My best friend has her own way of handling her stash of books. She either fills boxes with assorted books or arranges them haphazardly on shelves: no particular order, no genres, not even all in the same position…backwards, upside down, stacked, any way at all. Her paperbacks range from new to should-have-been-tossed-ages-ago. She doesn’t care if there are rips in the covers, bent over corners, or no covers at all.

Being a book collector and a book seller, I admit to having different ways of shelving and sorting depending on one criteria: My Books; and Books to Sell.

What is the difference? Let me elaborate.

My Books, which as the name suggests, my personal collection of books that pre-dates my book-selling business. My Books are sorted according to subject, and the system within each category has the books sorted alphabetically within. My largest category is, of course — History. United States History, Latin American History, Ancient History, and World History.

OK, please stop yawning. I’ll get along to my Books to Sell inventory system.

First a word about my inventory. (I’ll keep it brief, I promise.) In a nutshell, I have right now about 1,500 books actually listed online. However, my numerical system includes inventory numbers up to 2,500.

Why? Those have been sold.

I have a straight numerical ordering system. Originally it started with book 00001, but the actual starting book is numbered 00028….

WHY?, because my computer ate the first twenty-seven book titles.

When a book order comes in, I find it easier and more efficient to think of it as number 02371. Here, let’s find the book….ah, hear it is: Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell….right on the shelf where it should be.

Isn’t that book about a horse? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just have a category: HORSES?

No, it’s easier to have it just listed in order: 02371. See how easy it was to find this book? See the little white sticker with the book number on the book spine?

What if it was not in its space?

Well, that means there would be a frantic search, entailing looking behind and under, or misplaced, on the shelf. We won’t really go into that to any depth. If it is really missing I can always buy one from HalfPriceBooks.

How did you know how much to charge for that book?

I’m glad you asked! I look on Amazon and there are hundreds of this book. But since this is a specific edition and it does have an ISBN number, I just look on the list and choose the picture that is on my copy.

ISBN? International Standard Book NUmber…every book published since about 1973 has its own unique ISBN number.

What if it was an older edition, or a different edition…would you list another one instead?

Oh no, I wouldn’t. It is important that the customer get exactly the copy and edition that they want.

Why would they care?

It may be that they are looking for an exact book that a teacher read to them when they were in third grade, and it had this picture of the beautiful black horse galloping over a meadow. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to find an exact edition…then what I would do is make a specific listing for the exact book that I had.

That sounds pretty complicated.

Oh, I can explain it all to you. First you do a search on Amazon: with the name of the book and as any details from the copyright page ….please don’t roll your eyes like that.

Sorry…let’s go get ice cream. I’m never going to sell books anyway.