“So, tell me, Anni, how do you actually operate your book business?” Since launching our tiny architecture bookshop last year, I hear this question more and more often. As used architecture books and an online business have their own peculiarities, I thought it might be a good idea to unfold our trading practices here on our shop blog. So, here we go, let’s take a sneak peek at the back office.
Q1: Where do you get your stock? You’re selling your own old books from your private collection, aren’t you?
I did the maths with our current stock inventory. The data shows that 19.9 % of our books are new and 81.1% are pre-owned. The new architecture books come directly from publishing houses. If there’s a publication that I find both good and interesting and that fits in our profile, I check out the distributor from the publisher’s website, email their sales representative and discuss a deal.
The majority of our used architecture books come directly from the households of their previous owners. There are a few copies which I have bought for our shop from drift shops or from abroad only because they seem to be on sale in a wrong place and I know how great books they are. The used library books tend to come directly from the architecture libraries in the neighbourhood. Libraries have to do shelf clearance every once in awhile, and I’m glad to be of any assistance.
Then, as to selling my own books, there are no books in stock from my own collections at the moment. This doesn’t mean that there might not be one or two in the future. My books are mine and the bookshop books are the property of Bookmarchitecture Ltd. Actually, I don’t own that many architecture books, because we moved house a few years back, and I had to get rid of the majority of my great and precious collection. Besides, the ones I still own are boring architecture theory treatises worn to pieces. They interest nobody and hence have no business value.
Q2: I’d like to offer you … [ a list of architecture books]. Are you interested?
Yes, why not, but I need to take a closer look first. As a rule, we don’t buy general nonfiction even though the book might deal with architecture, art history, construction or interior design. It’s just not our cup of tea. By the same token, we decline all textbooks used in architecture education and similar informational nonfiction. Compared to timeless architecture, design manuals have a surprisingly short lifespan.
Business history books are harder to judge: architectural firms yes, construction industry histories, no thank you. It feels awful to be so picky, but we have limited shelf space and the books for sale should, at least in theory, have a readership. When drafting your list, remember that the English language is always a plus.
Q3: How much will you pay for my books?
It depends. If we’re discussing a small number of architecture books, say from 1 to 10 copies, then so far, the price range has ranged between 1 € to 15 € per item. If we’re discussing boxfuls of books of great variety, then I’ll calculate an average price and multiply that by the number of the titles. We compensate for your books with real money and not with vouchers as most of the antiquarians seem to do nowadays.
Q3: If we make a deal, how do I get my money? And how do my books get on your bookshelf?
I want to see and browse your books personally before even considering an offer. There’s no rush: you can take your time and think about it. We can then arrange a new meeting to make the deal. Then, I’ll pay the agreed price to your bank account from our business account then and there on the premises. That’s what online banking services are for. You’ll also need to sign a receipt, and I’ll email you a pdf receipt of my payment the minute it has been processed. We use Holvi and they’re pretty fast. I’ll take the books with me when I go.
Then, I’ll pay the agreed price to your bank account from our business account then and there on the premises. That’s what online banking services are for. You’ll also need to sign a receipt, and I’ll email you a pdf receipt of my payment the minute it has been processed. We use Holvi and they’re pretty fast. I’ll take the books with me when I go.
Q4: How do I know that you won’t trick me with your pricing?
Well, you don’t, you just have to trust me. Although our principal interest isn’t financial gain but to make used architecture books about Finnish architecture available for a global audience, we still need to act as a proper business. Our fixed costs include web hosting costs, banking costs, our bookkeeper’s fee, my compulsory YEL entrepreneur’s insurance fee, packaging material costs and so forth. When assessing our final sales prices, we consider these variables: supply, demand, condition, the scope of readership, potential shelf time, and the potential losses from the actual packing and shipping expenses.
Q5: Where’s your shop? Can I come and browse around?
Bookmarchitecture has no proper shop (yet). I have a day job and so do my business partners. We also try to minimise general costs and keep things simple. Our dream is to open a book bar one day (new and used architecture books, selected wines, craft beer, you get the picture), but let’s see how things go. In the meanwhile, we’ll try to organise some pop-up events here and there around Helsinki.
Thanks for reading, you’ve now reached the end. I hope you found this post useful, and I hope to be able to share some more back office secrets sometime in the future. In the meanwhile, enjoy great architecture, read more books, stay tuned and keep in touch.