Bookstore Combats E-Books With One Thing Your Kindle Can’t Offer

Whatever benefits an e-book might have over its print counterpart, and no matter how close digital media gets to ink-on-paper, there is one thing that downloaded copy of Moby Dick can’t offer to some readers: The collectable factor.

So some savvy bookstore employee in Brooklyn has realized it’s worth playing up this advantage, starting what is believed to be New York City’s first “First Editions Club.”

“Independent bookstores are always struggling to find ways to keep up or rather compete against the big box stores like Amazon,” the manager of the new club at Greenlight Bookstore explains to the NY Times. “It is a way for them to showcase their expertise in selecting those new books that could be potentially valuable.”

For $500/year (six-month subscriptions are available for $250), members get a first edition book signed by the author. George Saunders’ Tenth of December will be the first of the first editions to go out in January.

While Greenlight isn’t expecting to break the bank on this club — it has a modest goal of 24 subscribers by year’s end — it’s these kinds of curated, customer-targeted services that a growing number of small businesses are turning to in order to differentiate themselves from both online competitors and chain stores.

What’s important is that Greenlight — and any other bookstore that attempts a high-price offering like this — chooses titles that A) the subscriber wants to have in their collection, and B) becomes more valuable as time goes on. That’s a tall order, but if a store can pull it off and gain a reputation for curating a high-quality selection, the word will spread.

FYI, if you’re ever flipping through an old hardcover and wondering if it’s a first edition, check out the copyright page. Many, but not all, first editions will have “First Edition” written here, usually toward the bottom of the page.

What’s more valuable is a first printing of a first edition. For this info, look for the string of numbers on the copyright page. The lowest number in that string tells you what print run your book came from. This gets more complicated with blockbuster titles that are sometimes printed at more than one plant in order to meet demand and make deadlines; too complicated to get into here.