Sunday, September 10, 2006

Perhaps he doth protest to much: but I'm a collector not a book dealer, really

Richard Ford was at the Folger Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. Friday evening. He was part of a trio of authors participating in a William Faulkner Birthday Reading: New Orleans Night.

There was no question I would attend. The PEN/Faulkner Reading Series is a great event—readings by notable authors, followed by a book signing, wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Besides, six of the seven books that I have by Ford are unsigned, including a first edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day. I purchased a half-price ticket (more money for books), packed up the books and headed to the Folger.

Ford read from Percy Walker’s The Moviegoer. The reading, in Ford’s honeyed southern drawl, was the most entertaining and engaging of the evening.

At the reading’s conclusion, I darted into the reception room, heading for the author’s tables and a place at the front of the line. Ford grabbed a drink and visited with admirers before making his way to the table, where an impressive line of fans had formed.

“Are you ready to sign some books?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “You’re just going to sell these on eBay.”

I protested. I’m a collector. 2,500 books. My wife wishes I’d them on eBay, but no, these are destined for my shelves.

“You probably haven’t read any of these.” I protested once more. I had read them. All of them. Well, not Rock Springs, but it’s on the pile of books to be read some day.

Ford did sign the books. We chatted about his new book, sequel to Independence Day and The Sportswriter, and the tour that will bring him to back to Washington next month.

I was pleased he signed the books, but I fixated on the idea that he thought I was a book dealer. This has been happening a lot lately.

This summer Ivan Doig, one of my favorite authors, appeared at Politics & Prose, the premiere independent bookstore in Washington, if not the nation. I had a lot of books for Doig to sign. I waited, through the reading, the questions, the line of admirers waiting to have their books signed.

“I just made that fellow a lot of money,” he growled as I approached. He looked at me and my stack of books with an accusatory glare. “I’m not a dealer,” I assured him. “I’m a collector. These aren’t going to be sold.”

Doig signed, as Ford had, but I thought he eyed me doubtfully from time to time as he made his way through the stack of books I’d placed before him.

I’m not entirely certain why an author cares if a dealer waits in line, gets a book signed and then sells it on eBay or some other Internet site. Perhaps it’s just the idea that someone – not the author – is making a great deal of money on a single copy of a book. But that’s been going on long before eBay came onto the scene. As for me, some of the books were purchased used, from dealers, but others were bought at full retail.

No matter, I don’t want authors thinking I’m a book dealer, selling the fruits of their labor on eBay. What can I do?

I know – I’ll start dressing better.


  1. he was very foolish....if he signs EVERy book someone puts in front of him, then signed copies will decreased in value and then selling them on ebay won't be in question. silly writers.

    bookdealers have always had a certain level of disdain, but with the ranks swell with the unlearned and badly behaved I am not surprised at his reaction.

  2. I haven't run into that problem, but I guess that might just be a matter of time.

    One thing that might help is that I ask them to personalize the inscription. Books signed "To Bill" are not nearly as valuable, and indicate that I want to keep them on my shelf (which I do).