Profiteering in Books ?!

The well for blog post topics remains dry, but last night I encountered something (book related) that got the blood up. It has to do with drop shipping.

I've joked with friends about Abebooks searches that turn up dozens of copies of a book, all priced within the market's prevailing range, except for one seller who is charging a ridiculous amount, like by a factor of 10 or 20 times more. At first I thought this was a clueless amateur. But it isn't: it's always a drop shipper.

Last night I was doing some digging into specialists in modern photography, and this listing from Book Deals showed up. I collect books about printing, and probably know all of the 20th century titles that would be considered uncommon (i.e. expensive). I've never heard of this book or the author. At that price, this must be a pretty kool book. (To add intrigue, this is the only copy that shows up on Abebooks, but you'll see why in a minute...) An original copy of Lewis Allen's Printing With the Handpress lists around $2,000, and it may be the most desirable 20th century book about letterpress, so this First Steps... must be seven times more desirable!

I searched the author and found him in the UK, a semi-retired commercial printer. He wrote First Steps... with the goal of keeping letterpress alive & vital. You can buy a copy of the book from him for $15.

Again: you can buy a copy of the book for $15. The callous heels at Book Deals know that it only takes one person who's too busy or ditsy to shop around, for their $14,111 listing to make a killing. Especially when they apply the model to hundreds of titles (thousands? I couldn't stomach looking long enough to count...): this links to a list of their offered books in descending price. That first title - Stevens' How to Prepare a Feasibility Study - can be had (ex-library) for $179. The next copy online seems to be offered by another drop shipper, but they're only asking $1,700. Gold, Ghost Towns & Grizzlies can be quickly found for $45. And it goes on.

 The worst part is, Book Deals isn't even sitting on a stock of books. That's how drop shipping works: they get your order & then go purchase the cheapest copy they can find & send it to you, pocketing the difference ($15,027 in the case of Ghost Towns...). NPR's podcast Planet Money did an excellent episode on all this. Note the part where the selling platforms wash their hands of the whole question.

SO, if you're shopping for books online, beware of sellers who have multiple results with the same (usually brief) product description. Do a quick search of the bookseller: if nothing (besides Abebooks) comes up, they may well be a drop shipper. Deal with real booksellers who actually have books on shelves, even if it costs a few dollars more. We need book stores, the service will always be better, and you'll be fighting against evil.


On Land

About eight years ago I was invited by the proprietors of a new, small press to contribute a text for a series of broadsides they wanted to print. The subject was Your connection to the land. They were (are) sweet people and I was flattered to be asked, but the topic is exactly the kind of thing that does not resonate with me. The other contributors wrote earnest odes to dirt etc etc; above is what I came up with. It is, if nothing else, entirely honest & genuine. Dug out recently because someone around here is studying gravity & related forces.


I read this line in a recent magazine article about a guy who has begun picking up abandoned books from New York City sidewalks: "They no longer had any exchange value..." It's not news, but it is jarring to have it stated so clinically.


Another & another & another...

Sorry about the lack of posts lately, but there just isn't much to say about binding once you're into it, until you can say Done. And it's taking longer than I'd wanted, which means I don't have time to trawl around for interesting post content. Up there's a picture of how the bench looks today, and below are some recent experiments for the paper to be used binding the Collector's edition (which I hope to start next week, which means I have to finish the Deluxe ones this week...). Hope someone out there's having fun.

p.s. Harold, Jane & Brad will be performing Aurora Teardrops at Harrison House in Joshua Tree on October 29!



Churning through binding copies of Aurora Teardrops, despite constant distractions around here (the most recent, & most distracting of all, is shown at bottom; wasn't my idea). It's a little difficult to get a photo that shows off the interplay of the Deluxe binding's acrylic boards and the vellum prints beneath, but here are a couple of attempts.

Despite being a basic case binding, there are some fussy aspects that have made the first few copies slow work. It's all to do with how acrylic boards are attached to the Japanese paper spine, and then how the textblock is attached to the case (since there isn't a traditional pastedown). Everything hinges on the hinge.

Although I won't be doing the Collector's copies until after the Deluxe, I did one up just to ensure my plan was correct. The cover paper is Guarro laid decorated with a sort-of "direct marbling" technique: a sheet is soaked in water, and then oil paint is dripped on to the surface, diffusing above the water. The sheet is dried, soaked again, and a second application (different color) is added, and then again for a third color. Thus, each copy will be cased in a unique sheet.

