I'm a bibliophile. I admit it. I love old used books — particularly NT commentaries and Greek New Testaments from the late 1800's/early 1900's.
So when I come across news stories about used book sales on the internet (thanks Marginal Revolution!) they are must-reads. The bottom line is, if you are into used books and you somehow don't know about AbeBooks.com, you need to learn about it.
When I'm looking for an older book, the first place I go is AbeBooks. And I go there a lot.
My favorite used book story (well, that happened to me) involves AbeBooks. I was looking for a copy of Meecham's Epistle to Diognetus, which is pretty much the critical edition. It was published in, I think, 1949 by Manchester University Press and was difficult to locate. But AbeBooks had it. The problem was, it was in Johannesburg, South Africa, and would cost a fortune to ship with any speed. Or it would take months to arrive on the slow-boat.
However, I had a second option. The company I work for (Logos) owns a small company in Johannesburg that does work for us. And, as it turns out, I was scheduled for a trip to Johannesburg within the month to consult in hiring a few new people, and do some staff training. So, through the magic of AbeBooks, I was able to confirm that the book I wanted was in Jo'burg, confirm the address, confirm store hours, and (with the graciousness of my host, Jannie) arrange a short excursion to the bookstore in Johannesburg to fetch the book.
Little did I know what I was asking. Apparently the bookstore — a massive multi-story edifice stuffed to the gills with books — was in downtown Jo'burg, just bordering the Central Business Distict (CBD). The CBD is the area that the local Afrikaaners tend to avoid for their own safety. It can be, apparently, a hostile place, especially when it is dark, if you don't look like you belong there.
But we were heading there on a Saturday morning (10:00 am), so Jannie thought it would be ok, as long as we weren't there for hours. So we hopped in his car and headed downtown. I was on edge, this was the very action — going to downtown Jo'burg — that everyone had warned me about since I'd arrived.
We made it to the shop and parked outside on the street. Everything was cool. The trip was uneventful. I got my book, plus another (Kirsopp Lake on the early Pauline Epistles!) and we were out of the store within 45 minutes. They had some tremendous rare stuff in a back room down in the basement, hundreds of years old, just sitting there for anyone to grab and examine. Stuff you couldn't think about touching in stateside bookstores.
It was cool. It would've been more cool if I'd felt secure about staying there for hours; but I did get the book I was looking for. Thanks AbeBooks!