[Editor’s note: Releasing new EPs (see Counting My Rings: B-sides) isn’t the only thing Eric Peters is up to these days. He’s also turned into a magical rodent, which you can summon at will.]
Some years ago, I was invited to play a show at a college in a small town in Vermont (a redundancy if ever there was one). The morning after the show, my host, knowing I enjoyed reading, took me to a couple of used bookstores in the area. One shop was located in a downstairs basement and there I found what I suspected to be first editions of Frederick Buechner’s A Clown in the Belfry and The Magnificent Defeat. Since I had only recently discovered Buechner’s writing (a mere paperback copy (horrors!) of Godric the only book of his I owned) these hard-to-find books took me completely and pleasantly by surprise. Clown was a tight, hardcover copy with a bright dust jacket, while Defeat was a bit more ragged. For all I cared either book could have cost twice their $15 price tags, and I still would have bought them. Though I couldn’t have anticipated the after-effects of that Columbian moment of discovery, finding those books ignited an interest in book collecting that remains to this day. This hobby later morphed into full-blown bibliomania, but that’s neither here nor there. I apologize for nothing.
Over the years of traveling and playing music, I’ve found much guilty pleasure in visiting used bookstores in the various cities where I happen to be. Only after that early Vermont experience did I learn that New England is to used bookstores as South Carolina was to secession. Historical digressions aside, the sad fact remains that one of the first things I do after my plane lands, and I load guitar and gear into the rental car, is to get online and search for “used bookstores.” If time is short, I often opt to hunt for books even at the expense of eating. Tough choices must be made, headaches may ensue, but at least I have my priorities straight. The entire experience is, after all, about the thrill of the hunt, the heightened anticipation of never knowing what may be in any given shop, or around the next shelf corner on any given day. Let me be very clear here, books are a drug to which we must never say “no.”
Late in 2013 I began to wonder if there were other weirdo folks out there like me, folks equally obsessed with seeking and collecting books, folks focused on obtaining specific titles and/or authors yet who, due to time or travel constraints, are prevented from being able to fully devote to the task. An idea entered my entrepreneurial brain, tickling me enough that I decided to see if there was anything worth pursuing in the hare-brained scheme. Since I already make a habit of frequenting bookstores in various cities, I wondered if I could serve as a personal book shopper for folks seeking specific titles and/or authors. After all, humans regularly hire other humans to do their clothing and food shopping, so why not also books? Enter The Book Mole.
The idea is fairly simple: for twenty fully-refundable American dollars, a person can retain my not-at-all precious time and services for however long it might take me to root out (see what I’m doing here?) their list of desired authors and titles. Like the Marquis de Lafayette circa 1776, championing the revolutionary cause of liberty, The Book Mole would like to liberate (from someone else’s possession) the books you desire for your personal library. In the words of Freddie Mercury, “We are the champions.”
To say nothing of the various publishers and their myriad, incredibly confusing methods of identifying first editions and printings of their books, I have a great deal to learn about identification, listing condition, and navigating bibliophilic parlance. In no way do I consider myself an expert on the subject, but as the experts say, you have to start somewhere. If they don’t say that, they should.
When I ran The Book Mole idea by a friend, she advised that I was thinking too small, and should expand the concept to include not only book-finding, but the actual reselling of books. Eureka! Now we’re talking. So, in addition to the dream of making music and art, I now add the dream of owning/operating a brick-and-mortar used bookstore. I’ve begun listing books online in my store. The books I list are all used, none of them are new or from Barnes & Noble, a significant lot will be of the history genre, and the older they are, the better. If I’m lucky, they will smell like your grandmother’s home as only an old book (and your grandmother) can. Try smelling an e-book reader. I triple-dog-dare you. I understand that most folks could care less whether a book is a first edition, whether or not it has a dust jacket, or if it’s hardcover or paperback; they only care about the words. I get it. Wait, no—I don’t get that at all. A book is not just the words within it, no more than a song is good merely because of the lyrics alone. Lyrics are encompassed within a melody, and the two work together to make something more than the sum of its parts. As far as this opinionated curmudgeon is concerned, the same applies to books: weighty, odorific tangibility is the wave of the future. Summon The Mole!