September 17th, 2012

Jury Duty

My first call to jury duty came as I was moving out of Seattle, so that didn't happen. My second call to jury duty resulted in a notification that I wasn't needed so don't even come in. My third call to jury duty, I was extremely sick (gastro) and there was stuff going on with the kids, so I postponed to today.

Today, I actually went in, checked in, sat through the spiel, watched the video, listened to the judge, went into the courtroom, raised my hand in answer to the "do you have anything scheduled tomorrow" question, explained about the two special needs kids and no child care tomorrow, got sent from the #7 slot to the end of the line, watched both sides kick out various jurors and then was sent home.

So that was interesting.

I probably should have raised my card for one of the bias questions. It was an operating under the influence case and I had thought _before_ I knew it was an operating case that the guy looked like an alcoholic.

Libraries turning down donated books?

Ran across this from Nate at the excellent blog, The Digital Reader.

I'm familiar (way, way, too familiar) with the move-books-across-country problem. I have done it 3 times since 2003 (and also one state-to-state move). The net effect was to reduce my maximum library size limit from 3000 volumes to 1500 volumes. When I read this:

"Oh, and two lifelong book hoarders cut 100+ titles down to four “must keeps”…I think this means the eBooks have won!"

I had to scratch my head. Apparently there are orders of magnitude to this book hoarding thing?

Regardless, the question I had involved this:

"No one wants our books. I called three libraries, and the best answer I received was that the library could take books written less than two years ago, but they capped it at two garbage bags full. The Vietnam Veterans will take books, but only at specific drop offs-they won’t pick them up from us. Finally, Goodwill and Salvation Army will accept books, but not textbooks."

Obviously, no one wants textbooks, but I'd never heard of a library putting a limit on donations, much less saying only written in the last two years, altho I should note that when I say "library", I mean "Friends of the Library" organization. I _assume_ that's what the writer intends, but given the book hoarder at 100+ titles thing, perhaps I have misunderstood.

Her author bio indicates she lives in New Jersey. Anyone else run into this phenomenon?

ETA: Some libraries only take books at certain times of year: (Ithaca, NY)

Amazingly, Roxbury, NJ will take textbooks:

Medford, MA has an explicit replace old editions with newer donations project, which implies they _want_ stuff older than 2 years if it's in good shape:

Cedar Mill (Oregon?) will take textbooks under 3 years old:

Altho they want you to call if they have a lot to donate, so maybe they'll change their mind on the phone.

Helen Plum library in IL says don't give us stuff in plastic bags, which I feel ought to be in more of these guidelines (I was surprised at the trash bags as a limit. I always use grocery bags or boxes so the bags stay well aligned and take less damage as a result, also they stack better).

They considerately provide phone numbers for other places to donate.

Alameda, CA says no textbooks with a lot of underlining, or multiple copies of a textbook and no magazines but, inexplicably, are one of the rare libraries still accepting VHS tapes (many libraries still accept books-on-tape). They specify no encyclopedias over 10 years old; I wonder if perhaps their guidelines haven't been revised in a while.

I think I'll stop now, with the following observation. I am fascinated by this because I have an internal timeline of how far along in the transition-to-a-new-format-for-books, and Libraries Get Picky About Books is coming up. But I'd be really surprised if we're already to that point. That said, there's variation from place to place -- some (friends of the) library, in some city, somewhere, will be the first library to say, we don't want your used books anymore because we find we can't make any money selling them at book sales any more. I'm just wondering if it has already happened.

The End of a Format

I remember going to a lot of yard sales as a kid. My parents thought it was a fun activity. My father looked at tools. My mother bought murder mysteries (Agatha Christie and similar). We were allowed to buy almost any book we wanted, as long as it was a quarter or less for a hardcover and a dime or less for a paperback. You would not believe what I have paid to get my own copies of some of the ancient stuff someone in the family bought, but which was part of the family library rather than my own. Paperback copies of Dorothy Bird's _Mystery at Laughing Water_ are currently running about $50 at Amazon. I don't think I paid that much, but perhaps I suppressed the memory.

At those same yard sales, you could usually pick up 8 tracks for a buck or two. CDs had not yet been invented, but the 8 track was already dying in favor of cassettes, and the quantity of 8 tracks available at yard sales steadily increased while the price dropped. I actually bought (at a yard sale) a portable 8 track player (probably for $2 or so), because I realized it was possible to negotiate the price on the tapes down to essentially nothing (a quarter or 50c for a bag of them, type of thing), if it was after noon on a Sunday, or a single day Saturday and after about 11 a.m.

If you're cheap and/or broke, stocking up as a format is dying is a fantastic way to develop an enormous collection for very little, and if you have the time to go to a lot of places, you can even get just about whatever you might want that wasn't created after the format peaked. Which is a bit of a trick if you think about it.

The consuming herd has some interesting dynamics. When a format is new and expensive, it isn't possible to buy -- at any price -- used copies. People have only just bought them and aren't done with them yet. As the format grows, the early adopters will start to unload stuff they don't care for to make room for new things. As a replacement format appears on the horizon, early adopters might dump an entire collection as they switch to a new format, but there will still be people actively consuming the old format for a while -- you can get into a situation with three or more formats (LPs, 8 tracks, cassettes, then LPs, cassettes, CDs, etc.) live at once. But at some point, no one new is starting to buy the older format(s) and a lot of people are switching and, thus, a lot of people are clearing out the old and looking to convert it into money. It must be worth something, right? They spent all that money, and for most of that time, used was a good fraction of new, so someone wants to buy my old stuff, right?

At this point, libraries usually start putting up desperate signs saying "no cassettes" or "no VHS" and used bookstores say "no encyclopedias" or whatever. Places like Half Price Books just put together a recycle policy and dumpster the stuff, giving you a lump sum for the stuff they want and offering you to take the rest off your hands for free.

The internet and, in particular, sites like Amazon,, eBay, paperback swap sites and so forth put the Annie's Book Stops of the world Right Out of Business -- that's a general increase in the liquidity of goods as shops moved to a lower-transaction (lower rent/more customer visibility) universe and turnover increased. But eBooks post-kindle have been a New Format problem, so I've been wondering when the new format dynamics come into play: when do we hit the point in the adoption cycle where there is more supply of used books than demand? Obviously, we've always been at that point for books that some delusional publisher thought would be bestsellers but instead was remaindered. But I'm waiting for a more general form of the problem, and I believed it would be more visible to me when libraries started getting really picky about book donations, mostly because I didn't think I'd see it on the used-books-for-sale side.

But I'm wondering.

Should I believe this?

"The estate clear-out people trashed most of the books in my parent's house. Not even Good Will takes unpopular types of books." Good Will is getting picky?

ETA: I doubt it.

Not sure what's going on, but so far, this still looks like the increasing-liquidity of show-your-warez-to-everyone-online, rather than a format change.