Thursday, 24 February 2011

California 2011

I am now just recovering from the Jet-lag that is one of the only down sides of my annual trip to exhibit at the California International Antiquarian Bookfair.
This year there were two bookfairs. The "Official" Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America sanctioned one in San Francisco, and what many refer to as a "Piggy Back" bookfair in Pasadena the week before. This was organised by an independent promoter, Sheila Bustemante, and exhibitors ranged from some of the Rare book worlds largest dealers and members of the worlds ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers)  affiliated trade associations through to part-timers and Hobby booksellers. This gave an interesting mix of books on display. There were books priced in the Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars through to two dollar paperbacks, and everything in between.
It was an interesting trial run for the ABAA who will be holding their bookfair in the same building next year. The California Bookfairs alternate between San Francisco and Los Angeles and last years event at the Century City Regency Plaza was to be the last in the hotel.
The Pasadena building is a purpose built exhibition hall. Soul-less and bland but well lit, with good facilities on site, many cafe's and restaurants nearby and significantly cheaper than the ballrooms of the Plaza Hotel.

I was very pleased with my trip. I not only sold many books at both bookfairs, but I met a lot of potential new customers and bought some fantastic books as well. For many dealers, a quiet selling bookfair can be saved if enough good books are bought. To have good buying and good selling is the ultimate bookfair.
When I look at the books I bought it brings home to me how much California is the home of the Modern First Edition. I found a signed first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a special publishers edition of Hemingway's Across the river and into the trees, one of just 24 copies, with an explanatory note, signed by Charles Scribner, A nice 1st edition of Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat, The first American printing of Alice in Wonderland, and Arthur C. Clarke's own signed copies of 2001 and 2010. These are just a few of the books bought.

The San Francisco bookfair is vast. Today I spoke to two London bookdealers who also had stands at the fair. I am amazed that over the four days of the fair I didn’t actually see either dealer, nor them me.
Luckily the organisers manage to attract enough book collectors to keep the hall full of customers from start to finish. I sold my first book within half an hour of the start on set-up day and my last while packing up my stand on the last day. San Francisco truly is a Book city. Although a large number of Europeans were there also, taking advantage of the nice weather after months of winter back home.
The impressive range of books on show mean that there really is something there for everyone, at all price levels, covering most subjects to some degree, and from all ages. I would recommend to anyone who likes books and has thought of visiting San Francisco to take a trip there to coincide with the bookfair. It is well worth the long hours on a plane from Europe to see this enormous bookfair as well as the many great attractions that the city has to offer.