Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2012 Issue

Miriam Geib - A Hybrid Bookseller in Indianapolis

2 miriam's office ae gelb may 2012

Miriam Geib in her office.

Miriam Geib has an unusual position in the world of books, she’s a part-time book seller who sells on-line on three of the leading book bases. What makes her different is her salary is paid by the Indianapolis Public Library and the salary of her part-time support staffer is paid by the Indianapolis Library Foundation.

Geib has been associated with the library in that capacity for more than 25 years. Presently she sells a variety of totally separate inventories on ABE, eBay and Amazon. The funds generated by these online activities are significant, “in the six figure range,” and they are used to support library programs.

Sometimes Geib sees a “dynamic tension” between the goals of her position: “We want to make books available inexpensively to the public to promote literacy and as a public service.” At the same time she points out, “We want to get a fair return for the library from the more valuable books.”


Online Selling a Way to Increase Revenue

According to Geib, “There are still many people who love books, the physical book, and many who can’t afford the electronic devices and need the affordable useful books found at a library sale. I hope Libraries continue to hold public sales despite the challenges they pose because it is part of their public service mission.” But, she continues, “It doesn’t mean we (libraries) have to sell a hundred dollar book for a buck.”

“I feel very strongly that we owe it to the donors, who give us books because they love the library, and to the taxpayers, whose money should be used as efficiently and frugally as possible.  We do get some grief from customers at the public sales who think they should have everything and complain that “all the good stuff is online.” 

“I would encourage librarians and Friends groups to explore online selling as a way of increasing revenue.  Sometimes you need a bigger pool to find a buyer for the special or specialist titles.  Most of our books are modestly priced. But making $10 online is better than $1 from the general sale. Sometimes a book that hasn’t sold for $10 in my corner will sell for $100 online.”

Suggestions from the Indianapolis Experience

She offers a few suggestions for others who might want to adopt the Indianapolis model:

Describe accurately, price competitively, wrap carefully and ship promptly. It’s important to be attentive to customer service. Be sure to say that your store supports your public library because libraries have many friends in the book buying world. 

Use eBay if you want to limit your active attention time; you can run a bunch of auctions at one time and then take a break. Her inventory on eBay she says is mostly sets and similar items. She may have 500 or 600 items listed at any one time.

Amazon is easy for a small seller to use and has the advantage of being the biggest marketplace. 

This site carries the disadvantage, however, that there are lots of people who don’t know what they’re doing on the site and some who know only too well and don’t care.

When you’re looking for a price comparison, ignore the mega-listers with their formulaic non-descriptions and look for real bookstores or sellers. They’re the ones with individual item descriptions and near perfect feedback. She lists about 3,200 titles on Amazon. Mostly she says these are books with ISBN numbers that sell in the $10-$20 range.

This is their Amazon store description:  “The Indy Library Store is the book sale service of the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. Online since 2001, we have maintained five star standards by giving personal attention to every transaction. Each book is individually selected, accurately described, and carefully packed. It gives us genuine satisfaction to bring books and readers together. We hope that friends of libraries everywhere will find satisfaction knowing that their purchases help one particular library to strengthen and extend its services."

She also has a separate inventory on ABE of about 1,000 titles.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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>

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