Before my friend and I went to see that groan-inducing stoner comedy movie, “Your Highness,” on Saturday night, we stopped at the Borders store in Oakridge Mall. We didn’t know what to expect since we haven’t been to this location since Borders announced it was closing 200 stores around the country. Borders haven’t sent out any emails on the current state of the going out of business sale. As we approached the store after buying our movie tickets, we noticed the signs in the windows proclaiming a $1 per book sale. What was left in the store for sale?
Overwhelmingly, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin books (about 100 each). No one was buying these and other books written by conservative writers at $1 per book in this working class mall. I seriously doubt that the publishers would take any of the books back even if Borders wasn’t in bankruptcy court. A half-dozen shelves were stocked with mostly political and history books, plus a few odds and ends. The rest of the store was closed off with yellow caution tape. All the shelves were up for sale at $100 or more, with signs that they would look great in the laundry room or garage. It would be cheaper to buy lumber from Home Depot and build new shelves that fit.
Here are the four books I picked up for $1 each:
- “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush’s America” by Frank Rich
- “Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras, and The Crack Cocaine Explosion” by Gary Webb
- “Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption” by Jules Witcover
- “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward
The next morning I went over to the Santana Row store. The 90% off sale was still going on with much of the first floor stocked with books, and the second floor closed off. The few Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin books were hidden away like Easter eggs all over the store, but books about President Obama were more prevalent in much smaller quantities (10 copies or less). That makes sense since Santana Row is a mixed development of stores and luxury condos. People with money are more likely snap up the latest conservative books than working class people. Political and history books will probably be the big leftovers for the $1 per book sale.
I kept thinking that this was a treasure hunt and a riot will break out over that one special book that everyone wants but can’t have (perhaps a signed copy of a Harry Potter book). Nothing that exciting took place as everyone milled about from one shelf to the next, pawing and gawking at the books. I spent most of my time watching people and listening to their conversations. The two sales clerk leaning against a stocked shelf that I was trying to browse had an over the top discussion about their sex lives. I know there is a short story idea to be found in a bookstore going out of business sale—treasure hunt, Easter eggs, gossip, murder— but I haven’t figured out how to pull it together yet.
A woman was scanning for the used book prices with her iPhone and carting books over to the cash register, where a sales clerk was processing 600+ books. I’ve sold my old books from library through Amazon before. If done right, reselling books can be quite profitable. I made money but I didn’t do it right: I sent everything by first class and not media rate since I was shipping out of a drug store and not the post office. Media rate is dirt cheap but slower and subject to inspection. What the woman had stacked up, I estimated that her average profit margin was about $3 per book.
Here are the books that I got for 90% off each:
- “Apollo 13” by Jim Lovell and Jeffery Kluger
- “The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism” by Mark Morford
- “An Accidental Goddess” by Linnea Sinclair
- “Unplugged: My Journey Into The Dark World of Video Game Addiction” by Ryan G. Van Cleave
- “Insurrection (Starfire, Book 1)” by David Weber and Steve White
- “March Upcountry (Empire of Man, Book 1)” by David Weber and John Ringo
- “March to The Sea (Empire of Man, Book 2)” by David Weber and John Ringo
- “March to The Stars (Empire of Man, Book 3)” by David Weber and John Ringo
I was disappointed with the limited selection of science fiction books for $0.80 each. Nearly every available paperback was a series book, and I didn’t want to read a book from the middle or end of a series. I got lucky with the David Weber books, picking the first book of one series and the first three books of another series. Military science fiction is a genre I don’t read that often. Since I’m planning to write a military science fiction novella in the near future, I need to man up on what I would be writing about. Anything less would be space opera. Not that I don’t mind space opera. This particular novella is aimed at breaking me into Analog or Asimov’s Science Fiction, which would be ironic since I don’t write that much science fiction. I wanted to get some fantasy and mystery paperbacks, but those were long gone before I showed up.
After months of whittling down my unread book pile, I have too many unread books. So much to read, so little time to read them all.