As someone who considers himself an avid collector of first editions, new changes in technology along with simple demographics sometimes makes me wonder about the long term future of book collecting. I’ve noticed many times at book fairs that most of the crowd is by far and away over the age of 40, if not 50. Then there was a recent stat I saw that stated there were only a handful of member book dealers of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) who were under the age of 40. That blends in with comments from over the years by longtime Civil War booksellers I know who see their oldest (and best) customers now liquidating the libraries they built over a lifetime, but that there are no new, younger collectors to take their place.
The founder of Americana Exchange, Bruce McKinney, takes on this troublesome issue of how book collecting is to survive if there is no one to mentor younger generations which rarely spend much time with printed books. Meanwhile, book collectors clubs, which have served this purpose for at least two centuries, have seen their membership numbers plummet in recent decades. Then there are the economics of the times we live in. As one collector noted, “I have half the money, books cost twice as much, and there are four times as many of them on the market.” Is the writing on the wall?