Sunday, April 19, 2009

What If They Gave a Friends of the Library Sale....

And nobody came?

The Houston Public Library FOL book sale was this weekend, with Friday being the members night. I was on the fence about going since I knew HPL sells to Better World Books and since I bought a grand total of 1 book last year.

To go or not to go…that was the question.

I got an unexpected donation of $100 to buy books for my school library – the FOL sale advertised that their “I Can Read” books would be only $1 each and I knew from past purchases that many would be like new. So that cinched it. Nasty weather was in the forecast and I had no desire after a long day at work to stand in line in the rain or deal with the opening bell mosh pit so I planned to arrive when the doors opened. It was sprinkling so I splurge on the underground parking. The Heavens opened shortly after my 4:15 arrival for a sale that started at 4:30.

There was NO LINE!

There could not have been more than 50 – 75 people (the sale is at the convention center) standing around waiting for the gates to open. Everyone was really laid back and in a good mood. The starting gun went off and there was no reenactment of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Only a couple of people ran, nobody pushed or shoved or tripped anyone. No hording, no sweep the tables, no grabbing. I had the art books all to myself. The prices were much lower than last year – still very spendy for a library sale but bearable. The bulk of the non fiction is individually priced - $2 -$10.

I didn’t see any of the regular dealers but it’s been a long time since I’ve attended an FOL sale. There were other scanners, many of which were , judging from what they picked up newbies or penny book sellers. I ran into the dealer who runs the Texas version of BetterWorldBooks and he said quite a few dealers (esp. the out of town ones) skipped the sale this year because it was so bad last year. He said he lost money at last years sale and so far he was doing well.

I’d planned to buy a stack of “I Can Read” books and leave – and instead I was there for 4 hours. I bought 3 boxes of books for $240 (told you it was pricy), the bulk of which are art books cause that’s where I went first. I was also dead – I was at work by 6:45 and I was on my feet for the bulk of the day. I dragged into the house at 9pm and collapsed.

The FOL Sale chairperson was doing crowd control (not that there was any) at checkout & I commented on how empty the place was. She agreed and said they didn’t expect as many people as last year because they had fewer books (true) but that she was very surprised at the low turnout. I told her the prices were way more reasonable this year and she said, yes they realized they had overpriced and that they made changes. She confirmed that many of the regular dealers were not in attendance.

Texas Better World was the one who told me HPL is cherry picking books to send to Better World and I believe him. I found good inventory but just about every book was a “punch in the number” rather than scan the number. The scannable books were for the most part, worthless for resale. Texas Better World agreed with my assessment.

The rain on Saturday was way worse than Friday and I doubt they had many shoppers. There should be some good pickings at bag day on Sunday
Maybe it’s time to re-think FOL sales.


Adam Bertram said...

I also attended a FOL sale this weekend. It was a very small one though. The good thing about small FOL sales is that even though the selection is smaller, there is virtually no competition and usually a good supply of $$$ books. I managed to pick up about 75 books for a grand total of $26. Gotta love the paperback for .25 and the hardbacks for .50. I also usually ask to take the leftovers. Even though they have been picked over, there is ALWAYS a few great treasures in the lot and also a few dozen listable books.

Adam Bertram

The LIbrary Lady said...

It could be smaller because the dealers know they are sending stuff to Better World and because their prices are high.

We send stuff to Better World too, but it's mostly reference books and other serious works that won't sell as well at our book sale.

And our last book sale was the biggest moneymaker we've ever had. If anything, we had more people than usual!