Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Conversation With John Zubal - Book Dealer

  John Zubal is in town today. It's always good to see him.
     Zubal has 180,000 books for sale on the internet. That's a lot of books. I think that makes John Zubal Book King of the Internet.
    His books are warehoused in Cleveland, Ohio. He has a big operation there with a large staff processing incoming books and outgoing orders.
     "I work at the warehouse 8 hours every day. Then I bring a box home. I have a computer in front of the television set. I watch TV and research books. One hand's on the keyboard, the other holding a nice glass of red wine."

     In this way Chris and John are alike. Chris also spends evenings at home looking up or listing books on the internet while he half watches sports or movies. The book dealers agreed that it was a good life. "It's hard work," said John. "But it's good work."
     John opened his book business in 1961. He concentrates on scholarly and antiquarian books. Over more than 45 years John, like Chris, has seen major shifts in the way used and antiquarian books are sold. The internet has changed the market.
     The two book dealers discussed business over lunch. They talked about how Amazon could change the price structure of books on American Book Exchange now that ABE belongs to Amazon.
     The book dealers didn't like the glut of unsaleable books, hundreds of a single title, listed for a penny or a dollar. Those mysteries and popular fiction were published in gigantic print runs for a temporary market. "Those books will never sell. People who wanted to read them bought them at the time. If they're new to the author, they'll buy a paperback reprint. Those listings just clog up the system."
      John told a story about visiting ALibris. "Typists were lined up to process books coming along on a sort of conveyer belt."  It's different from the Wise Bookman taking a book off a shelf, and looking through it to determine publishing information and condition.
     Both John Zubal and Chris Stephens have bridged the chasm of change between book dealing old style and book dealing new style. Their operations are successful in part because they've kept the one and added the other.

  These book dealers survived and are optomistic about the future.


  1. I do wonder why all those penny books are actually on the market. Is anyone ever going to read A Long Row of Candles or The Honorable Schoolboy? (I am remembering used book sales with a dozen copies of those stacked up and not selling, and that was THEN... and they're still unreadable.)

  2. JTZ is a man among books.

    Thanks for writing about him and Zubal Books. They’ve always been my favorite bookstore -- their books are everywhere!

    I hope to buy a title from your fine shop one day, too.