Blog: “A Degree in Used Books” by Ethan Marxhausen
I sell used books, and I am an English major.
One of these has taught me lots of useful things about American literature. Here are some of them:
1. OLD WOMEN DRIVE THE FICTION MARKET.
Plenty of people read fiction, and everybody should, so be it from me to generalize. But let me put it this way: I have never seen a young man come in with a 8 ½ x 11 list of titles for his book club, one of which is (always) Gone Girl. Somebody’s grandma, on the other hand? Every day. What does this mean or matter? For one thing, women in general read significantly more fiction than men. For another thing, maybe you should start asking your grandma which new hardcover you should buy next. She’s probably more in the know than you are.
2. NOBODY WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT FIFTY SHADES OF GREY ACTUALLY BUYS IT.
The typical customer who is looking to buy a used copy of this book (“used” in this case hopefully means “pre-owned,” as opposed to the more primitive sense) is not looking for “Fifty Shades of Grey.” They are looking for “Fifteen Grades of Stay” or “The Grey Shades Book” or “Eat, Grey, Love.” All they have are those little phonetic bites from the last time one of their girlfriends mentioned it. It always throws them for a loop when they hear it’s in Erotica, but that doesn’t stop them from buying it anyway, even if their kids are with them. Eww.