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Monday, November 8, 2010

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi: Selling Academic Books

I keep meaning to gradually de-accession my huge collection of books, many bought during my years in graduate school. If I work till I'm 65, say (I wish, I wish), I should get rid of about 10% of my books per year. Every now and again, I check the value of a book on Amazon, and think, oh boy, a pretty penny awaits.

For instance, I have this book somewhere.

And this one.

It's so hard to say good-bye to these books. I remember my sense of awe and wonder during those years, along with a panicked feeling that I might never find employment.

Today, however, I realized that my vast collection may, in fact, be mostly worthless. The English Club had a book sale. At the end of the day, a big FREE BOOKS sign was put up.

Many books were donated by a recently-retired colleague. Many of the books he donated were ones Mr. FS and I owned, staples of the graduate student/professor library of days gone by, the days of THEORY. No one wanted the books.

I didn't take them, since we already own them. How do these fare on the open market?


or this?

How depressing! That one doesn't even get a picture! This one was required reading.

Oh, it's all too depressing. But I do need to declutter. The vision (mental only, since I did not participate) of my in-laws getting rid of a 50 year collection of books is so painful. Mr. FS spent his last week in his childhood home packing boxes of books and taking the rejects to Goodwill, which rejected them.

Perhaps it is fate that I picked up this poorly-written tome recently for a quarter.

Strangely, this one seems to be worth more than some of the academic books. I could sell my copy for $2.64.

What lessons should I draw from all this?

8 comments:

Terri said...

I thought about this the last time I went to an academic conference. I felt sad for the graduate students mouthing their jargon and thinking how it was totally manufactured to create competitive hoops for them to jump through. I think this is why I never pursued a PhD in English.

Duchesse said...

One lesson might be that the donation of your books to an institution or library is a more satisfying outcome than trying to sell them. Is looking up prices on sites a good use of your time?

Passing on the gift of knowledge is form of mentoring even when you do not know the recipient.

Even inviting people to take them at a community lawn sale is a way of sharing your love of your field.

Funny about Money said...

Mon dieu! Can you believe those prices?

Hm. What harm can it do to put a few choice works up on Amazon, just to see what happens? If they don't sell in a couple of months, then it's off to Goodwill with the things.

I'll bet coffee-table books would sell...if for no other reason than as decorator items. I have Van Elst's L'age d'or flamande, and also the two-volume Larousse Litterature Francaise, as well as Hinde's highly decorative edition of The Domesday Book. Hmmmm....

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri-I've started getting that feeling myself. It makes me sad.

@Duchesse--I will write about this at greater length but the library does not want want these. They were put out for free! No takers!

@Funny--I'm going to gradually de-accession the ones that are worth some bucks. If I donated them, they would be bought by resellers anyway.

Duchesse said...

Wow, not even from the curb! You can put anything, I mean anything out here and it is gone in hours.
Therefore, I agree with Funny. Maybe the bigger market will change the outcome.

SewingLibrarian said...

Well, what can I say? Just this. Books are like other products. There has to be a demand for them. There are more people out in the world who want to hear what the FlyLady has to say, poorly written or not, than who want to read a rather esoteric book about the theory of literary criticism. As for libraries, it's always best to ask before dropping off boxes of books. I've worked at some places that had very strict policies about what we could accept. My current library accepts virtually everything but with the proviso that we can dispose of what we don't want. I often find that the worthwhile titles are already in the collection. Sometimes I swap out the library's worn copy for the donated copy in better condition. Most of it ends up on the sale shelf, and much of that gets tossed when it doesn't sell. Sad but true.

Terri said...

I had to come back because on the very day I posted the previous comment, I went looking for a 1986 era volume of film criticism and ended up ordering the volume from Amazon for #2.85. Kaja Silverman...

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--I remember that book! I bought it in Bloomington--it was an IU Press book--and ended up giving it to a colleague who was teaching a course on film. It's a good book.