I built my bookshelves with cinder block and plywood. I like the aesthetics, it’s both rustic and practical, and it takes up less space than a bookshelf. A number of the visitors commented on the shelves, they took it with them, along with the books in their hands. That’s what bookstores do. They stick with you, because they provide more than what you leave with in your bag, they provide something that only a bookstore can, and it’s difficult to explain, but people still try. I have never met anyone who would argue that, and still I have had the conversation many times regarding books vs eBooks.
Text sharing has been available online since 1971, at the time your option was The Declaration of Independence. You could download, and read it over the ARPAnet. In 1987 the first HyperText Books was released via Floppy disc, it was titled Afternoon, and was written by Michael Joyce. In 1993 Biblobytes launched the first website for book sales on the internet. Amazon was launched in 1995. And in 1999 Simon&Schuster created the imprint iBooks, and was the first publisher to publish titles in both eBook and print formats. In 2004 Sony released the Ectaco jetBook color, it was the first eReader on the market. And, in 2007 (The same year the first iPhone was released) Amazon releases the first Kindle, which as we all remember—or most of us remember… some of us? There are people that remember—changed the way that people read, and it began to change the industry, and created quite a scare for a number of years. Bookstores started going out of business, both small independently owned bookstores, and larger corporate stores (such as Borders Books, Music & Café), Barnes&Noble created their own eBook, the NOOK, which likely contributed to their success, or at least non-failure during this time.
The first translation of Wardrobe Books was developed inside of a closet on the second floor of a multi-vendor antique store on Main Street in Boerne, Texas. I hauled cinder blocks, two at a time up the stairs, and into the closet at the end of the hall. I did the same with several intentionally cut plywood boards, and built bookshelves along the three walls—as high as was reasonable, because a latter wouldn’t be realistic in the setting. Afterwards I hauled box, after box, after box, after box full of books. I had spent time in the days prior going through the many different boxes that I had, and deciding on which would be best to display on the limited space. I organized, and alphabetized, and put em’ all on the shelf. I sat there staring at this tiny cubicle, a closet, a wardrobe with bookshelves, and books and I felt proud. It didn’t matter to me that three people, cramped could stand in the room. What mattered to me was that for years I had spent countless hours collecting books, organizing books, listening books online (one book at-a-time), selling books, inventing a business plan, writing a business plan, and designing a bookstore, and now, for the first time I was looking at the foundations of that project. This cubicle, this closet, this wardrobe was the foundation of CommuniTea Books.
Bookstores across the country continued to close. A few stayed open, the lucky few, the few that had been known, and remembered for years: Shakespeare & Company, The Strand, Powell’s, Changing Hands, Tattered Cover, Sam Weller’s, Moe’s, Books Inc., City Lights, Booked Up, Book Soup, Elliot Bay, Joseph-Beth, Book People, and a few others. The Kindle sold out, in 2007, within five-and-a-half hours. And everybody knew that books, that real, hardcopy, printed books were a thing of the past. Everybody knew that it was just a matter of time. Because, the eReader is, in fact, a better way to both store, and read books. Some eReader’s struggled with the lighting, the screen would hurt people’s eyes if they looked at it too long, and there were some that couldn’t look at it all. eReader designers designed, and redesigned, and they continue to. And, it was cheaper. A hardback book would cost you anywhere between $23 and $30 but the same book, as an eBook would only cost you $4-5. Until publishers got wise, and realized that the author wasn’t getting their due, and the eBook prices were raised. Maybe that was the issue… perhaps if publishers released books as eBooks but at the same price as print right off the bat people wouldn’t have complained, or had an issue with it, or maybe the pricing of the books didn’t have anything to with it at all, because, people did, after all, return to buying a cloth book for $30.
