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Pet Books November 20, 2009

Posted by Galaxy in Uncategorized.
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I don’t know what it’s like to deal with overstock in other types of retail, but the business of returns in bookselling is, quite frankly, a huge pain. Figuring out which books get shipped where, pulling them from the shelves, and then packing them up can be a hassle. More painful is acknowledging that you bought too many copies of that presidential biography, that no one but you liked the picture book about ducks on a camping trip, and that you should have let your instincts overcome the sales rep’s enthusiasm when you hesitated over buying that very heavy $60 illustrated history of American quilts. In other words, it’s a time for owning up to your mistakes.

While looking over all of the inventory that hasn’t “turned” (sold and been re-ordered) within the past 6 months or more, you have to remind yourself to be ruthless–these books aren’t earning their keep, so it’s time to give ’em the boot. So long,  celebrity memoir! Sayonara, Harry Potter wannabe! Nice knowing ya, Best American Essays of 2008–time to make room for a new year. It’s all going great…until you come across the book that stares up at you with sad puppy dog eyes. How is it that no one wanted to take home this picture book about a girl and her horse? Is it possible that not one person was interested in reading about the authors behind the Nancy Drew series? This is when I turn to Linda (or vice versa) and insist, “We can’t send that one back!” We’re so sure that there’s someone out there who will love this book that we won’t give up on it–not yet.

Some of these books have lived on our shelves for years–these are what we call our “pet books.” Season after season, they are saved from the returns box in hopes that just the right readers will discover them, take them home, and love them. The attachment may be irrational–we haven’t even read some of these books, but they still speak to us somehow–it’s a part of our book loving natures. Sometimes, emotion overrules business sense. Though our pet books aren’t “earning” a spot on the shelves, they become good friends. While the covers around them change with the seasons, these old reliables remain comfortingly familiar. When, at last, someone does take one of our pet books home, we gladly send it off into its new life where it will be read and cherished, satisfied in the knowledge that we were right about that book all along.

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