Friday, June 24, 2016

Join Henry Bemis Books- and three other guys who actually know stuff- to talk about books tomorrow

I’m pleased, and only mildly terrified, to report I’ve accepted a long-standing invitation to be the guest on Rare Book Cafe tomorrow, June 25.

I’ll be talking about interesting books from my inventory, my first, late-in-life year as a bookseller, and whatever else the panelists and audience want. I hope you’ll join us!

The interactive internet progam airs Saturdays at 2:30 pm, EDT (6:30 GMT) at It’s presented weekly by the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association, and once I discovered it last year, it became a bookmark on my calendar.

Here’s what the show's producer, Allen Smith, says about it:

Welcome to the Rare Book Cafe, a free-form Internet conversation about antiquarian books, maps, prints, ephemera, and more – all the stuff you love. You can see and talk to book dealers, people who know the details of publishing over hundreds of years. What's more, it's free. All you need is a computer or IOS device and a good wi-fi connection and you're ready to go. Read our blog post

Imagine a place where you can mingle with knowledgeable booksellers, ask them questions, share some stories and some laughs – a place where you can have a cup of coffee and join in the fun. That's called the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair but it happens only once a year. Well, now we've created a virtual place like that – and you don't even have to leave your house, though you do have to bring your own coffee.

We're always looking for ways to leverage social media to help tell the story of the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in particular and the antiquarian book trade in general. When we discovered the platform called Blab, we knew we had found something special.

The odd name notwithstanding, Blab provides the perfect blend of eyeball-to-eyeball interaction and flexible structure that we think will facilitate booksellers and book lovers getting to know each other. It's the same sort of thing that happens in rare bookstores all over the country everywhere, but Blab makes it possible to connect with anybody anywhere who has a decent wi-fi connection. We think the result will be positive for everyone involved.

It's an axiom in business that people do business with people they know, like and trust. If  you can't meet them in person, what better way to get to know a favorite book dealer than interact with them eyeball-to-eyeball in the Rare Book Cafe? Suddenly the world is a much smaller place when you can talk in real time with people all over the world who have the same interests as you do.

The Blab platform is in beta, which means they're still working on it. In fact, the developers are  drawing on the experiences of people who are using Blab to make improvements. We have been seeing upgrades on a daily basis.  It's kind of fun to watch, actually.  So, we're jumping in because we think this is a great place for lovers of antiquarian books to be. We'd like you to come along for the ride and have some fun with us.

The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair is happy to sponsor Rare Book Cafe. You can send comments to

The show has a resident panel of three. Thorne Donnelley owns Liberty Book Store LLC, FABA, in Palm Beach. Thorne's great-grandfather founded R.R. Donnelley & Sons,  one of the largest commercial printing companies in the world. Thorne formerly ran a jet and helicopter service in Los Angeles. He specializes in coffee table books about planes, boats, and cars, as well as fine collectible first editions.

Steven Eisenstein, owner of A-Book-A-Brac Shop in Miami Beach. Steven is a well-known South Florida bookseller, and long-time exhibitor at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. He also is host of the popular Internet-based radio show Bucks on the Bookshelf, which is broadcast live on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. on and repeated on Sundays. Steve’s wife Edie, makes a weekly appearance to talk about her specialty collecting field- miniature books.

T. Allan Smith (that's me), a retired journalist and former bookseller, serves as resident Internet techie and official photographer for the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.


Getting onto Blab is really easy if you can navigate around something like Facebook or Twitter or YouTube but here are some quick tips that may help.

• It's easier and advantageous to use your Twitter account to sign up for Blab. You'll see why once you get in there. Just remember a little bird told you.

• Apps are available for IOS devices (probably soon for Android devices, too). The icon is a strange little purple baby owl-like symbol. There's another app out there called Blab that looks like a child's cartoon character. That's not the right one. Look for the purple owl.

• On a desktop computer, you can also go to on a Google Chrome browser or a Firefox browser. Safari and Internet Explorer won't work.

• They've put the growing number of Blab sessions into categories and added a search function so finding the Blab session you're looking for is easier. Just type “Rare Book Cafe” in “Search” and you’ll find the current and past programs.

• It's a good idea to follow the principal people in a Blab session because you'll get automatic notices when they set up new Blabs. You can also follow them on Twitter for redundant notices. Blab sessions will be set up in advance. You can subscribe to them and receive notices if there are any changes and alerts before they start.

• Lurk on the sidelines of a Blab session to get an idea of how the Blab works but then jump in and participate. That's what's going to make it a rewarding experience for you. Type in comments to take part in the discussion. When there's an empty seat, jump in and add your two cents worth. Don't be shy. We won't bite.

• Ask questions. Most book dealers love to talk books, and they'll reveal nuggets from their vast storehouse of information if you  get them going.

• Above all, have fun. This is a cafe. Relax and enjoy.

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