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 Book Shops > After the Gold Rush

After the Gold Rush

'By mid 1849, the easy gold was gone - but the 49ers kept coming. There was still gold in the riverbeds, but it was getting harder and harder to find. A typical miner spent 10 hours a day knee-deep in ice cold water, digging, sifting, and washing. It was backbreaking labour that yielded less and less'.

At a party the other night I found myself, for the fifth time, trying to patiently answer questions about internet bookselling. I'm afraid I failed and offended my female questioner by telling her that I just didn't have the energy.

OK, so it's partly my own fault for getting myself in the press with a story about a locally important book I have for sale. If what they wanted to talk about had been the book I could have happily bored all my questioners to death, because it's still a real pulse-racer for me. But of course they weren't.

What everybody wanted to know was 'how's business', by which they meant: 'tell me how much money you're making on the internet'. Absolutely everyone it seems now believes that there is bookselling gold to be made online.

It's just such a bummer to say for the umpteenth time, it used to be a bit like that but ... And there I am in the paper with this big book and everyone thinks I'm making a fortune.

I was forcefully reminded about how easy it used to be when I recently bought one of the few classic 'internet' books that has remained truly scarce and retained it's justifiably high price. Fifteen years ago it was remaindered and we could hardly give it away. I only discovered that it had become desirable when unearthed copies in a forgotten corner of our basement sold instantly on the internet. Every time I sold a copy, I doubled the price.

The only explanation for such a 'dog' becoming so desirable has to be that it sold so badly that the majority of the print run was pulped. I have since watched a number of titles follow the same trajectory, but of course, they are now the exception rather than the rule.

Mike Goodenough
26.09.05

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