I did something I don’t normally do on the evening of Sunday 16th November. I picked a fight on the internet. I won the fight, kind of. Well, my ego is willing to take the credit for the result anyway. I’ll let you make up your own mind.
It started with a book. Its called “Bedtime Tales for Sleepless Nights” by Jake and Dinos Chapman. It’s a children’s story, although being illustrated and authored by the Chapman Brothers probably makes it completely unsuitable for kids. My son likes the pictures, but my son has been brought up so far on Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, superhero films and comics, so a bit more weird stuff isn’t going to bother him. It’s currently listed on Amazon for £19.95, and that is what I paid for it. It’s worth every penny. As a fan of the Chapman Brothers, I am pleased I own it. It is currently sitting on my bookcase, next to the Tower of Orthanc in Lego and the Marvel Fact Files.
Buying this book made me research what other Chapman Brother’s books were available on Amazon. The good news is, there are loads of reasonably priced art books available, if you like them and want to treat yourself. But this past weekend, I found one that I couldn’t have, therefore I wanted it more, like a little spoilt child pestering at her mother. Only I’m the mother now, so I have only have a husband to moan at. It’s called “Flogging a Dead Horse: The Life and Works of Jake and Dinos Chapman.”
If you look inside, be warned, it’s not to everyone’s taste. My first thought was, its handy. It’s not completely comprehensive, but it’s all the important pieces in one book, from 1991 to 2010. Then I saw the price.
On Saturday 15th November, there were four copies available and not one of them was listed at anything lower than £800. The cover price is $85. Today that converts as £54.23. So I did what I usually do when I can’t afford to buy a book, I go to the library, and see if I can borrow it. I googled the Leeds Library Catalogue, and they did have it. Great. So off I tripped to the library, braving Leeds town centre on a Saturday afternoon, armed with the ISBN number, and the giddy excitement that I was going to be taking it home.
My excitement was short-lived. I approached a lady called Shirley, gave her the name and number of the book and was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t have it. I’m not used to being told that in a library. It’s like going to a pub and not being allowed a drink or going into a shop and not being allowed to buy anything. I thought that was the purpose of libraries, Shirley, you go in, pick a book, take it home for three weeks, bring it back. It is a system greased with trust, I know, but no matter how untrustworthy I may look, I have never stolen a book from any library. I was told it was in the reference section, therefore I could look at it, but not take it out of the room. I was a bit short of time on Saturday, so I went back on Sunday to look at it. After waiting half an hour for them to search in the Strong Room, which brought to mind the vault they keep the Crown Jewels in, but is probably just a cupboard, it turned out that Shirley had got it out already. Either that, or someone else had looked at it. So I spent an hour and a half staring, reading and inwardly digesting. These guys wrote a review of it that I happen to wholeheartedly agree with.
And then I had to give it back. I thought about just making a run for it out of the library with it under my arm, but it’s quite a big book and I’m not very fit. And I’m too honest. So I went home. And I got angry. Really, really, furious, heated, raging, annoyed, incensed, enraged, ranting, indignant, irate, riled, up in arms, incandescent, piqued, foaming, wrathful, aerated, splenic, choleric. I was so angry, all these words don’t do justice to how steamingly fucked off I was. I wish I could draw it for you but I can’t draw. My anger caused me to break the first rule of the internet.
The first rule of the internet is
DO NOT SEND EMAIL OR INTERACT WITH SOCIAL MEDIA WHEN ANGRY, DRUNK OR HIGH.
The second rule of the internet is
DO NOT SEND EMAIL OR INTERACT WITH SOCIAL MEDIA WHEN ANGRY, DRUNK OR HIGH.
As I said, on Sunday, there were four copies being sold on Amazon Marketplace. Two were being sold by the same company Daily Deals, and I took full advantage of the Contact The Seller button. The email I sent them was a volcano of verbal diarrhoea, and I think I may have been blocked by them, as I can’t find the email and they didn’t reply. Never mind, I think I can remember the gist of it now the red mist has subsided:
“Daily Deal my fucking arse. A daily deal would be selling this book for less than its cover price, which is $85, not the massively inflated amount you’re selling it for. And you have two. Why am I not surprised? Aint capitalism great, kids?”
It sounds a lot more restrained now than I felt when I was writing it, but they obviously took it in the spirit in which it was intended. A massive middle finger. Ho hum, never mind.
The next one I sent was to Ola’s Books. Here it is:
So did you buy this book just to sell it for more than 10 times what it’s actually worth? Is it new? Have you looked at it? Do you actually care about the art it contains? Are you just another cog in the corporate second-hand selling machine?
This is what she replied:
With all due respect did you even read my sellers description?
