Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2011 Issue

Dan Gregory Talks Tech for the Trade

Dangregory

Dan Gregory.

“The future of internet antiquarian bookselling,” says Dan Gregory “is certainly not with companies like ABE or Amazon. They don't know anything about antiquarian books themselves, and they don't own antiquarian books. We have the knowledge, and we have the books. So the future of internet antiquarian bookselling lies in our hands.

 

“Large internet companies reach many millions of people, but they are less valuable as ways to sell individual books, and more valuable as tools to meet collectors. The internet is a good place to sell some books, but it is a better place to meet customers. The important customers are not one-time buyers, but collectors and institutions, a much smaller group representing bigger and better sales. The web is a tool to reach them and to sell to them, but it is up to the bookseller to make those sales, not to wait for them.”

 

Gregory, 41, teaches the “Books and Technology” course at the annual Colorado Book Seminar. He also wears the General Manager hat at Between the Covers (ABAA/ILAB) – a New Jersey antiquarian firm that does indeed have a snazzy web site and has made a substantial investment in the tech side of its business.

 

On the phone Gregory comes across as more of a book guy than a geek. Indeed his book credentials are long and strong. He started in a bricks and mortar bookstore around the age of 20 and came up through the ranks of the original Borders’ store in Philadelphia from 1990 to 1996.

 

Those were the days when Borders was still the best kind of BIG - big enough to have everything you’d ever want to read on its shelves and big enough to host a steady stream of readings and signings by contemporary authors who came down from NY (where there was no Borders) to meet-and-greet at the Philly store.

 

Through his work there he cultivated his own taste in books. Just as importantly book signings heightened his awareness of collectability, first editions, and helped him meet other book dealers, including his current employer where he has worked from 1996 to the present.

 

If you’re a mega-lister and your idea of a profitable transaction is one where you make a dime a pop multiplied by many thousands of pops, Gregory’s advice might not be your cup of tea. On the other hand if you’re a bookseller who has a specialty niche, wants to move up in the trade but has neither the time nor money to really bankroll the next big thing you’ll find his explanation of “what works now” persuasive.

 

 “The future of antiquarian bookselling is not by selling through third party sites that take a percentage from each sale,” says Gregory. “That may be the future that those companies hope to see, but their interests are not our interests. To me, those on-line listing sites are not places to sell books, but rather places to meet new customers. If you look at your relationship with those listing sites in this way, their fees become much more palatable. But you have to work at it to make this conversion from merely selling individual books online, to actually meeting valuable customers there.”

 

According to Gregory his company’s sales can be roughly divided into five sources:

“1) printed catalogs; 2) quotes to customers, which are either phone calls, emails, or printed quotes; 3) our own website; 4) book fairs and 5) sales made on the internet through third party vendors such as ABE, Amazon, Biblio, Barnes & Noble, the ABAA and ILAB sites."

 

He itemizes the sources of income as: “39% of our sales came from private quotes to customers, 23% from printed catalogs, 18% from our own web site, 11% from third party internet vendors and 9% came from book fairs.

 

“So the portion of revenue fully under our control, that is catalogs, private quotes, and our website, represents a full 80% of our income. I am very proud of this - these ratios and percentages were no accident. As recently as a few years ago it was 45% and now it is 80%.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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