Good Morning bookies! Truth be told, I’m writing this blog to procrastinate on cutting the lawn. After attending school for the last year and a half, tending to 4 dogs since Christmas, arranging my website and getting it off the ground, buying and transporting the latest collection of books, not to mention sorting them…well, the yard is a mess. And it must be done. But maybe I can avoid it for another twenty minutes.

So, back to the book descriptions. Yesterday’s blog looked at how things have been done, now let’s take a brief look at the current state of things and how you can avoid the scanner people, amateurs and hobby sellers to ensure you get the book you want.

First, when you use a book search engine such as Bookfinder.com, you have to understand that you’re going to be overloaded with junk sellers, and they will usually be the lowest priced. You can usually tell pretty easily who they are. Scanner people, in particular, have a macro that is automatically installed on every book they sell. It typically reads something like this: “May have marks, writing, damage, may be ex-library.” When you see that, run from it. See, all of those disclaimers are because these people don’t actually bother to look at the book they are selling. No, what they do is scan the bar code, then their computer lifts the book’s publishing data from a database, maybe puts up a stock photo, and loads their macro description to the book’s entry. In essence, it’s automated book selling. Who knows what you are actually getting when you order such a book; certainly the seller doesn’t, because they don’t care.

The condition of books sold by such people is usually the dreaded ‘Good’, as we discussed yesterday. Good ain’t good, but the people running such businesses either don’t know that, or don’t care. So remember, unless you really don’t care about the condition of a book, or it is so rare that you will take whatever you can get, avoid ‘Good’ like the plague. And if you see ‘Fair’…get immunized, quick!

‘Acceptable’ is probably the most moronic descriptive term in use today. What on Earth is ‘Acceptable’ supposed to mean? Great, awful? Acceptable to whom? The origins of this execrable nonsense goes back to the early days of Amazon.com, when people started loading their used books to the site. For some reason known only to the wunderkind programmers at Amazon they thought ‘Acceptable’ was a good default condition for a book. Who knows why, or what they thought it meant. Now you see it everywhere, and it still has no meaning whatsoever. It’s not a book term, it’s not even a collectibles term, it’s a nothing term. If you see this, use great caution buying from the seller.

And then there are the two newest abominations, ‘Standard’ and ‘Mint’. ‘ ‘Standard’…so just what the hell can that mean, anyway? I have no idea. It sounds more like a transmission, so maybe it’s mechanical. Who knows? Was the book immersed in a petroleum-based viscous fluid? Whatever they meant to indicate, what it tells you, the customer, is that the seller has no idea what he or she is doing.

As for ‘Mint’…good grief. It’s a book, not a coin. Or a breath freshener. ‘Mint’ has no place in a book description. But what’s even more fun is when it say something like, “Good. Mint. Used. Writing in book.” That’s an actual description, by the way. If translated into literal terms it would mean, “Not good. Unused and perfect. Used. Writing inside the book.”

So there you have it. The book sites like ABE and Alibris have allowed the market to become the mess that it is today. Heck, Alibris now uses Monsoon, the software that automatically reprices a book if someone undercuts your price, regardless of edition condition, or anything other factors. It’s the same sort of idiocy that caused the stock market crash a while back, when computers created a crisis that did not actually exist. But fortunately you have sellers like those associated with The World Book Market to help you navigate the very muddied waters of 21st century book buying. You don’t have to thank us, just buy a book!