Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair
Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair kicks off on Saturday morning at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall showcasing thousands of rare books, maps, prints, postcards, and photographs from around the world. The fair, which has been going on in Seattle since the mid ‘70s, has slowly been growing over the past two decades into a notable destination for collectors and sellers alike. This year’s weekend-long fair, which will feature more than 90 vendors, should not only appeal to the seasoned (and moneyed) bibliophile, but also to the novice collector and aesthetically intent individual who believes that books are capable of being art in their own right.
Over the past decade, with the rise of Amazon, the e-book and the exponentially quickening rate at which readers and consumers are able to procure information online, the book in its physical form has inevitably been losing favor with the masses. According to the Association of American Publishers, between 2010 and 2011 the number of hardcover and paperback books sold in the US dropped by nearly 12%, while the number of e-books purchased grew by 73%.
These days even the used book market is digitizing. Independent used bookstores are closing their doors one by one to make room for Amazon’s booming used book venture. Many shops once open to the public are solely maintaining their businesses through online catalogues.
“One thing that is missing [online] is the serendipity of browsing, and there is never going to get an algorithm for that,” says Louis Collins, organizer of this week’s book fair and owner of Louis Collins Books on Capitol Hill.
At Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair one could serendipitously get lost in the vendors’ stalls for the entire weekend. While many of the fair’s “big ticket” (i.e. expensive) items might be a practical purchase for only the wealthiest collectors, Collins is quick to insure potential visitors that there will be a little something for everyone who walks through the doors. “People come in and the next thing they know there’s a county history and they realize their great-great-grandfather is in the book,” he says. “All the sudden it becomes a personal matter.”
Whether searching for a map of the town you grew up in or a first edition copy of your first favorite book Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair will serve as proof that books aren’t dead yet. And who knows? It could be a welcome reminder that there is nothing like finding the perfect thing you didn’t even know you were looking for.