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Some of our books are obtained directly from publishers. Authors are called down to head office to sign copies of their books prior, or soon after publication. Additionally, we have arrangements with a number of other established internet booksellers. At times we contact some authors directly, when signed books cannot be obtained through other channels. In addition, we also attend a number of UK literary festivals throught the year where we get a small percentage of our signed stock.
As collectors ourselves, this is something we feel very strongly about. We always wrap the books we send in bubblewrap at least twice, and this is then boxed. We have had a lot of positive feedback about our packaging.
Very Fine - Our highest grade. New, unread. No noticable faults. Bright dustcover with no shelf wear. No ownership markings. We are extremely cautious to use this grade. (Robert is well known for his, what some would call over-the-top, inspections of his books!)
Fine - New, unread. No major flaws. No marks or bumps. On extremely close inspection may have a tiny amount of shelf wear to the Dustjacket or some slight yellowing to page edges but if this is the case it will be mentioned.
Near Fine - The book or dustcover has a slightly more obvious fault, such as a bump, or a mark. The book may have been read. The imperfections will be mentioned in the description. Otherwise the book is in fine condition.
Very Good - Physically intact and reasonably unmarred. May have ownership markings, price clipped dustcover, remainder markings. Older books may be foxed (spotting to pages caused by chemical reaction of some types of paper with the air). Gilt may be worn.
Good - Not Really! A good book has some serious problems. Hinges may be cracked, dust jackets could be torn (without loss), the binding may be rolled or shaken. Ex-library books will not be graded higher than good. Essentially, a reading copy, unless it is a particularly scarce title.
Poor - A poor book has loss and/or is losing its integrity. (Probably will never have to use this grade as our books are of top-notch quality)
As mentioned above, we source our books through a number of different channels. Generally, those that we acquire directly from a publisher will be sold at cover price...initially. Those books that we source from elsewhere may have cost us cover price anyway (plus shipping). Even though we try to keep costs down, we are a business. Other factors are taken into consideration when pricing books, such as rarity coupled with demand.
Go and talk to your Small Business Advisor at your bank. Hopefully he'll put you off the idea!
Excuse me while I just consult the Pythia at Delphi...
If we knew the answer to that, we would only buy in those books. As a lot of the new books we sell are by fairly new authors, there is a certain degree of speculation involved. If the author becomes popular worldwide, then there is every reason to believe that your book will eventually be worth a three-figure sum of money. Some books have such small initial print runs that they can quite quickly sell for many times more than cover price, as demand outstrips supply. Although out of the tens of thousands of books published each year, only a handful may achieve this. To hope for a greater return on investment, would mean that either the author goes on to god-like status, or the book would need to be kept for many decades, possibly even being handed down in a will. Books by already established authors, although offering a more secure investment, may not become as valuable as a debut novel. However, the reverse is also true: Graham Greene, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman - it isn't their first book that is the most valuable!
The best advice we can give, is collect the sort of books you enjoy reading. That way you will have a library that will give you years of pleasure. If your books become more valuable than your house, well, that's a bonus.
If you are a short-term collector, who is buying to sell in the near future, this is more of a lottery; be prepared to see your books sell for less than you paid for them. Although this kind of collecting can be fun, the pitfalls and financial costs can be horrible if it all goes wrong.