Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2013 Issue

TomFolio.com Book Dealer Co-op Now in its 13th Year - An Uphill Struggle to Make it Work

Tom foliopix board

Tom Folio President Henry Hain III and board member Bette Feinstein.

TomFolio.com may not be the best known name in the world of bookselling databases, but it is one of the most innovative and unusual. Founded back in 2000, the heady early days of on-line bookselling, it had big plans to wrest control of internet used and out-of-print sales from the bean counters and place it in the hands of the individual dealers with a real knowledge and love of the trade.

TomFolio took its name from a 1710 quote by Joseph Addison describing a ubiquitous bibliophile who seemed to show up everywhere that books were sold. Its cooperative format was loosely adopted from other kinds of ventures such as credit unions and farmers’ organizations where the members were also owners and then paid modest fees to sustain the enterprise.

Today it’s evident that the bean counters are in the lead -- Amazon, Alibris and Abe are filled with penny sellers and mega-listers. They are clearly being run by people whose main focus is financial and technical and whose interest in books is secondary (if in fact that interest exists at all).

Though TomFolio is still struggling to stay afloat, it has outlasted a number of other cooperative ventures, and except for a paid webmaster, it is still an all volunteer organization.

Lee Kirk of The Prints & The Paper, an ephemera specialist in Eugene, Oregon, is a charter member, TF blogger and perhaps semi-official den mother to the clan. She pointed out that the site currently has over 120 member dealers throughout the US and Canada, as well as South Africa, the Netherlands, UK, India and other countries.

“Selling books on TomFolio is not an easy solution,” said Arne Schaefer, a past TF president, who runs Africana Books in Cape Town, South Africa. But, he continued, “If you want to be a bookseller that is in some way different from the soulless big boys and faceless bulk listers, be it because of your choice of subject, your knowledge of a genre, your dedication to giving outstanding service to your clients, your willingness to share knowledge, or being prepared to work just that little bit harder to spread the good word about TomFolio (and yourself, of course) – then you will probably find that your ‘marriage’ with TF is a good one.”

“TomFolio offers its members many services for a small monthly fee,” said Don Gallagher, who with wife Sue runs Gallagher Books in Denver. “Those fees,” he said, “haven’t changed since TF opened and there are no commissions on sales. Customers have been impressed by the category system (an attempt to facilitate browsing). The technological stability of the site has been impressive – very rarely any downtime.” Other site features he noted included author autographs, awards, biographies, and pseudonyms.


Posted On: 2013-02-02 00:00
User Name: barbsbooks

Thank you for telling your readers about TomFolio. You have presented a very accurate picture of what it has to offer both booksellers and boo


Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
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    <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.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
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    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Copper Printing Plate for "Marshall's Household Engraving of Washington." $500 to $1000
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    <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
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    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> William Pope.L (American, b. 1955), <i>Intimacy Project</i>. $2,000 to $4,000
  • <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
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    <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
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