Finished packing for next weekend’s Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, one of the best provincial shows going, and my long-time personal favorite. But the world’s not making it particularly easy.
The cost of my Jet Blue ticket is up about 30% over pre-covid rates. They no longer fly nonstop flights every day, so I’ve had to leave a day earlier than planned to avoid a layover in Chicago, or Dallas, or wherever. That means booking an extra night at The Mediterranean Inn, which is also – big surprise – more expensive than it was in 2019. Same for all the meals I’ll eat, and all the drinks I’ll drink. Oh, and did I mention that it cost a little over $1000 to Fedex my books to Seattle? (I send my stuff to the local Fedex office, which will hold them until I pick them up for the fair – thus avoiding Caladex which would have charged me three times as much.)
The long and the short of it is that – despite Seattle promoter Bill Wolf’s heroic attempt to keep booth costs down – this pleasant little book show is getting pretty darned expensive for an east coast boy.
Not as bad as the ABAA Pasadena or Oakland events, but headed in that direction. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault. We’re all affected by rising costs and “supply-chain issues.” (At least one promoter – Eve Lemon – is attempting to get ahead of the trend by launching smaller, high-end events. Booths at her 2023 Georgetown book fair will cost $1000 – $2500, with only 29 spaces available. I suppose another way around the problem would be to hold fairs in sparsely-populated areas where rents are cheap. How about a Bastrop, Texas book fair with free booths for anyone who can figure out how to get there?)
This inflationary nightmare would be easier to bear if my books were rising in value as fast as the costs of everything else. But old books stolidly resist inflationary trends. Oh, I can see prices rising steadily for five, six, and seven-figure rarities. But in the two, three and four-figure world I inhabit, things are trending in the opposite direction, as we race to the bottom.
I offer this not as a complaint, but simply as an observation. The landscape is shifting again. Book fairs are becoming more expensive and logistically challenging. The relative ease and convenience of digital sales events offers a sort-of alternative, but their shortcomings have been widely discussed and need not be enumerated here. I’ll just say that we ought to stop referring to them as “book fairs,” which they most certainly are not.
The next thing trending seems to be the hybrid book fair which, depending on how you look at it, offers the best – or the worst – of both worlds. I think they’re running a digital event alongside the Seattle fair. I’ll let you know next week how that turns out.