Each of the Deluxe copies includes an original watercolor frontis by Jane Maru (with a sewn-in tissue guard). The frontis in the Collector's copies will be one of the two cover prints used in the Deluxe copies (i.e. either the front or rear print, it'll be a coin toss which you get).

The copies shown here haven't had their spine labels added yet. Also, the Deluxe copy will be protected in a slipcase covered in a lovely green Guarro sheet. The first batch should be going out by the end of this week. 


HM's new VP Security & Assoc. Dir. Fun. (Nothing's worse than when you have to hire family...)


Aurora Teardrops A Thru Z

Today I picked up what I'm calling the limitation page for the deluxe copies of Aurora Teardrops, from calligrapher Martin Jackson. (This page appears at the front of the book, stating the edition size & the copy's letter within the edition, above the signatures of Harold Budd, Jane Maru & David Sylvian. There also is a colophon, at the back of the book, with the usual details about printing, materials, etc.) Martin is THE calligrapher in western Canada, has been for ages. He previously helped HM on the deluxe copies of Good & Evil in the Garden (he did the titles on the spines of the 10 vellum-bound deluxe copies), and also on Charles van Sandwyk's The Mouse & The Lizard (titles and initial letters). The scope and depth of his talent are incredible, plus he's a prince of a guy. Having him edition the deluxe copies of Aurora Teardrops is just the finishing touch they needed.


Take It Easy

It's Labor Day, I shouldn't have to be posting. But here are two things...

The HM studio isn't the only magical place in this neighborhood: a sign found on a new building a few blocks down the street...

Went for a walk in a nearby (non-magical) neighborhood, found this outside someone's house. A perfectly good, working rock, just being given away.

Come back tomorrow, I'll have something kool from Aurora Teardrops to show.


Bronze is OK

Been experimenting with decorated papers for binding the Collector's issue of Aurora Teardrops. The one below is getting close (this is image is not very accurate, colorwise). Made with the same bronze ink used in the book. I like the one above but can't recreate it. No clue what was going on there.

Some other experiments below. The Deluxe issue of Aurora Teardrops is now fully subscribed, and about two-thirds of the Collector's is taken up. That doesn't mean you can't get a copy: HM distributes its books through professional booksellers, and that's where most copies are going. If you want a copy of either version, contact one of these booksellers: Books Tell You Why, Vamp & Tramp, or Bromer Booksellers.

Pretty much into the grind of binding copies now. Still have hundreds of prints to trim down; I do them in batches, to preserve fingers & sanity. Not much to say about binding once you're into it: just like printing, grinding out sausages.


Couple of interesting book stories this past week. The planned publication of a facsimile of the Voynich Manuscript got lots of press. The "English" option on the site of the publisher (Siloe) isn't terribly useful, and the link to information about the facsimile just throws up a low-rez PDF, so I couldn't find the kind of production and material information I was looking for. Many of the mainstream reports parroted this line about the book being printed on a paper developed by Siloe: "Made from a thick paste, the paper will be treated so that the final product has the stiff feel of the Voynich vellum." I guess pulp could be described as a thick paste, and Reg Lissel made beautiful "vellum" paper by over-beating abaca fiber. Maybe they're referring to the surface size being applied to sheets? Dunno.

Other bit of news that got lots of coverage in these parts: Special Collections at the University of British Columbia acquired a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer. That, plus the large Morris/Kelmscott collection (sans Chaucer) acquired by Simon Fraser University a few years ago, should keep students of Morris et al happy & busy. Just don't feel the need to revive his revival (neither the Chaucer nor any Kelmscott book is the most beautiful book ever printed). Congrats to Rare Books head Katherine Kalsbeek. She's kool (and not just because she's been a supporter of HM).

In case you haven't already heard, Jason Dewinetz is working on a book showing/playing with the various types he has at Greenboathouse Press, including many that he's been casting himself with Jim Rimmer's old equipment. I confess that this is the first new "press" book I've encountered in some long time that's caught my interest, and I look forward to getting my copy. The deluxe issue is sold out, but he still has some of the regulars unreserved. Due before the end of the year. Recommended.