I had the opportunity after three months in the closet to relocate Wardrobe Books into a larger room, on the same floor, in the same building, and just around the corner. I still had dozens and dozens of boxes sitting at home. So I bought more cinder block, and I cut more plywood, and I hauled the cinder block, two at a time, up the stairs, followed by the plywood shelves, and I built more, and longer shelves. I browsed the boxes of books I had for right titles, because I still wouldn’t have enough room for all my books even in this larger space. And then I organized, and I alphabetized and put em’ all on the shelf. And I would look at the store, and how I was starting to see my vision of CommuniTea Books come into focus. I gave tea away. I had an electric hot pot that boiled water, I put out varying types of teas, and paper cups, and lids, and I watched as people browsed, and enjoyed themselves. Girls would come in! One, I remember, in particular, as she walked up the stairs I knew that she was headed to CommuniTea Books—because there were other vendors upstairs after all—she was fairly small, with short dark hair. I asked her if I could help with anything, and she asked for some book recommendations. Somewhere in the conversation I found the opportunity to, you know, brag-a-little, “This is my shop.” I said. “I know.” She responded. I’d never seen this girl before, but she knew me because of Wardrobe Books. It was then that I realized that I AM Wardrobe Books, I AM CommuniTea Books, and it was an interesting, and enlightening moment, as well as another proud moment.
And then something happened that nobody expected. Book sales began to rise, while eBook sales leveled off. Stanford University did I study, shortly after, and they found that without reason people started buying both eBooks and print, and by that I mean that they would buy the same title in both formats. What would encourage someone to do that, if not for the sake of touching a book, of visiting a bookstore? Within two years print books were outselling eBooks! And that made no sense, to anyone. Publishers started printing large quantities of books again, and what we saw, especially in 2012 was a massive resurgence of bookstores—of used bookstores. Throughout the United States Independently owned bookstores started opening up again, and like clock-work, every year print books experienced an increase in sales, eBooks had leveled off, and used bookstores were continuing to pop-up. The consumer, the people, they refused to let books go. And within a matter a few short years the market began to reflect that. Texas, for one reason or another, has remained behind the curve on that fact, don’t ask me why. Texan’s are buying books, but people have not yet accepted that used bookstores are reemerging. Perhaps it’s because Half Price Books has always been there, maybe Texas never actually experienced the fall, at least practically. Because intellectually, conversationally, Texan’s have distanced themselves from certain seemingly outdated industry’s while simultaneously grasping desperately on to others. How are we, really, to explain the behaviors of people?
I had just began the process of relocated Wardrobe Books for the second time when I got word that the building was being sold, or that it had been sold (Nobody really knew), and everybody was starting to panic, there was tension, and you could feel it in the air. The vendors were asked to leave before I had the opportunity to make the move directly, but in some ways it worked out better because the process became much more exhausting, and longer than I had expected. I was maintaining Wardrobe Books on my own, while I was trying to expand, to develop, to relocate, so, though the process has been long, it was a blessing in disguise. Now I look around my house, and read the comments and messages on my posts, and I feel proud that I created something that people enjoy, something that brings people together, and something that, in some ways, reconnects us to our roots.
Imagine walking up to a bookstore: there is a patio out front, three or four tables, with umbrellas, sitting in one a young woman with a book in her hand, there’s a notebook on the table next to her—she takes it with her, everywhere she goes—a ceramic cup of tea, not uniform, it’s unique, the closer you look it might seem unusual even, in fact everyone outside, sitting on the tables has a different ceramic cup, she looks up a moment, at you, but not, she’s looking through you, she had read something that’s intrigued her, you can see it in her eyes, her red hair—you only just noticed—catches the sunlight drifting from behind the Royal blue—or Prussian blue, even—building with cream trim, you realize then that she’s not looking at you, she’s looking through you, and your attention is redirected to an older couple walking slowly past you with paper cups, and plastic lids, a steam quickly rises from an opening in the lid. There’s a sign, along the sidewalk, the wind has caught it, and it’s swaying back, and forth, CommuniTea Books, the sign reads. A picture of an open book with the pages spread at the center, and the outline of a teacup resting on the pages. BOOKSTORE, a rusted metal sign reads, it’s resting on the roof, above the porch.
At the door you notice, in the window to your right, on display several books: some are old, others just look cool, or have that unique collectible feel. You notice a First Printing of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, another First Printing, this one is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Oh, is that who wrote that, I always seem to forget that, you think to yourself.