First of all I’m private collector and not corporate seller. And yes I do buy books with intention of selling them later with a profit. Great knowledge and loads of research is required to be able to establish which books may bring profit in the future. As we have free market I can charge whatever I wish for a book. If for you it means 10 times what you would be willing to pay – tough. Thats how it is unfortunately.
Secondly. I’m a graduate artist photographer myself. I do buy books for my own collection and I do KNOW every book I’m selling. In case of those books I got for sale right now I don’t want to sell them to be honest. Unfortunately I can live reading the books only. I have to put food on my table. Therefore I need to sell some of my collection.
Please consider that some people may actually have genuine reason and it may not necessarily be just to make money
If you wish please visit my website: aleksandrawojcik.com
In her defense, she has a point about not reading her sellers description, I didn’t. I didn’t really care at this point to be honest, all I saw were pound signs and not in a good way. This is my reply to her:
We do live in a free market, you are correct, unfortunately that fact alone seems to be the undoing of books. I do not see them as a commodity, something to invest in and sell when things are tough. I see them as an object with important intrinsic value. I am quite aware of the fact that as a normal, working person, who works part-time and earns minimum wage, I would never even be able to afford prints of my favourite artists art. Now it seems I can’t afford the book either.
When I can’t afford a book, I go to the library and see if they have it. I’m unable to take this book out of the library because of how much its “worth”. Its possible resale value on the internet. That’s what’s really annoying me, if I’m honest, that I can’t afford it, and I can’t take it home from the library. Somebody is telling me I can’t look at it. And that is all due to lack of funds, both mine and my local councils. That fact is making my blood boil.
That being said, I have visited your website and you are a very talented photographer. I hope you sell it.
Sorry if the email I sent upset you. You should never press the send button when angry or upset!!
I thought that was quite a restrained reply to somebody basically telling me, you are poor, fuck off with your whining and complaining. What I wanted to explain to her was that I do not hold her in any higher regard because she’s a struggling artist. If you are that hungry, sell it for £200. That will get you at least two months food shopping. That’s what I really wanted to say, but I didn’t want to come off as a troll. I’m not that at all. A couple of hours after that, I wish I had sent her that reply, as she changed the listing to £1050. Yes, you read that right. That made her copy the most expensive one. For that price, Miss Wojcik, I would expect at least half the pages to be stuck together with the bodily excretions of BOTH Jake and Dinos Chapman, and I would demand a positive DNA test to prove its theirs. But she doesn’t win in the battle of the most expensive copy of this book on the internet. That prize goes to Abe Books. In November, they were selling a copy for £6060.
I haven’t added a zero there.
SIX THOUSAND AND SIXTY POUNDS!! For that amount of money, I’d expect a Chapman brother to come with it for a least week. Has it been licked by Jesus and the twelve disciples? Does it have pages made of gold leaf? Is it signed, with an actual print and include travel to any destination of my choice and free bed and board when I get there? No, I thought not. It’s just massively over priced.
There was light at the end of the tunnel. The first email I sent was to the seller Strange Horror. This is it.
I have absolutely no idea how you can sell this book for so much. The cover price is $85. It is a great book, but it is the price of a second-hand car. And they say the art world is elitist. I think “they” might be right
You can probably tell it was the first one I sent. It doesn’t have the same air of righteous ire attached to it. It was the first reply I received and I actually engaged in a really pleasant discussion with a man called Dan who runs the shop Strange Horrors. I imagine him to be a cross between David Dickinson and a polite version of Bernard from Black Books. He sent me this reply:
I know what you mean, but it was partially bought as an investment. The book did retail at a reasonable price but has now gone out of print and is desirable and scarce as a result. It is well produced and would be expensive to buy as a custom made one-off. I don’t really expect to sell it at that price, but I am happy to hold on to it as it is rare and is nice to have. The only way I would let it go would be at a high price. Maybe someone out there holds money as no object. That said, I would offer it at £500 to you.
I did appreciate the sentiment, but it was still about £440 out of my price range. I never thought as myself as a haggler, but it seemed to work. Go me. There was a niggling thought in the back of my head saying, if you didn’t expect to sell it at that price, why did you list it at that price, but I’ll let it go. Purely because I like to think Dan would stick it to the Man who had that amount of money. This is the reply I sent back:
I would just like you realise the knock on effect of your decision to do this. I am not allowed to take this book out of Leeds library because they would not be able to replace it if someone stole it.
I’m a Chapman brothers fan, and have been for a long time. I still wouldn’t pay £500 pounds for it. This is the worth that you, and other people, are putting on it, not necessarily what its worth. See Banksy selling canvases for $40 each.
I’m sorry if my first email was sarcastic and a bit horrible. I love books. I love art. I’m just angry that this whole problem has been flagged up due to lack of funds, both mine and Leeds Councils.
Big Sunday hugs
That’s pretty self-explanatory. This is what he sent back: