A money making hobby

Christine Moitoso
Staff Writer

Buying and selling of books on the Internet is ULV Professor of Biology Jeffrey Burkhart’s hobby, a hobby that makes him a little extra money.

“It all started in 1994 when I was teaching in Oklahoma,” Burkhart said.  

The school he was working for was having financial trouble.  The school ended up closing in 1998 and Burkhart was forced to look for another way to pay his bills.  Burkhart and his wife, Lisa, shared an interest in antiques and one day they went to an estate auction. A house was being auctioned and so were 7,000 books that were inside it.  A family made up of lawyers and physicians had collected the books.

Burkhart wanted just the books and not the house.  So he bid on the collection and bought it for $1,100.  He hauled the books home and started going through them.  Most were published before 1930 and he knew some would be worth a lot, so he began to sell the books.  

Burkhart sold them at an antique mall and online at a book web site called bibliofind.com.

“Now it is a hobby,” Burkhart said. “I go out and find books, some (for) only 25 cents and I can sell them for hundreds of dollars.”  

When Burkhart first started buying and selling, there were fewer than 100 dealers on the Web site, but today there are tens of thousands of dealers and more than 60 million books listed. 3,200 of them are his.

Burkhart mostly buys and sells non-fiction.  He sells about 300 books a year and he only devotes about three-to-four hours of his week to his money making hobby.

“The most I have ever gotten for a book was $1,500,” Burkhart said.  “It was the first edition ‘Piazza Tales’ by Herman Melville. I sold it to a collector.”  

Burkhart’s wife Lisa Burkhart helps him with his hobby by finding books for him. In return she says that her husband finds her some interesting books that she can use in her research of critical thinking and science education.  

Burkhart shares his extra earnings.  Sharla Geist, administrative secretary for natural sciences, said that he donates to the Society for Physics and Life Science Scholars Club.

“Ever since his first year here, he is pleasant, outgoing, and he works too hard,” Geist said.

Burkhart loves finding a book and someone who wants it, then links the two of them together.  Burkhart sells all over the world, giving him and his wife the chance to meet lots of new people.  When he retires, he said, he will make his hobby a fulltime occupation. And his wife will help him.

“It is like a treasure hunt when you find old and valuable books because they give you insight into the past and you get to see where ideas have come from and how they have changed,” Lisa Burkhart said.

Christine Moitoso can be reached at cmoitoso@ulv.edu

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Posted May 4, 2005
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