There’s a couple handfuls of an assortment of children’s books, art books, cooking, and books that you didn’t make heads-or-tails of. The swing on the porch to your left is caught in the wind, it’s empty, and you scan the porch—taking it all in.
As you open the door there are two small square tables in front of you, but not directly, the tables create the illusion of a hallway, at the center of the store leading towards the back door. On your right a small room with three small round tables, one is empty. A man in formal wear, his jacket is hugging his chair, he has a computer in front of him, and there’s a teapot behind it, a ceramic mug on the table--his right handed, you think. Surrounding the room, from floor-to-ceiling, are bookshelves, they have been built into the walls. The room to the left is much larger, and again, surrounded with bookshelves—floor-to-ceiling. Five or six tables rest at the center of the room, most are full. People are reading, studying, talking, and almost all of them are drinking tea.
The two small square tables in front of you are staked, and displayed with books, they look new, and without checking the title you take one and look for a mark: a small red dot, or a black line on either the top or bottom of the pages, near the spine. You find one, Remainder books. As you put the book back on the table you try to remember where you first heard about remainders. You browse the titles on the tables, you love the prices of remainder books, because they’re all brand new, but only $3-5 each. You scan the store, creating a mental image, a panoramic reminder. There are two large, dinner tables in the ‘hallway’ ahead of you, between you and the back door. They too are stacked, and displayed with remainder books. All the books on the shelves are used. The remainders are on tables, while the new books are all located to your left, in the large room where the art, photography, and cooking books are also found.
You stand in line on the opposite end of the large room to your left, the tea menu in your hand is almost overwhelming, you scanned each item, at first looking for something appealing, and then only to count the choices, you stop counting and start making some kind of deduction--more than 80!, you think. There are Black Teas, Green, Herbal, Japanese, Flower, Middle Eastern, Mate, Chinese, Matcha, Russian, Chai, White, Infused, Oolong, Pu Erh, Rooibos, and Ayurvedic, as well as a small selection of coffees, and smoothies, and there tea smoothies, even. You can’t decide between a Sweet Orange Mate Smoothie and an Aged Pu-erh, aged 25 years.
This isn’t our typical bookstore—you think.
As you sip on your tea you notice, for the first time, stacks of books under the tables, and in corners, there are standalone bookshelves in one of the rooms with books stacked on top, a pair of French doors are propped open letting the air in from the side patio, outside. While your browsing leads you to a small set of stairs leading upwards, inside is the children’s department. Several kids are huddled together in a circle, one of them appears to be reading to the others, in the opposite corner a mother is reading to her two small kids. A papier-mâché tree is built in to what looks like was once a closet, and a couple kids are playing while another sits inside, on the second level, reading to himself. The area of the children’s section astonishes you, at first. You remember, of course, that this small Hill Country town is particularized by its schools.
While you’re browsing the shelves, in Fiction/Literature, you happen upon the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, and are stunned, you had almost forgotten, because you haven’t seen this book in years. Removing the book from the shelf you put it in your hand next to High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, A Piece of My Heart by Richard Ford, and The Sea by John Banville. Stunned by your find you take another lap around the store skimming Non-Fiction: History, Science, Psychology, Business, Religion, Reference, the books on consignment, and the books by local authors.
As you make your way back to the register you notice, for the first time, the television in the upper corners of the two front rooms, one is showing a TED Talk: Sir Ken Robinson is talking about education, you’ve seen that talk, a few times, the other television is showing a documentary: I AM written and directed by Tom Shadyac. There’s no sound but you notice that a few of the patrons have identical headphones on and are looking up at the screens. That’s cool, you think, you must be able to rent headphones to watch, and to listen!
You pay for your books, ask for a little more hot water, and head for the front door. Instead of walking back towards the street you stop, and sit on the swing, still empty, on the porch to your right. Sitting you sip, again, on your tea, and open Richard Ford’s A Piece of My Heart. You haven’t read it. It’s Ford’s first book, and is otherwise nearly impossible to find.
