Reviewing versus Bookselling
or, Not Selling Books Here

Essay by
Robert Wilfred Franson
May 2009

Policy: We do not sell books

Troynovant is a review-and-essay website: essentially, we have writings about books and other cultural matters of interest or importance, at least to us. Our range is from science fiction to philosophy, from mystery to economics, from romance to history: all among multiple strata and personae.

We do not sell books at Troynovant. Nor do we link to booksellers with whom we have some indirect or invisible monetary relationship: affiliate accounts or the like.

It seems worthwhile to make this clear, since some readers browsing the Web assume that reviewing and bookselling must go hand-in-hand. Certainly this is true at many websites, and even in some print media. We are sorry to disappoint those who have asked for direct-buy links at Troynovant.

We do not wish our recommendations to be confused with, or entangled with, buying books from us or via booksellers affiliated with us. Our essays and reviews stand alone.

Where to buy books?

Herweg-Romine Bookstore, San Diego 1960s Readers will notice that we are not biased by a book's ready availability. If a book has been out of print for a century, that is no argument against our reviewing it — or against its being worthy of reading.

Now, there are many fine places to buy books, from parchment on along to e-books. There are stores specializing in new works, in used works; specialized by subject or general; books-and-mortar storefronts and online sellers. All these types are fine, and our readers will assume rightly that we patronize all of these types.

In fact, our readers will not be surprised to learn that we sometimes cannot be pried out of a bookstore.


Troynovant is advertising-supported. Contextual advertising is related, more or less, to the words among which a particular ad appears: vicinity, page, and website. The advertising server's proprietary software manages a constantly shifting process of textual weighting versus placement bidding. On this basis we do not choose these ads appearing at Troynovant, and do not know what will appear on a given rendering of a particular page until we see it ourselves. You also may be bemused occasionally.

No pay-for-praise

We call 'em as we see 'em. You might now and then wonder if we see through rose-colored lenses, or through a glass darkly, or even that Troynovant must float upon a ringing plain where ignorant armies strive with words. Read 'em and learn, read 'em and laugh, maybe read 'em and weep: our cards still are being dealt, but they come from a true deck.

[The coast of Illyria. Olivia's house.]

Olivia (to Viola, disguised as Cesario):

Sure, you have some hideous matter to deliver when the courtesy of it is so fearful. Speak your office.
William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night, 1.5.182-183
Who do we link to?

Troynovant is designed to be a Web resource. We enjoy pointing out sources of related information, links to useful or illustrative or entertaining items or places on the Web.

The major American and British publishers are easy to find online; we are most likely to link to these when they provide online a detailed contents list for a reviewed book. We try to link to small or specialty publishers. Editors and publishers, please don't be offended if we haven't linked from a review of your book; perhaps we provide a link from some other work, or it may just be that we haven't gotten around to it yet.

We may link to author websites, if they consist of more than a minimal blog or a stack of affiliate links. Authors, please don't be offended if we haven't linked from a review of your book — as above for publishers.

Occasionally we link to a specialty seller if a reviewed item is not American or British, or otherwise could be difficult for our readers to locate.

Similarly, we sometimes link to e-texts available free online. Often, though, online e-texts are merely partial versions for promotion, or created from older editions which may not be the most accurate text or most usable edition.

Will we ever sell books?

Been there, done that — too briefly in our own little physical store years ago, The Zarathustra Bookstore: "all books personally recommended!" — when the ComWeb was futuristic science fiction. Should we begin to sell books online, such titles likely would be of such a nature as cannot be found elsewhere: either not easily, or not at all. Don't hold your breath until that evanescent day, though.

Read onwards

At Troynovant we are more interested in excellent or distinctive work than the merely timely or fashionable. Quality is always in season, and often more topical and entertaining than currency or fashion admit. Thus, we aim to refer and amuse, rather than to announce and forget. We avoid spoiling surprises in reviews that recommend; other works take their chances.

Indirectly, of course, we happily encourage sales of books we recommend. Or check them out from a library, or borrow from a friend. Reading not only is good for us, and often entertaining; it is essential for the maintenance of civil society. Pass the word.


© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson

Herweg & Romine Bookstore
San Diego, California: 1960s postcard

— three floors of used books, with its secret hoards made visible when Joe Herweg learned you also were a true book lover: the dim basement shelves full of half-sorted books extending even under the sidewalk, and the upper floor jammed with the more-collectible goodies. One day the main floor seemed unusually crowded with stacks of books hindering movement, and Herweg admitted to me that he'd just bought out another bookstore. He didn't like hiring assistants to put away books because then he wouldn't know just what his stock consisted of and where each volume was shelved.

Sometimes Herweg would forget I was browsing down in some far corner of the basement and turn out the lights, and I would have to holler at him to leave the lights on so I'd be able (later) to find my way to the stairwell again. — RWF

Another, gone but not forgotten:
Acres of Books
Long Beach, California: 1934-2008

— several generations of readers loved this store. Bertrand Smith's Acres of Books was big, crowded with bookcases, jam-packed with used books. They never seemed to throw out anything, no matter how unwanted or untimely. Instead of a handful of books on a favorite subject, they'd have shelves. They had multiple copies of decades-old bestsellers that no one else bothered to stock any more, used British books, bookcases heavy with odd books you'd never seen elsewhere, even never heard of. Their used hardcover prices were lower than for new paperback reprints of the same titles. When you're looking for a particular early- or mid-Twentieth Century title, and you find a half-dozen first editions of it from $2 to $5 so you can cheaply choose the one in best condition according to your standards — it's hard to match that by any other means, and there were lots of such opportunities. An immense treasure-trove for book lovers.

In 1990 Acres of Books was designated a cultural heritage landmark by the City of Long Beach. We are now in our third generation of family ownership and have grown to over 1 million books in stock, making us the largest used bookshop in California and a destination for book lovers from around the World.

In 2008 the City of Long Beach forced a sale of Acres of Books to the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (since dissolved), demolishing the store as part of redevelopment for a new Arts District. — RWF

Ray Bradbury visits "City-Doomed" Acres of Books, June 2008

Long Beach's Famed, Redevelopment Doomed Acres of Books Closes, October 2008

D. G. Wills'
Bookstore Questions and Answers
(no, not what you're thinking)

R. W. Franson's
Buying Books Online
Used-Book Standards and Surprises,
or Ploys Pleasant and Unpleasant

Good books (guarded by cats):
Adams Avenue Book Store

Vera Howe Franson taught me this.
Instructions via Forgotten Bookmarks:
How to Open a Book

The Lofting Agency
the portal to Franson books


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