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Monday, October 4, 2010

Evil Megalisters

One of the more frustrating and disturbing developments in the online bookselling business in the past couple of years has been the rise (or more accurately, the race to the bottom) of "megalisters."  These are companies that buy books in large quantities--one method they have for acquiring books at library sales is to send in groups of scanner-wielding employees with no book knowledge to scan bar codes and buy the books their device tells them too-- or the megalisters collect donated books by touting their supposed green stance.  They then handle and list their books in the most automated method possible, treating books like widgets, using pricing bots that undercut each other until books sell for the minimum (one dollar on Abebooks and one cent on Amazon) and giving no description of what they're selling except a blanket disclaimer, using "may" and "can".  Here are some examples of megalisters' so-called descriptions:

Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Good: Typical used book. All pages and cover intact (including dust cover, if applicable). The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting. Occasionally these may be former library books. Overall you will be surprised at how good our used books are. We just want to remind you that this is a used book. Satisfaction Guaranteed!.

Book Condition: Used. 4th Edition. 4th Edition-Inventory subject to prior sale. Used items have varying degrees of wear, highlighting, etc. and may not include supplements such as infotrac or other web access codes. Expedited orders cannot be sent to PO Box. 

Paperback. Book Condition: Acceptable. Acceptable: may have one or all of the following; light corner bends, scuff marks, edge chipping, may have name written on inside title page and or, missing DJ, some light damage to binding, writing or highlighting on pages, possible light water stains.  

Event Coming Up
Paul Constant, the book editor of The Stranger, is hosting "Get Lit":
It's time yet again for Get Lit, the twice-yearly bookseller, librarian, and book-lover's happy hour! This is an opportunity for book-minded people to hang out, drink, and talk shop about books in a casual setting. Suggested topics this time: Freedom, Jodi Picoult's Freedom backlash, whether Seattle needs a Bookfest, and any interesting gossip you may have heard at PNBA this year. We'll be meeting in a reserved upstairs room at a nice bar just to the east of downtown, The Living Room. It features comfy chairs, stiff drinks, and no television. Hooray!
So here's the skinny, highlighted for your convenience. 
6 pm until whenever. Sunday October 17th.
The Living Room—1355 E Olive Way Seattle, WA 98122—(206) 708-6021
Save the date! And please forward this e-mail to anyone you think might be interested. Get Lit is all about having a fun, laid-back, inclusive time. Literally: The more the merrier.

Reading Notes
I just finished reading Postcards, and I feel like I'm done with E. Annie Proulx for some time.  Her writing is somewhat literary, but it's also quite trashy and sensationalistic (this book had a whole chapter describing shotgun suicides, for instance).  I think it's a matter of what you like to read, but I get bored with such melodrama fairly quickly.  I also read Changing Places by David Lodge.  This was set in the sixties (and written in the seventies); about a British English professor and an American English professor who exchange universities for the academic year.  It's a comedy and a slice of the times, full of swinging chicks, student protests, and the like.  Fairly amusing, and fluffy.

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