minstrel: Opinions needed

C&HWood linette at epix.net
Sun Jun 11 09:07:52 PDT 2000


Greetings from Linette de Gallardon!

I need some opinions - I hope I can find some here on the list ;)

I am investigating the possibility of adding a section of early music books 
and music to my father's harp-making business.  It seems to me that finding 
quality books by reputable scholars on early music is rather hit-or-miss at 
Pennsic, and I'd like to do something about that.

My questions are:

1.  What sort of early music books do you usually buy, if any?  For 
example, analytical texts on early music, transcriptions into modern 
notation, modern arrangements, performance practice, or related topics such 
as lives of medieval musicians or discussions of the lyrics as literature?

2.  Are you primarily interested in currently published books, or are old, 
used, or out-of-print books also of interest?

3.  What's your likely limit on price for a book on music?  What if it's a 
used book?

4.   How many early music-related books do you purchase in a typical year?

Basically, I'm concerned that many if not most of the best books on early 
music currently published start in price at $45 and go up from 
there.  There are some paperback editions out there, and of course I would 
work at stocking those, and as well, as a merchant I could buy at wholesale 
and hopefully pass on some savings to the customer.  But I'm unsure whether 
my own addiction and book-laden shelf has led me to believe erroneously 
that there's a market in the SCA for good (but expensive) books on early music.

Furthermore,  even if there is a market, it's possible that its need are 
filled by the World Wide Web, which has opened up huge doors for 
shoppers.  If everyone who is interested in spending money on early music 
books is already happily doing so on the Web, and wouldn't buy much from a 
book vendor at Pennsic War, then it obviously my plan won't work out.

Another issue is that of used books.  I've found some real gems at used 
booksellers, and now you can buy used books from anywhere in the world off 
of the web.  If I purchased one sight-unseen, I'd be assuming the risk that 
it wasn't a great book, and hope that someone would buy it eventually even 
if that was true.  An advantage is that used books tend to be cheaper - a 
disadvantage is that I would not receive any kind of discount and so I'd 
have to charge more than the retail price the original seller had asked.

My plan isn't especially to make money, though of course I don't plan to 
lose money either   I'm more concerned with creating a place where 
semi-serious early musicians know they can look for books that interest 
them.  Although there are many fine booksellers in the SCA, none that I 
know of stock more than a few early music books or sheet music.  And I'm 
not looking for any guarantees; I certainly understand that any retail 
venture is risky.  I'm just trying to gather some info to base my decisions on.

I currently already have relationships (of mutual satisfaction, I suspect, 
given the amount of money I've spent ;) with several publishers including 
Garland Publishing, Indiana University Press, Oxford University Press, all 
of which publish lovely books on early music.  I also plan to look into 
MelBay Publishing (don't laugh, there might be something worthwhile there!) 
and Dover Publishing, which unfortunately doesn't have a Web presence.  If 
anyone can think of other publishers who regular publish works of interest 
to the Scadian musician, I'd certainly be interested in hearing about 
them.  Even if I don't start this little side-business.  ;)

Anyway, I'd be interested in opinions on this entire venture, pro, con, 
whatever.  I'll be investigating for a while, and though I wish I'd begun 
this train of thought several months ago, I didn't, and so I don't plan on 
starting in time for this year's War.  :(

Linette


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