The red head is still sitting at a table on the patio, as you sip at your tea, you watch her a moment, and she looks up, and through someone standing at the entrance whom is creating a panoramic memory of the facade before walking towards the front door of CommuniTea Books.
Boerne, Texas is changing; dramatically. There are mixed feelings regarding our infrastructure, the exponential growth, and a new developing identity, here in the community. As a member of a private Facebook group, Boerne Area Informed Citizens, I am updated constantly, and not necessarily about the value of the changes themselves, and how the dynamic of the city, of the community, might benefit, but rather about the feelings of the people that live here.
When I first moved to Boerne I was 9. This was back in 93’, I started school at Curington Elementary, and I was in the 3rd grade. It was interesting because on my first day I walked in to class about five minutes after another new student, David. Of course we became friends, and as we [all] grew up, it was fascinating watching things change—but it was a normal change, nothing spectacular. I spent two years at Curington before being transferred to the brand new elementary school that was closer to my home, Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary. I started the 5th grade there, the very first 5th grade class every at Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary School. After our 6th grade graduation we all went to Boerne Middle School. Now, in Boerne, there are two Middle Schools—Boerne Middle School North, and Boerne Middle School South—the original Middle School is ‘North.’ The school that I attended (and, in point of fact, Boerne Middle School (North) was once Boerne High School). After three years at Boerne Middle School we went to Boerne High School, at the time it was the only one; now, there are two: Boerne High School and Samuel V. Champion High School. Sam Champion was my freshman and sophomore high school principle. After I graduated high school I attended university at The University of Texas at San Antonio, for a few years. I majored in Psychology. I got fed up with the immediate truths of practicing Psychology: of medications, withdrawals, dependencies, and the fact that people were more interested in being medicated then dedicating time to understanding themselves, and learning how to deal with, or even solve their issues. And I got fed up with the education system in-, and of itself. I packed up my car, and I drove far-far away.
Though I wasn’t born here (in Boerne), and though I moved here in 93’, my family has had a presence in Boerne since the early 70’s, and we’ve been a prominent, and fairly important contemporary Boerne family ever sense. My grandfather, Thomas Bonner. Many people would remember him as the city inspector for many years in the 80’s, while he, and my grandmother, his wife: Mildred Bonner, would remain active members of the community. My grandmother was one of the founding members, along with the late Marie Hicks—the founder, and owner of The Hill Country Weekly, a newspaper that I wrote for-for a time—of Boerne’s Hill Country Women in Business. My father, Tom and Mildred’s youngest, went to UT, where he and my mother met, and later joined the Air Force, hence the likely reason I wasn’t born in San Antonio, or even in Texas. I was born on a military base in Sacramento, California. And we moved around considerably. My dad retired from the Air Force, and we moved to Boerne to help care for my grandmother who was now suffering from ALS.
The ten years that I was away I experienced, and learned a great deal.
I came back to a Boerne that was nearly unrecognizable. A few years prior the country caught wind of the fact that Boerne not only had one of the best, and continuously up-, and coming education departments in the country, but it was beautiful as well, and being in the heart of Texas, a state that maintains one of the best economy’s in The United States, I suppose you would, and maybe have, made the same choice. 3,000 families are moving to Boerne every year. Kendall County—of which Boerne is the largest city—is the 2nd fastest growing county in The United States.
So, as you can imagine, 'old timers', and long-time Boerne families have had an issue with the changes that Boerne has experienced, as a result of growth. Bumper stickers reading “Boerne Texas Gone Forever” have been spotted on cars in, and around town. Bumper stickers, and the shadowing attitude inspired me to write an article for The Hill Country Weekly that I titled, “Boerne, Texas Gone Forever.” In which I suggest that our town is, and always has been a rare gem, and Boerne can only change, for the better, if we allow it to happen without our involvement. Change, and development are inevitable, but if we guide the changes, then our beloved Boerne can only be better.
