I collect vintage hardback books anywhere that dealers have given up. I am interested in the ones they think they can’t sell, which, if you’ve tried to sell you books to a dealer, you know is true of most books. The scarce resource is not old books; it is the reader’s attention.
Better sources include recycling centers, thrift stores and fundraisers. People bring me books. Libraries discard them. Yet very few books are of any use to me. Keep in mind that I already rent space to store a collection of 5,000 books, gathered over 10 years, so anything I add has to be better than what I already have.
It’s first a visual problem: if I don’t like the font, the fabric, the contrast of the title, the imagery, then I don’t even read its title. So I will never consider the vast bulk simply because of their appearance.
Of those that pass my visual filter, only a few have titles I can make use of. Funny but ugly I can’t use. Gorgeous but obscure; what I am I going to do with it? “The White Oaks of Jalna” is a lovely volume, but what’s “Jalna?” I also collect some for appearance alone, notably sets of vintage encyclopedias for my bookcases. Again, I have to be fussy about what I collect.