Macon’s Old Book Sale revenue down slightly

acastillo@macon.comMarch 29, 2013 

Macon’s Friends of the Library Old Book Sale revenue figures dipped slightly this year, but the organizer’s president considers the event a success.

The 45th annual event, which ran four days last week at the Wilson Convention Center, generated a little more than $90,000, said Andy Newton, Friends of the Library president. That amount is down about $2,000 from last year’s take, but Friends of the Library reached the fundraising goal of $90,000 it set for itself this year, Newton said.

“We had a successful sale,” he said. “We raised at the sale slightly less than last year, but (it’s) still very respectable.”

After accounting for the expenses of hosting the sale, most of the money raised by Friends of the Library will be donated to the Middle Georgia Regional Library system. Last year, libraries received $83,000, and Friends of the Library gave local literacy programs $3,000.

Several months ago, Friends of the Library also started selling books online through friendsofthelibrarymacon.com to include older, rare and autographed selections. Newton estimated that the organization has generated about $3,000 over the past three months through online sales.

With libraries all across the state experiencing budget cuts, the money the libraries receive from the annual book sale helps pay for new books and other services that wouldn’t be offered otherwise, said Karen Shockley, president of the Middle Georgia Regional Library board.

“If we’re going to continue to provide the quality of services we have with books, what the Friends do for us is huge,” she said.

This is the second consecutive year organizers have hosted the old book sale at Macon’s convention center. Previously, organizers used Central City Park’s Long Building, but they moved the sale after the building was condemned.

Many shoppers have said they prefer the convention center, because they don’t have to worry about bad weather and have access to clean indoor restrooms, among other reasons, Newton said. However, renting space at the convention center costs about four times what it did at Central City Park, Newton said.

Last year, Friends of the Library also moved its annual sale from February to March, coinciding with the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Newton said the change meant the book sale would have to compete with other Cherry Blossom events for foot traffic, but he also thinks the book sale draws a different crowd than the other events.

Because the date and location of next year’s book sale have not yet been confirmed, organizers are considering moving the sale back to February or even as early as January.

Several changes to this year’s event may have helped sales, though. Shoppers could buy books for half price on Sunday, the last day of the sale. In the past, books were half price only during the final few hours of the sale, not the entire day. Getting the word out about the Sunday discount helped draw more shoppers, Newton said. Sunday book sales were up almost 50 percent from the year before.

This year for the first time, people were allowed to pay for purchases of $10 or more with a credit card. About a quarter of the total book sales last week were paid for with cards, and Newton thinks the change encouraged people to buy more books.

“That was very successful,” he said.

While some changes have been positive, Newton said other trends like the increased popularity of e-readers have hurt the book sale’s bottom line.

“It definitely impacts (us),” Newton said of what he dubbed the “Kindle effect.” “It keeps you from buying more books.”

Newton, however, who himself reads “probably half” of his books on a Kindle, said many of the sale’s patrons say they prefer to hold a paper book in their hands.

“You can find books there (at the book sale) you would never think to order on your Kindle,” he said.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.

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