When I first made it public that I was opening CommuniTea Books I got a lot of support and praise and excitement, and a little opposition. The entirety of the opposition came from members of the Friend of the Boerne Public Library. And that threw me, at first. Why would anyone who supports a library, and community, and reading, and education, be fearful of a bookstore? It didn’t make sense to me, especially considering how proud the people of Texas are of Freedom, Capitalism, and the Free Market Economy.
But, people fear change.
I’m writing this blog, for the people of Boerne. Those of you whom might be uncertain, or skeptical about the development of a bookstore in our community. The trope that CommuniTea Books, or any new business only exemplifies change, a change that you might not want. We have to welcome change, and we have to be ahead of it, and we have to guide it, it is our responsibility as members of our community.
…also there’s that idea that a used bookstore is a waste of space, or a “terrible idea this day in age.” It’s not, and I know that a lot of you will simply dismiss that, without understanding why, or paying attention to the changes, and the increase of print sales, and books in the market. The spread of used bookstores throughout The United States over the most recent five years, and the continual growth of said bookstores.
I want to ease your mind that I am a member of this community, my family is active in the community: my mother is an active member of Sunrise Rotary, she has been the president, at least once. I am from Boerne, I was educated here, I understand business, marketing, people, literature—the industry—I know how to bring Boerne the bookstore that it has always wanted, and deserved. I too have been to, and have been disappointed in, Boerne's original bookstore: Read All About It, and wasn’t at all surprised when it closed—though, of course I wish it hadn’t.
Our communities need to rally around themselves, the people: your neighbors, this an unusual time in our countries history, and I think, in part, it's because we are separating ourselves from community. Social Media and access to anybody, to everybody all over the world has made the world smaller, while our communities continue to get bigger (in the figurative sense, and the literal, I suppose, in Boerne's case), let's bring back community: sitting across from one another with a cup of tea, a book, an unopened book on the table while we discuss any number of things that had been on our minds, we are different, every one of us, and we can celebrate that in places like CommuniTea Books.
My dream building, for CommuniTea Books, is an old home, which has sense been used for various boutiques, and even restaurants. It’s vacant, at the moment. 438 S. Main Street Boerne, Texas 78006. This amazing building is right on Main Street, along the Hill Country Mile, and sits right next door to the new, kind of, counter culture dig in town, The Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., it’s a micro-brewery, and a farm-to-table restaurant, the owners, and the employees are all real down to earth, well-adjusted human beings—having them as neighbors would be phenomenal. Back to 438 S. Main Street, the current owners are looking to sell it, they had been renting it until recently, and now it sits empty, and waiting for a buyer.
Here’s the kicker: they want $999,000 for it!
I’m sure I can get them down to $600,000 but that’s still a little pricey. My current financial projections suggest I can have that paid off in 15 years, which, considering, really isn’t that bad. Still, the initial investment is a lot.
The patio space—front, back, and side—consists of almost half of the square footage of the building itself, while the parking, out back, is the same square footage. It’s the only building on Main Street with as much parking. And there’s a lot we can do with that. The plan is to build a stage that will sit on the rear end of the side patio and face the back parking lot, and there we can hold larger music, and author events—or some seating, and standing room only author events, inside.
The space has wooden floors, and a fireplace in the corner of one of the rooms—I say, “One of the rooms,” but really it’s an open floor plan separated, in part, by columns—A large room to the right, rear, and up a small staircase would be ideal for the children’s section, because, in Boerne, with the growing number of families, and already large percentage of children between 3 and 18 supporting a large, distinct children’s department is essential. And it’s the only enclosed room, besides the office, at the left, rear.
The office used to be a kitchen, when the space was a restaurant, and now, other than the vent, and a three piece sink, it’s an open room. In which I’ll build a false wall, and the first third will be the kitchen space for the teahouse, while the rear two thirds will be the office/storage, and trade space (where we go through customer books to determine whether we’ll take them, and whether we can offer store credit or cash).
The hallway in the center of the building is ideal for the quote/unquote “Nonfiction” section, well, at least, everything except the cooking and art/photography books. Cooking, art, and photography will be in the first room to the left as you enter the front door, along the side wall, near where the ‘bar’ will be, where the barista’s work.
