Sentiment Changes Book’s Value. In Reply to Bookbinders and Money: Inner Conflict

The first reply to my post Bookbinders and Money: Inner Conflict came from Portugal. Here is a second one, from a British bookbinder and second hand book seller John Lewis.


I agree with you but if we do not value our work and expertise then why be surprised that others do not. There are plenty of people around with disposable income to spend and we have to decide to which we are hoping to sell. If we are only aiming to sell to the low waged then obviously, even if they value our efforts highly, they cannot realistically afford them.

I am fortunate, my wife is the business brain and so she does the pricing, pricing of not only my work but of our small stock of 2nd hand books, and maybe it is her experience working with them that has given her the courage to price high.

Put simply, if someone wants one of our expensive books they are going to have to pay for it. We are not in the business of high volume sales, we know that we are in a niche market and have to think like a seller of unique items not a newsagent.

Realistically most adults rarely even read a book, let alone consider buying one so we are all looking at a very small market compared with the newsagent. But, some people do value books, be it a collectable 1st edition or some treasured volume from their past. The collector though probably does know the market value of their book and so would be able to calculate the value he might place on a repair or rebind. The real market though are the people who have a sentimental attachment to their book(s), they value things very differently.

And sentiment comes in many forms. From the treasured family bible now sadly with detached boards, through the book remembered from childhood, to the favourite reference work. In most cases the cost of the repair has far outweighed the commercial value of the book. By that I mean I could have simply bought a better replacement copy online for less than the cost of the repair, but that was not what the customer wanted. They wanted me to restore ‘their’ book and so were willing to pay for the privilege. I’ve done £30.00 repairs on a dictionary where there are far better copies available online for £1.00.

I think being in the book business helps here. After all, by IS a 1st edition usually ‘worth’ far more than a later edition or reprint or paper-backed copy? The words are all the same, but the ‘market’, in this case for that particular 2nd hand book exceeds supply and so the perceived ‘value’ increases.

No-one is forced to by a book from us, they can keep their money and wait for a cheaper copy to appear, or buy an alternative edition if one is available. We keep the book, they keep their money, we gamble on eventually finding someone who agrees with our valuation, sometimes we win and make a sale, sometimes we lose when other copies start appearing online and devaluing our copy. That’s the risk, but generally we gamble a couple of centimetres of shelf space so the investment is not great.

Basically, we have to recognise that our pool of potential customers will consist of a lot of people who might like to buy from us but either cannot afford to do so or do not agree with our valuation, and the relatively few who both agree with our valuation and have the funds available to complete the deal.

If you’re selling newspapers, you rely on volume sales, if you are selling works of art you are aiming at a different market altogether. You have to value your own work if you hope others will value it.

Obviously there is a balance but generally the maxim has to be — don’t value yourself short.

You can find John on Facebook.

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