And I got more uniformly positive reports from dealers there than I did from dealers at the big show. The crowd seemed voracious, and the buying was good.
The most interesting thing I bought this weekend came from the Shadow Show.
It's one volume in a series of six, published circa 1865, designed to inform Japanese people about the lives of Westerners. A dozen scenes from European and American cultures are depicted in wood engravings in that lovely Japanese style, with brief captions. The interesting thing about this pamphlet is that each scene is also described in English – pigeon English – with quaint results.
Bound in worn blue paper wrappers with title label in Japanese. Text and illustrations lightly tanned, but clean. $1250