Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Dust Is Far From Settled.

I negotiated the purchase of all of the books going out for recycling from a library in my area. I gave the library $200 for twenty boxes of books. Each box weighs about 40-50lbs. This is hundreds of books. Over a thousand? I don't know yet.

The purchase was an adventure, and I'm still combing through the wreckage to see if my hip-shot will pay off. Or to see how much it will pay off... to see if this is something I want to do more often, never again, or as much as possible

It all began when...

I was in the library's bookstore room, and elderly volunteers wearing gardening gloves were putting books in boxes. Overhearing the conversation was easy in the silent space. They were recycling discards, and mixing them in with rejected donations. They used the word recycling, and my ears perked up. I asked the volunteer-in-charge where these books would be going. I explained simply that "I buy lots of books," and that I'd like to make a better offer.

I asked to be introduced to the decision maker, but she was not there that day. I left my information, and returned the following day when she was scheduled. Before going back to the library, I printed up a flyer, and Kristin made a nice business card, which I stapled to the flyer. We only had yellow paper, but somehow that made it look official and believable that we might actually be experienced in this arena. 

I spoke to the nice lady in charge, simply stating again that "I buy lots of books." I asked what the library did with the discards and rejected donations, and she said the county sent a truck, and the books went to the recycling center. I expressed my interest in purchasing those books for a similar price to what the county was probably getting for a load of "mixed paper." That's about 10 cents per pound. I don't know if that's exactly correct, but I know I'm not far off. 

She said that the library also puts aside somewhat better books to be shipped to a company who happens to be a huge mega-seller competitor of ours, and whose name I'd rather not type. The volunteers put these subjectively-chosen better-than-trash books into boxes provided by that giant company, and the company pays for the books to be shipped to them. "How much do they pay you for the books?" I asked. Nothing. They just pay for the shipping. (!?!)

I explained that we could pay $10 per box for a standard sized 16x12x12 inch box, and I could provide the boxes, and move all the books. A light went on, and she looked more closely at the flyer and our business card. Less work. More money. She was being offered a square deal.

Pretending I know what I'm doing...

I got a call the following Monday afternoon that the library had about "25 cartons of books." I said I'd drive over to take a look. I arrived with boxes, and said I could pay $10 per box, but I would need to sort them into my own boxes. I was trying hard to give the impression that I knew what I was doing. Kristin and I were left alone in the room to begin the sorting process.

I had barely a clue what I was doing. Most of the books looked like junk, but that was no surprise. There were heaps and heaps of yellowed mass-market paperbacks, old dictionaries, and children's books that looked like they'd gone through a thresher. There were also books published by small university presses, and newer books that seemed to be a strange choice for the recycling pile. The bottom line is, the people in charge of throwing away the books have a much different perception of value, so there were bound to be diamonds. Enough diamonds? Quartz? I could only make an educated guess, and I'd already made that guess, and that's why I was standing there in the basement of a library, re-sorting and re-stacking a mountain of beat-up books.

We filled about ten boxes, and said we would come back the next morning to get the rest - it was getting late, and our contact at the library was scheduled to go home. 

We returned the next morning. I'd looked up rental rates and information about car shares with cargo vans. I explored our options, but finally we decided to drive our two shitty little cars over there and hope for the best. Worst case scenario, we'd make a second trip. Probably not a third... probably.

We were let back into the room, and Kristin handed the nice lady $200 cash up front, just to make the whole process more comfortable and legitimate. The nice lady was very happy. A friendly young couple was paying money to the library for something that they had been throwing away for years. It was clear that she thought this was a great deal, and I hoped that it would be a really great deal for us, too.

Riding Dirty...

Books are heavy. I filled my Festiva with boxes. The passenger foot area, and passenger seat were filled first. I scooted up the driver's seat, and put boxes behind it. I filled the cargo area, with the back seat already removed from our adventure during the past winter. The car was riding low. We filled Kristin's car similarly. But... we fit everything. A giant haul. One load.

We drove home, and loaded the boxes into our apartment. It's almost hard to know where to begin. One box at a time. Separate the books with barcodes from the books without. Separate anything too damaged to sell. Make piles. Sort the piles again - look up the value of the books with barcodes, and remove the ones with zero demand. Remove the obsolete books, and anything that nobody would even pay $1 for. Sort again. This time, of the barcoded books of value, we made piles based on condition - Very Good, Good - shows wear, Good - former library book, etc.

It's a week later, and we are still in the midst of this project. I still don't know how many books, or what the projected value will be. I purchased better listing software to help with efficiency. I still think we have a winning idea here, but the dust is far from settled. 

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