Robert Willingham wasn’t going to miss out on any books Thursday morning.
The Macon man woke up at 6:15 a.m., showered and made it to the Wilson Convention Center by 6:50 a.m. for the Friends of the Library’s 45th Annual Old Book Sale. The early morning effort paid off, however, when Willingham was first in line when the doors opened at 10 a.m.
“I didn’t know I was going to be first, to tell you the truth,” he said. “The last time I came here, I got here at 8 a.m. and was way down the line.”
For Willingham and the hundreds who lined up early behind him, there were plenty of books to choose from — well over 100,000 in more than 70 categories. Willingham picked out about a dozen books from the science fiction and humor tables.
One of his early prizes was a collection of science fiction short stories called “Women of Wonder,” old-fashioned science fiction stories from the 1940s to ‘70s. Andy Newton, president of the Friends of the Library, said a couple of new wrinkles have been added to this year’s sale. All books remaining on Sunday will be half-price, he said. In addition, buyers for the first time will be able to use credit cards on purchases of $10 or more.
Newton said the big changes last year — moving the event from Central City Park to the convention center and moving the event from February to March to coincide with the Cherry Blossom Festival — mostly have been positive. Last year, the organization raised $90,000 from the book sale, with $83,000 donated to the library and another $3,000 to local literacy programs.
“The big advantages are that the roof doesn’t leak (in the convention center) and the bathrooms are located inside,” Newton said. “It’s a cleaner, nicer environment.”
Newton said having the sale during the festival can be advantageous because there are more people visiting Macon. On the flip side, though, the book sale has to compete with other festival events for foot traffic.
Carrol Rose, of Warner Robins, who has gone to the book sale the past 27 years, said she doesn’t like the new location or the sale’s later date on the calendar. “I think it’s hurting them (competing) against the Cherry Blossom Festival,” she said.
Rose, who had a box filled with at least 30 books, acknowledged it was nice waiting indoors, out of the Thursday morning cold and wind.
Lita Buher of Macon took her children Brady, 12, and Rayna, 8, who were on spring break, to the sale Thursday. Though Brady and Rayna are growing up in the age of e-books, they still prefer traditional, paper books.
“I used to spend time looking for books for them and end up not getting books for myself,” she said. “Now I let them look for their own books.”
Brady Buher picked up three books he hopes will help him become a writer when he’s older. His sister sought books by novelist Beverly Lewis, but she came up empty Thursday morning. Still, she came away impressed with the scope of the sale.
“It’s cool,” she said.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.