Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Big Library Book Sale

This weekend our local county library system held their annual book sale.  Some of the books have been damaged by borrowers, some have been weeded out.  Given the volume of books they had out, I'm going to guess that most of the books that get donated to the library end up at the annual sale as well.

In past years they have held the sale at empty grocery stores where books have been both laid out on wooden folding tables and stuffed into grocery aisle shelves.  This year they held it at the NC State Fairgrounds in the 50,000 square foot Exposition Center.  The photo above shows roughly half of the building, giving you an idea of not only how big that is but how many books it takes to fill a space that big and still leave (barely) enough room for people.

The library book sale is held over a long weekend.  Friday (and, this year, Thursday night) hardbacks are $4/each, paperbacks are $2/each.  On Saturday, the prices get cut in half: hardbacks are $2/each, paperbacks are a dollar.  On Sunday, the last day of the sale, a standard Baker & Taylor book box full of books is $5, a bag of books is $2.

Books are segregated into broad categories: General Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Reference, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, Childrens, Cookbooks, Romance, Text Books, etc.

My wonderful wife is a trooper -- she went Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I only managed Saturday and Sunday.

The steady improvement my back is showing means I no longer feel like my spine might snap in half at the waist.  I'm still overly stiff and sore, however, and standing/walking for too long tends to aggravate it.    Not too surprisingly, I spent some time each day on the sidelines, leaning my back up against a concrete wall.

I spent some of that time looking at what was going on around me.  There were hundreds of people in the building all day long.  More importantly there were people of all ages, from senior citizens to young kids eagerly grabbing onto books featuring licensed cartoon characters.  Now, I know part of the draw for this crowd was cheap books (with an emphasis on cheap ) but I still felt that the steady influx of people and the number of people willing to stand in the long checkout lines on Saturday was a sign that print book sales are still a long way from being dead.  I suspect the sensory experience of holding a physical book in your hand and turning the pages still has a strong and lasting appeal.

Another thought I had, looking at row after row after row of books laid out on tables, spine up, often five or six books across, was that maybe writing a book and getting it published isn't such a special thing after all.  

That mildly depressing thought was followed quickly by another one: "Being remaindered is one thing, but to have your book be one of the anonymous thousands of books not even being picked up and considered -- even as one of a boxful of books for five bucks -- must be pretty awful."

We ended up with a lot of new cookbooks and, for my wonderful wife, several good history books.  Her biggest score was in finding a copy of the coffee table art book her parents had when she was a child -- a book she's wanted for decades.  And she got it for $2.00.

I scoured the children's tables both days, trying not to pay attention to the suspicious or downright hostile looks some of the kids and parents. (almost all women -- honestly, folks, I write for kids!  I'm not a pervert who's going to ask if your little girl would help me find my lost puppy!)  Those tables were filled with either truly awful picture books and/or YA Teen books aimed at the girls who were giving me dirty looks.  

We now have four boxes of books spread across our kitchen and living room.  Acquiring books isn't much of a problem.  Finding places to put them all, not that's an ongoing problem.

-- Tom