By brendan | April 1, 2009
ASHEVILLE, NC — Despite recent economic pressures, leading used & rare book marketplace Biblio.com announced today that it would be opening a second used book factory in North America over the next 6 months. The company did not provide specifics on where the new factory might be built, but recent speculation on the internet seems to indicate Austin, Texas.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the degree to which used book sales have held up in the face of the current economic climate,” explains Allen Singleton, COO of Biblio.com. “We have decided it is an opportune time to step up production of our high quality used books.” Singleton also notes that customers who were previously content to make their own used books from new books bought at megastores such as Amazon or Walmart “seem to have discovered that Biblio.com can deliver a substantially better value during the present economic crisis with its pre-made high quality used books.”
The company already employs more than 14,000 workers at its Asheville, NC facility, where most jobs are focused on the production floor, producing high-quality used books, monitoring quality control, and engaging in frequent intellectual disputes and rants. Originally opened in 1896, the factory has produced literally tens of millions of used books in the years since, including the original used copy of Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe.
The production of used books requires a highly skilled labor force, from a diverse population that engages in a variety of cultural pursuits, such as reading, coffee drinking, book collecting, cafe-lounging, opinionated punditry and – somewhat surprisingly – being strongly dogmatic on questions of cats vs dogs.
“Asheville, NC has long provided a steady stream of skilled labor to Biblio.com’s used book factory, supplying the right balance of what we call ‘industrious relaxation’ for our operations,” reflected Brendan Sherar, CEO of Biblio.com, hinting also that the next used book factory location might similarly be “a bit of a slacker town” – futher supporting speculation that Austin, TX might be the happy new home for the well-known used book manufacturers.
A recent tour of the Asheville factory revealed a workforce that appeared highly engaged and proud of their work. Some workers were sprawled out on couches, while others were lying on the front lawn, all hard at work.
“Authentic usedness,” states Stephen Bakes, Booksellerist. “That’s what distinguishes us from our competition. While other companies outsource used book production overseas, where armies of workers do nothing but fold and dogear and crease and bend, we do it the old fashioned way.” Each book, says Bakes, is gently read – and discussed at length – by at least six employees and reviewed by three people from Q&A before it is considered appropriately used and ready for shipment. “We’re really stringent about our quality thresh-holds. If our Q&A team believes that the book got one iota less character analysis, or someone may have innocently skipped a paragraph or two, its back to the used book workroom floor for that copy.”
But, despite the stringency and long hours for most of its workers, the Biblio.com used book factory boasts unusually low employee turnover rates.
“We really don’t have a problem with retention. Sure, the work is difficult, even grueling at times,” asserts Sherar, pointing at a group of 3 coworkers heatedly debating the merits of the use of juxtaposition in literature. “But our folks are committed to the vision of creating the world’s best quality used books right here in Asheville, and many of their parents and grandparents worked at this very same factory. Its a legacy we’re all proud of. We do it for the love of books.”