It's not the Nasdaq or the Dow, but as a measure of Americans' economic straits, the number of books we're pulling off our shelves and converting to ready cash might not be a bad barometer.
"We have seen an increase of buys," said Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive vice president of Half Price Books, which pays cash for used books. "It started increasing when you were paying $4 a gallon for gas."
Typically, the Dallas-based chain sees a summer uptick – starting in May – in customers bringing in books. "It usually slows down after school starts, but it has not slowed down at all," Thomas said.
Gas prices have fallen since last summer, but unemployment and the cost of groceries haven't. Many houses have lost value, along with their owners' 401(k)s, and everyone, it seems, is looking for money.
"It's indicative of the economic environment," Thomas said. "We've really benefited from it."
Half Price Books' buys in its Dallas-Fort Worth stores are up 7.5 percent from July 2008 to January 2009 over a year earlier, spokeswoman Megan Kuntz said.
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