accordioncrimesOver the weekend, I shopped at Books for America‘s amazing sale of used books. I’ll do a profile on Books for America (located in Washington DC) later, but it’s enough now to say that it’s a charity bookstore that has amazing prices.

And those amazing prices were half-off this past weekend. The hardcovers I bought were originally $4, marked down to $2. I bought six books for over $12 with tax! Incredible.

Two of the books weren’t first editions — I just wanted to have them. They were Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (which I have read before, though a long time ago) and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer, which I want to read eventually (though I might have to schedule that in 2011).

The others I bought because I suspected they might be first editions, and of course because I wanted to read them as well. I never buy books just for the potential value of them, because I’ll likely be wrong that the book’s a first edition and them I’m stuck with a book I don’t want. Those were Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver; Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx; Leap of Faith by Queen Noor; and The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike.

And of course, I came home and did my requisite Alibris analysis (checking to see what the market prices are for first editions). Alas, Accordion Crimes apparently had a limited edition run of 2500 signed copies, and my copy is not one of those. Who knew?! My copy does have a number line with a “1.” Judging from copies for sale on Alibris, I’d guess my copy is about $15. Pristine copies of the signed limited edition are listed for $200.

The Prodigal Summer is probably worth around $20, Leap of Faith isn’t really worth anything, and The Witches of Eastwick, because of the limited run of 250 printed by the Franklin Library (John Updike always does this), is worth around $10. I take into account the condition of the books when I make these estimations.

Checking the prices is just a fun exercise for me; I have no intention of turning around and trying to sell any books. Not anytime soon, anyway!


TwilightAfter another day of post-holidays sale hunting, a friend and I stopped at a Border’s. It’d been years since we’d really talked about books, and so we showed each other books we’d read lately and talked about what interests us.

I knew she’d seen the movie version of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer because I’d already heard her sigh over the “killer” looks of the male lead. But I found out today that she’d read all the books in the series, plus some other Young Adult books featuring vampires (though, she pointed out, there is a lamentable lack of sex scenes in the genre). Is it the crazed pop culture aspect of Young Adult books that draws her in, or does she just have a thing for vampires?

I didn’t get a definitive answer to that question, but when I came home I thought about the Twilight phenomenon some more. When I surf blog tags related to books and reading, I inevitably come across one or more mentioning Twilight. And the readers, like my friend, graduated from the Young Adult age group long ago.

And then, my Twilight Internet journey led me to… the $2,000 copy of Twilight on Alibris. That’s right. The book was published in 2005, and if the original purchaser is now selling the copy, he or she is apparently hoping for a greater than 10,000% return on investment. Not bad.

I have a few questions: Will anyone pay this? Is there any chance that the copy will be worth near this much, say, 20 years from now? And most importantly, is my friend’s copy a first edition?! I’ll have to inquire.

Since I’m new to collecting books, I have no idea how the values of overly hyped books fare in the long run. I also suspect that this incredibly quick and incredibly high price inflation of first editions with pop-culture significance is a recent phenomenon (perhaps best exemplified by the Harry Potter series).

In any case, if the book is conceivably that valuable… maybe I should read it.

Signed first editions are often worth much more than their unsigned counterparts. Take Cold Mountain, by Jonathan Frazier, for example. One of the first edition points is “man woman” for “mad woman” on page 25.  Unsigned Fine copies are listed on Alibris for around $75-$100. Signed Fine copies are listed from $100 up to around $450 (if the $100 copy is in as good condition as claimed, then that appears to be quite the deal). But you get my point.

How do you get a signed copy? You can keep an eye out for book tours. Your local bookstores likely have an event calendar; check online or call the store to see if they have a mailing. One problem is that if you wait to buy a copy of the book the day of the signing, the copies available likely won’t be First Printings anymore. So make sure that you get a First Printing of the First Edition ahead of time (if you’re purchasing it elsewhere, make sure this is okay with the bookstore).

If you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of bookstores or authors traipsing through, don’t despair. Websites of large bookstores now allow you to preorder signed copies in connection with their upcoming events. Again, you’ll want to ensure that the copy you’re purchasing is a First Printing, and that might entail calling the store to double check.

Resources for finding signed copies:

Good luck!

A Cultural History of RussiaMcLaughlin’s Used Books
512 Terry Pkwy.
Terrytown, LA 70056
(504) 367-3754

Okay, so I lied a little bit in the title of this post. McLaughlin’s isn’t actually in New Orleans, it’s on the westbank in Terrytown. But if you’re located in the New Orleans metro area, I highly recommend it.

My mom’s been coming here for a long time to trade her used books for “new” reads. I’ve gone along a few times. This time, I went with an eye to checking out the first edition selection. This is not the place to look for first editions of titles from the 1990s or earlier. The books at McLaughlin’s are largely recent titles. That said, the selection of literature is fantastic, and the books are in consistently excellent condition — the best I’ve seen overall at a bookstore.

So if you buy or trade for books here, you’re probably not going to discover a diamond in the rough anywhere — the books you buy will be worth what you pay for them. But it’s a great place to find interesting reads that look like new, and who knows? — maybe years down the road you’ll see a nice return on your investment.

So having traded in some nice but used paperbacks and making a cash outlay, here’s what I got (you can tell I was in a historical nonfiction kind of mood):

I’m sure you’re wondering, as am I, how I will ever get to all these books I’ve accumulated. The jury’s still out on that one.