Directly behind the bar is a very small room, it’s almost a foyer, though in the middle of the building; it is perfect for displaying our bulk teas, and being easily visible for our patrons.
The rest of the space, and the few interior standing bookshelves, which will stand in the ‘second’ room—the middle ‘room.’—on the right, as you enter through the front door, will be the ‘Fiction’ section. I’ll build bookshelves into the interior walls, which will allow for more space for people browsing, and, in the first two rooms—to the left and right of the entrance—tables, for people to sit, enjoy their tea, pastries, and read or converse.
The middle window on the far right side of the building is cracked, which is wonderful, because I had planned on putting French doors in that space (the same space with the standing interior bookshelves), replacing the windows. The side patio is immediately outside.
The single occupancy bathroom is on the right, in the rear, between the kids department and the Fiction section.
We’ll have to paint the exterior. And I’m thinking a medium to dark shade of blue, not sky blue, no, darker than sky blue. The window, and door panels will be a cream color.
The only thing about this building that I don’t like is the color of the patio. Which, of course, is an easy fix. For some reason one of the renters, or even the owner felt like it would be a decent idea to stain the cement patio a salmon color, with more pinkish overtones. It’s bizarre, and unfortunate. I had considered various colors for re-staining, but why not go for the typical ‘cement’ color, just kind of a dirty cream, I suppose.
In short it’s almost as if the building was built to house a bookstore and teahouse. Our logo will change for the space, and that’s fine, because I already have one designed. Part of the reason that I want to be on Main Street, other than the fact that it’s Main Street, and you know, being anywhere else in town all but eliminates the tourist market, which would be an incredibly stupid thing to do, is because it’s important for me to create a collaborative, a collective, I guess, of some kind with other businesses along Main Street: The Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., Bear Moon Bakery, The Shops at 153 Main, The Ye Kendall Inn, The Hungry Horse, Soda Pops Patio Grille and Bar, SWS, The Boerne Grill, The Dienger Trading Co., and various other boutiques and restaurants. Also 438 S. Main Street is about fifty yards from the river that flows through the center of Boerne.
Granted, for those of you scratching your heads, yes, we were on Main Street at one point before. CommuniTea Books used to be Wardrobe Books, and that facsimile of my bookstore was on the second floor of a multi-vendor building further north on Main Street, in Boerne. And it was a good spot, I was grateful to be there, however it did not suit the bookstore, nor the customer base for CommuniTea Books.
It’s not always easy to spot a first edition—or first printing, as it’s more traditional referred to—most people seem to think that if the words “First Edition” are anywhere on the title page then it must be so, but no that’s not always the case, and, unfortunately, with as many publishers as there are, and because most of them do it differently, unless you know what you’re looking for you’re probably not going to find it.
Fortunately, if the book is a stated “First Edition” it is, in every case, always a First Edition, but is it a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing, because, yes, some publishers like to throw people off by printing First Editions with a number of Printings, which, essentially, means absolutely nothing.
If you’re holding a book in your hand and somewhere on the title page it reads, First Edition, and there is no Number Line, or Letter Line, and it doesn’t specifically indicate whether it’s a later printing, than the book you’re holding is a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing. If the book is a stated First Edition and includes a number or letter line then you should disregard the stating, First Edition, and focus on the number or letter line.
A Number Line or Letter Line often look like a line of scattered seemingly nonsensical numbers, however, with most books if there is a number 1 or the letter A anywhere on the line then the book IS a First Printing. If there isn’t a number 1 or the letter A then you would look for the next lowest number or letter. For example: if the book is a stated First Edition with a number line and the lowest number you can find is a 3, then you’re looking at a First Edition/Third Printing. Or if the book is a stated First Edition with the letter E, it’s a First Edition/Fifth Printing.
