Thursday, August 9, 2012

Yams! The Game

I am pleased to announce that my company, Westcott Books and Games has released its first product: "Yams! A Game of Glory and Power in the South Pacific," a strategy card game for two to four players.  Yams! is based upon the writings of 19th century anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski; in it, players take up the roles of rival claimants to the position of Paramount Chief of the Trobriand Islands.  The gain power through gathering followers, hosting grand feasts, undermining their enemies using magic and deception, and pursuing the legendary "kula" objects that made this region of the Pacific famous.

In order to raise funds for the first printing, I have launched a campaign on where supporters can preorder games.  I will also soon have a website-- --up and running where orders can be taken.  The Kickstarter campaign is only up for the next 14 days (until August 23rd, 2012), then orders can be taken from the site.

Here is a sneak peek at one of the cards, "Poison Curse":

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Seven Good Reasons to NOT sell your old textbooks on Bookscouter

So I received an interesting email the other day from the good folks over at suggesting their recent post "7 Good Reasons to keep your Old Textbooks."  While I talk quite a bit on this blog about techniques for selling old books in general and textbooks in particular, this is a bit of cover for the fact that I keep a vast quantity of books for myself, including a large number of textbooks in my chosen field of Anthropology.

Looking through's reasons, I find a few of them resonate.  In particular the importance of old books for reference; in anthropology we rely upon extensive texts called "ethnographies" over articles and for much of what I do, a book is a necessary and good thing.  My medical doctor friend says the same about his anatomy books.  I also lend many of my books to colleagues (always put your name in them!), one of ODP's other ideas.

Their idea of visuals is a neat one: obsolete books could be scavenged for their images for collages, wrapping paper, etc.  The use of books for decoration I find amusing, though I do have a few nice leather books in my living room, most of my useful textbooks are far too beat up to be decorative.

This leaves two of their uses: donation to homeschoolers and to charity.  I've actually found that obsolete textbooks are not appreciated at most charities, in particular library book sales that look askance upon such things.  The relevance of most college-level texts to homeschoolers seems a bit of a stretch, you'd have to find just the right student I suppose.  Moreover, if a book is still relevant enough for a homeschooler, it's still probably relevant enough for me!

I find that obsolete textbooks, if they're not cut up for pretty pictures are, unfortunately, often only bound for the recycling, but I do appreciate ODP's enthusiasm.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shipping as Customer Service- a confirmation

About a week ago, I shipped out a lovely copy of Japanese Wood-Block Prints, a pretty standard order.  But, as I explained in my post "Packing Books for Shipping", I was careful to give the shipment a professional look.  I added a company bookmark, wrapped the book in paper, then packed it tightly in foam, then added a personal thank you to the packing slip.  The goal here is to present an aura of professionalism and care, since this is the only interaction we have with our customers and we desire for repeat orders.

This approach was largely philosophical, without direct evidence, until I received a message today that read:
Thank you, so much, for my book.  I am delighted with the edition of "Japanese Wood-block Prints."    I had received a copy as a gift and wanted another to give as a gift.  I was particularly impressed with your packaging.  I will look for your company in the future when I am shopping for books.  Thanks Again, [Name Erased]
Thus, I re-emphasize the point that your shipping is your primary face to the customer, your one chance to impress.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fantastic Frontispiece 2: Matthias Klostermayr (1772)

Click for full-size image
This is the second of my series called "Fantastic Frontispiece" (here is a link to the 1st)  As I described in my discussion of the parts of a book, a frontispiece is a decorative image that is on the facing page from the title page.  These can be beautiful additions to high-quality books and are worth looking for in the books you purchase.

This frontispiece is from a 1772 German biography of the great outlaw and rebel Matthias Klostermayr.  In addition to the great detail on the frontispiece itself, I also admire the archaic script used in the title page, it is a German system called Blackletter or Fraktur which fell out of use in Germany in the mid-20th century.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Accounting for Textbooks Sales using and Excel

Since the beginning of this blog, my article on selling textbooks through has remained the most popular and so I thought it was about time to make a follow-up post.

