It’s that time of year in Thailand; the annual exodus of expats leaving the country. Even without a calendar I can always tell it’s the month of May because my bookshop is inundated with foreigners coming in to sell their books. It’s usually the same old refrain (“I’m moving back to my home country”), or a variation (“We’re moving to another house” … “My husband is relocating to Africa”) of such.
So why does this book avalanche happen in May, you ask? For many expats living and working in Bangkok, particularly those with school-age children, this month marks the end of the school year, at least for International schools (Thai public schools, however, usually end their school year in early March). And of course summer is almost here so many families or individuals are taking trips back to their home country. Whatever their reasons for leaving town, we are once again being bombarded with people selling books.
Not that I’m complaining. I like to have more books. I need to have more books. Sure it hurts having to shell out so much cash, but my inventory is important to me and I never want to turn down good titles because I’m on a budget. Late last year, two hotels in the Phuket area made large book purchases for libraries they were stocking at their resorts, thus the stock at my own shop was starting to thin out. But now we’re back over 16,000 books again … and I still want more! As far as I’m concerned you can never have too many books (that holds true for personal collections as well as store stock) and I want my inventory to keep expanding, to become more diversified. I’m just as thrilled to have more Children’s books and Poetry volumes as much as stocking more Crime Fiction, Travel, and History. I want it all!
Some customers, as you might suspect, are sad to part with their books. But when they start to think about how much it’s going to cost in shipping fees or excess baggage charges to send all those heavy titles back home, well, it doesn’t feel quite so bad to sell them after all. It’s also interesting to compare people’s reactions when we total up the books and tell them how much we’ll pay for them. Some people are pleasantly surprised at how much cash we’ll pay; others are just grateful, if not thrilled to get anything for their books; and then there are the ones who act offended, as if they think we’re cheating them and not offering enough money. What can you do? I try to be fair, but you can’t please everyone and I’m not going to stand there and negotiate with some disgruntled cheapskate. Take it or leave it. You’re not happy with how much we’re offering you? Try another dealer in town … and good luck finding one that is willing to give you a fair price, much less pay any cash at all.
Meanwhile I sit at the computer and update our database of titles as more books arrive. Today was a fun day with several hundred new arrivals, a real mixed bag of titles that included Evelyn Waugh, Dr. Seuss, Jan Morris, Ross Macdonald, a slew of cool history books, nearly the entire “Magic Tree House” series for kids, some much needed Spanish and Italian novels, a few old Hemingway books, some old espionage paperbacks, the stray Harry Potter and Nancy Drew title … and on and on it went. Damn, I love these books!