Here’s where it can get kind of confusing…
Not every book is a stated First Edition, however if it still has a number, or letter line and the number 1, or letter A are listed than the book is still a First Edition/First Printing, unless otherwise stated. And it might otherwise be stated by saying, it’s a reprint, or an anniversary edition, or “this book has been printed x number of times.” With the case of anniversary editions that are stated, or otherwise First Printings, those books still might have market value. I have a VIKING printed Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that has a number line, with the number 1 indicated, and so it is a First Edition/First Printing Fiftieth Anniversary Edition and the values is still right around $50—imagine what a 1939 First Edition/First Printing of The Grapes of Wrath would be worth? (It goes for as high as $17,500, but I can get it for under a $1,000 so, you know, don’t be fooled).
It can get more confusing still…
Random House, sometimes, list at First Edition/First Printing by stating First Edition and leaving the number of THAT printing OFF of the number line. So if the book is a stated First Edition and the only number that’s missing is a 1, then that book is a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing. If the book is a stated First Edition, and the lowest number is a 4, then that book is a First Edition/Third Printing. But, again Random House doesn’t always do this.
There are other publishers, and books that were published before a certain year that will only include the date. The book will not necessarily have the words First Edition printed anywhere on the copyright page, there will be no number, or letter line, and your left with the words copyright 1955, only. In this case you either know what year the book was printed, or you find out what year that book was printed. More often than not if that particular book is not a true First Edition, it will have a list of copyright dates indicating later printings.
You know what another fun game is? Some authors had both the cloth and paperback copy of their books published at exactly the same time! Of course, the edition/printing will, likely, but stated on both the hardback and paperback copies, but nevertheless, for collectors, that’s an interesting things to come across. Thomas Pynchon, for example, printed Gravity’s Rainbow—“A screaming comes across the sky.”—in both formats, simultaneously.
I bet you didn’t know it could be so complicated!
Having a signed book, too, can be more complicated than you might have thought. A number of collectors prefer signed books that are, what the industry considers, Flat Signed, which means that the author, when signing, only wrote his/her signature. Most collectors prefer this to an inscription (but that, too, will depend on the book, and how difficult it is to find). Occasionally you’ll find a book signed by the author, and inscribed to someone, for example:
To: Roberto, Thanks For All the Wisdom
& Advice. You Are a great Friend.
Keep on Keeping On!
AKA. LA CHUPACABRA!
Above is the inscription in a copy of The Da Vinci Code I have, inscribed by Dan Brown. Personally I like to collect books inscribed by authors, if for no other reason that you come across something like THAT!
So, determining whether a book is a First Edition/First Printing can be exceptionally difficult, and confusing, and it takes a wealth of knowledge, and experience in order to do so, but having a general idea of what you’re looking at can be helpful, otherwise consult your local bookseller, or a collector.
How does CommuniTea Books price our books?
The vast majority of inventory at CommuniTea Books are used and remainder books. It might help, first, to establish what used and remainder books are. Used books, well, yes, they are exactly what you might expect them to be, used books are preowned books that we have acquired either through our community as trades or direct sales, off premises at estate sales, or inventory purchased at other used bookstores. Remainder books are new books printed in excess by publishers, and are being liquidated at vastly reduced prices, and resulting we are able to offer fantastic prices for.
We price our used books, generally, at 60% the list price. We do this, in part, because we are independently owned, and are in business to support ourselves, and our employees. Also we only accept used books that are in pristine condition, in most cases it would be very difficult to recognize the difference between one of our used books, and a new paperback. We will, on occasion, accept books that are below our typical standards of quality, and we might do this if the book is rare, or collectible, or under stocked in our store, in such cases we price accordingly; if the book is not rare or collectible, and is beneath our general standards of condition/quality, the price will reflect that. It might be important to note that our pricing standards are based on the example of a high quality trade paperback book. All used mass-market books in CommuniTea Books are priced well below 60% list price. Inasmuch our rare or collectible paperback books will be priced according to the market value of that particular rare or collectible book.
Half Price Books, which is located throughout 16 of 50 of the United States, the company started in Texas, and as advertised they price their standard quality trade paperback books at half of the listed price, unless it is a rare or collectible books, then it is priced—actually, I have no idea how Half Price Books decides the prices of rare or collectible books, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency or rhyme or reason to that decision. CommuniTea Books is slightly pricier than HPB because we offer a better quality product, considerably better service, and a more comfortable environment.