Textbook sales are particularly complicated because every textbook buyer requires a minimum order size to justify paying for shipping and when using you receive (when you're lucky) numerous competing offers.  It would be nice, of course, to simply pick the highest offered price and sell to them, unfortunately however, sometimes the highest price doesn't cover that particular company's minimum or it is necessary to sell a few books at a lower price so that you can sell everything you bought instead of having books left over from companies whose minimums you didn't meet.

To do this, especially after a trip to a book fair where you have a pile of books to sell, is easiest when you use a spreadsheet.  I previously described a spreadsheet to be used to keep general accounts and this textbook spreadsheet is designed to work in tandem (probably in different tabs in the same Excel or OpenOffice Spreadsheet file).
Click Image for Full-Sized View
 The system here is similar to that of my other book spreadsheet.  Column A is the book's title, column B was the cost of the book for me and column D is the book's ISBN (for more on ISBNs, see my post on the matter).  I will get to Column C in a moment but it is the highest price column.

The rest of the columns are listings of companies that buy books via  So "BookByte" is, TextRUS is and is  I write the ISBN into the spreadsheet and then cut and paste it into the search engine, I then copy down all of the prices (if any) into the appropriate column.  It tend to bold the highest price and then write that company's column letter into Column C.  So, on row 11 (Plato's Symposium), the highest price was Bookbyte, which offered 75c and is in Column E, so I wrote "E" into Column C.

Row 12 (and it varies because you need to add a row in for every new book) is one of the few formulas, which simply totals all of the prices for that particular company.  So the formula for BookByte (column E) is as follows:


The first letter changes depending on the column, and the final number (in this case the "11" in "E11") is the last row before the total row, so as you add more books, it gets higher.

The next row, Row 13 in our example case is fixed and it is a listing of the minimum prices that each company will ship for.  The ones you're most likely to use are:

Bookbyte: $10
Textbooksrus: $15 $10 $10
1st Class Books: $15
Powell's: $5 (nice!)
Valore: $10
Sellbackyourbook: $5
Bookitbuyback: $10
Moola4books: $8
Webuytextbooks: $5

From here on out it's just a matter of comparisons and a bit of math.  If you have a large number of books, such as after a book sale, you may have to juggle a bit.  I highly recommend selling books as quickly as possible as prices change rapidly (and, in my experience, downwards), so you may not always get the best price for your books in an attempt to fill the orders and sell as many as possible.

P.S.: Those of you who want to know more about how to work Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Spreadsheet, here is a good primer

Good luck!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Parts of a Book Part III: How Books are Made (Sewn vs. Glued Bindings)

In this third and final installment of "Parts of a Book," we will be exploring the process by which a book is physically constructed; in previous sections we examined the outside of the book and the inside of the book.

This information is important to a bookseller because when we understand the mechanics of a book, we are better able to judge whether it was:
(a) well made and 
(b) has stood the test of time.

Books begin their lives as groupings of consecutive pages called signatures, which have been printed, trimmed and folded.  Signatures are organized in order, have the covers added and then are bound.  There are several types of binding: sewing (the most traditional) using thread, stapling, and perfect binding (using glues).

To tell whether your book has a sewn binding--a generally desirable trait as it makes the book more valuable--open the book, turn it on its side and look at the headband (guide to parts of a book).  According to Leonard's Books you:

can (sometimes, or often, or usually) tell if the pages appear to be side-by-side in neat little folded groupings like tiny booklets. These booklets are called signatures. This is usually a clue that the binding is sewn.
But not always!
Now, if you can get to the center of one of the little signatures, look for sewing or stitching running down the length of the spine edges of the pages — in the gutter, in the center of the folded middle page. If you see threads, you have a sewn binding.
If your book is beginning to come apart, you can look in between the signatures and see the threads; note that a mesh-like cloth along the spine is not threads, but a material used in glued bindings.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fantastic Frontispiece 1: "Wings" (1931)

This is the first in a new section I am calling "Fantastic Frontispiece."  As I described in my discussion of the parts of a book, a frontispiece is a decorative image that is on the facing page from the title page.  These can be beautiful additions to high-quality books and are worth looking for in the books you purchase.

This frontispiece is from a book entitled Wings by W.E. Johns, a collection of short stories published in 1931.

Share your favorite frontispieces and I'll post them up here.