Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2011 Issue

A1:  It's Back…Sort of…

Newa1outlet

Website of the new A1Outlet.

A1 Books, a pioneer in online bookselling once larger than Amazon, has made something of a return from the grave, though just how much of a return is still to be seen. A1 began selling textbooks online in 1995, pre-Amazon. It soon added other types of books as its inventory grew. It claimed to have some 500,000 books in stock by the late 1990s. However, by this time, a much better financed Amazon was speeding away to a dominant position in selling from its own stock. Meanwhile, the early book listing site Interloc, now renamed Alibris, and the upstart American Book Exchange, now known as AbeBooks, grabbed the lion's share of selling books owned by independent dealers. A1 continued along, but never quite caught onto the wild momentum of the late '90s internet.

 

In the middle of the last decade, A1 made a major attempt to also become a listing site for others' books. An aggressive push was launched to entice other dealers to list on the site, with the major carrot being no listing fees and a reasonable 10% commission on sales made. The fee structure, by that time, was a relative bargain, but A1 just didn't have the customers needed to make it a major factor. Lower commissions are of little use without sales. A1 was not able to generate the income necessary to remain a viable operation. Despite continued aggressive plans to grow, the company ran into serious financial trouble last spring. Creditors filed to put it in bankruptcy. By summer, the bankruptcy court ordered A1 shut down. The website closed and its assets were put up for auction to help pay creditors. The final chapter seemingly had been written for the internet bookselling pioneer.

 

Indeed, A1 Books is still not to be found, except in India, where its once local subsidiary still survives. However, another secondary operation in the U.S. has made a comeback. Originally created in 2004, but not placed into operation until 2009, a division known as A1Outlet was created to sell items beyond books. Like A1 Books, it closed down when the company went bankrupt. However, it has since reemerged from the ashes of bankruptcy.

 

A1Outlet is something between what Amazon and Alibris evolved to. Like Amazon, it is willing to offer anything under the sun, but more like Alibris, it focuses primarily on books, movies, videos and games. It is late to the game in a crowded field, not normally a good place for a company hoping for success. Usually, such a start-up needs something new and better to find a place against an established field. The normal movement as once-new business fields, such as internet retailing, mature is contraction, not expansion. It is not clear what can make A1 sufficiently distinctive, beyond its still reasonable 10% commission with no listing fees, to succeed. As we have seen, reasonable rate structures without customers has not translated to success for A1 in the past. What will bring in the customers this time around is not clear.

 

As to what is the relationship between the old A1 and the new A1Outlet, you can be sure there is nothing official. A1 Books, as it was, is gone forever. It went through a dissolution bankruptcy, not a reorganization. As their brief press release makes clear, despite the earlier life of its name, A1Outlet was "established in 2011."

 

The brief press release tells us nothing about who is the owner and who is involved. However, we will assume there are carryovers based on the new A1's address:  35 Love Lane, Netcong, New Jersey. That is the same address as the defunct A1 Books. The release explained, "The staff behind A1Outlet has many decades of experience in e-commerce." Probably some of that was with A1 Books. As to whether that includes the old A1's founder and leader throughout its existence, Shinu Gupta, we can't say. No names are listed. The release does say, "You'll find everything from books, music, movies, games, clothing, electronics, to even hand made items and more." And, in a bow to the predecessor's beginning as a textbook retailer, it adds, "We support sellers of all platforms from the college student looking to sell last semester's books to large sellers who may have warehouses all over the country."

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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions