Festival to feature evaluation of books



October 29, 2014 - 12:00 AM

An old book may be rare, but not necessary valuable, Kristian Strom told the Register Tuesday evening.
Strom will evaluate books brought to the Iola Family Reading Festival at Allen Community College Saturday. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., introduce local folks to a host of authors and have Strom evaluating books. He will be on task from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 12:15 to 2 p.m.
The event is sponsored by Iola Public Library. Saturday’s is the third festival, with others in 2010 and 2012.
“I’d encourage people to bring two or three books, not a box full,” Strom said. If someone has a number of books they think valuable, Strom said he will follow up later.
Strom, 33, Andover, grew up a bit of a book nerd.
“I loved reading and writing,” with non-fiction being his favorite. Today he is an online bookseller, peddling books through a dozen websites. His favorites are Amazon, eBay and ABE, a site that features rare and unusual books.
Initially, he ferreted out books and sold them part time, spending maybe 20 hours a week with the profitable hobby.
He was working full time at a furniture store as a salesman and “doing quite well,” but decided, with support of his wife, to shift to bookselling full time. In addition to online sales, he has three booths in an antiques mall at Andover.
His personal website is lowestcostbooks.com.

WHILE selling books is his livelihood, Strom also is passionate about evaluating and helping others understand books as a source of personal enjoyment as well as financial gain.
When he appears at events such as Saturday’s Festival, his approach is similar to the popular PBS show, “Antiques Roadshow.” People bring books, he carefully evaluates each, gives as much information as he knows and then assigns a value.
“After 13 years of doing this I’m still learning every day,” Strom added, noting that during the course of an evaluation he may go online to supplement what he knows about a particular book.
Sometimes his assessment isn’t what the book owner expects or wants to know.
“Value is determined by supply and demand,” he said.
An example: Shakespearean works from the 1800s often surface, but their availability makes them less desirable.
“Other than the Bible, Shakespeare’s works are the most common,” he said, unless it’s an early 1700s folio.
While the Bible is the most common book printed in many languages, some are rare enough to result in extraordinary sales. One of two copies of the first Bible printed in the United States recently sold for about $15 million, Strom said.
Classic works in original condition and with dust jackets can typically bring six figures, he said, but a reprint is more in the $40 range.
Signatures of authors can add to value, although sometimes they are not easy to authenticate.
For example, “Truman Capote’s signature has changed over the years,” to the point early ones don’t look much like those of later in his life, Strom said. Capote is famous in Kansas for “In Cold Blood,” a chilling non-fiction account the 1959 Clutter murders in rural Holcomb.
Strom said he would start his session at Iola Family Reading Festival with an informational presentation.

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