Used Books Recession Proof?

Sky Island by Frank L BaumChris Volk at Bookfever has put together an interesting, short survey of booksellers and how the recession is affecting them. To summarize: booksellers are reporting average sales 10.6% lower than the prior year.

On Biblio, we’re definitely seeing used book sales weaker than we anticipated for booksellers, but the average bookseller’s sales on Biblio are about flat to last year, rather than down.  That’s something we’re happy with, because it means we’re still steadily growing in terms of market positioning compared to our larger competitors.

As the new corporate buzzword of 2009 goes: “flat is the new up”.

In fact, I bet Warren Buffett wouldn’t have minded if he had thought to bail on his GE stock 12 months ago and invest in a portfolio of independent used book stores instead.  Course, then they wouldn’t be independent anymore, so that wouldn’t work.  Sorry, Warren.

So it appears used books aren’t exactly recession proof in the same way Gore-tex boots are waterproof.  But, compared to the devastation most industries have suffered over the past 18 months, I’d certainly venture to suggest that used books are “recession-resistant”, kind of like a New York newsstand umbrella.

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