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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Chapter Thirteen, in which Youngsters are encouraged to try this at Home

Bookselling will always be around in some form--it will never completely die out. But how to keep it vital? Someone I read recently said we have to get more young people involved to keep the business alive , growing, and thriving. Here are some thoughts as to how to do this:

1. Bookseller Fantasy Camp. It's done in sports all the time. A bunch of old-timers or wannabes pay to spend a week pretending to be a real athlete. Why couldn't a prominent seller like Fred Bass of The Strand do the same thing? Bring people to his store for a week and put them through the whole deal of selling, buying, supervising, cataloguing. Maybe he will offer me a discount on the first one, since it's my idea?

2. Television Coverage of Book Auctions. Look what television has down for Texas Holdem Poker. Coverage of major events, with pieces about various buyers, as well as the owners and estates, could create a real buzz. Competition around the gavel is as fierce as on any gridiron.

3. A Major Ad Campaign. Pork: the Other White Meat. Got Milk? Beef: It's What's For Dinner. These are all successful campaigns run by overseeing organizations for the benefit of everyone in that particular field. Why not the same sort of thing sponsored by the American Bookseller's Association? Picture this: Angelina Jolie luring readers and collectors with the line, "Books are sexy." Martha Stewart (or Bob Vila or a gang of Trading Spaces designers) assuring young home buyers and old redecorators that "Books make a house a home."

4. Reality Television. Dump seven book buyers into the middle of Hay-on-Wye with one thousand dollars in hand and see who comes out with the biggest bargains. One week they search for Dickens association copies, the next for signed Woolfs, another they must make the best restoration of a damaged book, and so forth.

Other ideas are brewing, but I will hold off on revealing them until I pursue them a bit myself. Until then, if anyone else has more, better, or expanding ideas, let's hear them.

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