Yes, remainder books are new books, they have not been previously owned; these books were printed and shipped to a bookseller or distributer, and never sold. At which point the additional copies were bought by remainder outlets and are sold to various, usually independently owned bookstores, for considerably reduced prices. CommuniTea Books prices our remainder books at UNDER 50% the list price. And remainders do make up the second largest selection of our inventory at CommuniTea Books. They include classic, commercial, and obscure titles from almost any conceivable author.
We are grateful that we can offer these new books to our customers, and to our community, for less than is available almost anywhere, especially in, and around the San Antonio area, and Texas Hill Country (Boerne, Bandera, Bulverde, Comfort, Fair Oaks Ranch, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Leon Springs, New Braunfuls, and Spring Branch).
Rare & Collectible Books:
Rare and Collectible books are books that are, obviously, difficult to come by, or have been printed in low numbers (First or Early Editions/Printings), and/or have been signed. The market creates a demand for these books, and therefore the value is increased, and the market is willing to pay. The value of these books is decided, also, by the market. CommuniTea Books researches the value of like or similar books that are considered rare or collectible because they are hard to find, they are an early edition/printing, and/or they have been signed, and we price them as low as the market suggests. Some booksellers involved in rare and collectible bookselling will sell at average or higher than the market suggests, it is important for us to get the book in the hands of someone who will appreciate it, and therefore we want to make it as accessible as possible for our customers.
Also, being a collector, I have a personal appreciate for precious literature, and would like to see that appreciation, and love shared, and continued by our community, by people.
With that said, we have collectible books priced as little as $5-10 and upwards to over $1,000. One of the most interesting things about books is that you could hold something in your hand, and never know the value of what you have, and, at the same time, hold something in your hand and over-estimate the value of what you have. An old book, just because it is old, does not necessarily mean that it holds value, and more often than not, it doesn’t. I have seen antique stores, and bookstores, over-price antiquarian books simply because they’re old. People will stamp a price of $20 on it, when it could be worth next to nothing—$1, 2, 3, or less—in that particular instance what gave that book value was nothing more than not knowing what it was, and ‘you’re’ willingness to pay for it. And, if that book maintains a sentimental value to you, at home, on your shelf, then great I’m not going to challenge or disagree with you, but if you could have found the same book on Amazon for pennies, or if no one else on the planet gives that particular book value, and that’s what you’re interested in, you probably should have invested that money in a comparably priced book on my shelf at CommuniTea Books—because we definitely, always do our research. We know what we have, we know what you have—you know, if you share it with us—and we do it because we love it, and we love sharing.
Harry Potter: if you have a first printing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and/or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban than you have something special, what you have is rare, and collectible and they have a monetized value. However, first editions after the first three books are, essentially, worthless. Don’t get me wrong having first printings of all 7 books is really cool, and is an awesome collection, but, again only the first three are worth anything…why? Because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and every book following had massively large first printings, which is to say that sometimes it’s actually more difficult to find a copy that IS NOT a first printing.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico some of my friends and I had a running joke that if we found a copy of any book in the bibliography of a certain author we knew, that WAS NOT SIGNED it would be more valuable than the seemingly hundreds of copies we would persistently find that were signed. There is a well-known author there that loved to sign his books, I mean if he could get his hand on a copy, he would sign it—and no, this isn’t George R. R. Martin—it became a game for us, every time we went into a bookstore, to the point even that when I came back to Texas I would flip through his books if they were available in whichever bookstore I was in, and still, more often than not, I would find his signature on the title page of his books regardless of where I was.
It was funny, and it also illustrates the point about the value of books. You could have the most amazing, collectible book sitting on your shelf right now, and never know it, or you could have a collection of old leather back books with the newspaper inside torn slightly so that you could make it out as part of the cloth cover, sitting behind glass, and tucked away in plastic bags, and they could be worthless.
If you have questions about our pricing standards, or about rare or collectible books in general please feel free to message me, I hope this continues to offer insight into the world of books, bookstores, and CommuniTea Books!
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.