• <b>Results from Bonhams’ sale of <i>Fine Books & Manuscripts Featuring Exploration and Travel</i></b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Columbus. De Insulis nuper in mari Indico repertis. Basel, 1494. SOLD for $751,500
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Cook in Tahiti. [Playbill]. [Germany, c.1840.] SOLD for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Aa, Pieter van der. Naaukeurige versameling der gedenk-waardigste zee en land-reysen. Leyden, 1706-8. SOLD for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Dürer. Underweysung der messung [and two more]. Nuremberg, 1525-8. SOLD for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Cortes, Hernan. A Pleito signed by Antonio de Mendoza in the case of Hernan Cortes. 1542. SOLD for $8750
    <b>Results from Bonhams’ <i>The Air and Space Sale</i></b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Russian Kholod 5D67 HFL Rocket Engine. SOLD for $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Neil Armstrong Apollo Era Training Glove. SOLD for $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Full Scale Sputnik-1 EMC/EMI Lab Model. SOLD for $847,500
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> SOLRAD GREB Spy Satellite Engineering Dummy. SOLD for $10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Soviet LK-3 Lunar Lander Model. SOLD for $25,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b><br><i>The Centenary Edition of the Works of Ian Fleming</i>, one of 26 lettered sets, 18 volumes, London, 2008. $25,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> William Faulkner, <i>The Marble Faun</i>, first edition, signed & inscribed to Dorothy Wilcox by Faulkner & Phil Stone, Boston, 1924. $18,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Maurice Sendak, <i>Where the Wild Things Are</i>, first edition, signed & inscribed to William Archibald, New York, 1963. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Anne Frank, <i>Het Achterhuis</i>, first edition, in first state jacket, Amsterdam, 1947. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Roald Dahl, <i>Charlie and the Chocolate Factory</i>, first edition, signed, New York, 1964. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b><br>Ray Bradbury, <i>Fahrenheit 451</i>, first limited edition bound in Johns-Manville Quinterra, New York, 1953. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Benjamin Graham, <i>The Intelligent Investor</i>, first edition, in original dust jacket, New York, 1949. $4,500 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Anna Sewell, <i>Black Beauty</i>, first edition, inscribed, London, 1877. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Arthur Conan Doyle, <i>A Study in Scarlet</i>, first American edition, Philadelphia, 1890. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> James Fenimore Cooper, <i>The Last of the Mohicans</i>, first edition, two volumes, Philadelphia, 1826. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Amelia Earhart, <i>20 hrs. 40 mins. Our Flight in Friendship</i>, limited first edition, signed, New York, 1928. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Philip K. Dick, <i>World of Chance</i>, first edition, signed, London, 1956. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Sotheby’s Paris: Books & Manuscripts. 30 October 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> MARCEL PROUST. Du côté de chez Swann. Grasset, 1913. First edition. One of 5 copies on Japan paper, inscribed by the author to Louis Brun. Est. €400,000 - 600,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> Saint-Exupéry. <i>25 Autograph Illustrated Letters to his Friend Charles Sallès</i>. Est. €30,000-50,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> French Revolution, 1793. Déclaration des droits de l’Homme. 2,55 x 1,30m. A monumental wallpaper poster of the 1793 version, with hand-colored highlights. Unique copy. Est. €100,000 - 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> GIAMBATTISTA PIRANESI. <i>Vedute di Roma</i>, 1748-1775. 107 etchings. An exceptional copy, printed and bound before 1780. Est. €50,000 - 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> Picasso, Pablo -- Fernando de Rojas. LA CÉLESTINE. [PARIS, EDITIONS DE L'ATELIER CROMMELYNCK, 1971.] One of the 30 copies hors commerce (n° X). 66 original etchings by Picasso. Signed. Est. €30,000 - €35,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2013 Issue

A Transaction Reversed: AbeBooks Sells Chrislands Back to Founder

Chrislandssite

Back to the future - Chrislands is single and free again.

Five years ago, amid great fanfare, it was announced that AbeBooks was purchasing Chrislands, the bookseller's website hosting service. At the beginning of May 2013, almost exactly five years later, it was announced that Chrislands had been sold back to one of its co-founders, Jaymes Sorbel. The explanation given was the suitably vague “We [AbeBooks and Jaymes] have come to the conclusion that ChrisLands needs to be independent.” Obviously, they reached a totally different conclusion in 2008. At that time, Abe CEO Hannes Blum stated in a press release, “Chrislands is a perfect fit for us.” Chrislands' other co-founder, Lance Christen, said, “we’ll be able to offer a better product by working closely with AbeBooks.com and its affiliated companies.” What changed?

The world changed. While we can't know exactly why the two parties decided to split, we can see that the marketplace has changed in five years. So, perhaps, has management's focus. AbeBooks was an acquisitive company back in 2008, roughly purchasing a book-related company a year. In 2004, it was Spanish book site IberLibro, in 2005 BookFinder, in 2006 FillZ and later a 40% stake in Library Thing, and in 2008 Chrislands. Later that year, Abe itself was purchased by Amazon.com, and its only purchase since then was struggling European competitor ZVAB in 2010.

In 2008, AbeBooks officially explained it made purchases based on three factors: the company was book-related, successful, and possessed an opportunity for growth. We aren't in a position to know whether Chrislands fulfilled these promises. Certainly, it is still book-related, success is a subjective, eye-of-the-beholder test, and whether it has achieved growth is unknown to us. However, there was something else that may have been a factor in selecting this particular successful, growing, book-related business in 2008 that may no longer be as much of a concern for AbeBooks. We look back to an interview conducted by Book Patrol on seattlepi.com at the time with Dr. Blum.

The interviewer asked Dr. Blum why this purchase was made, but not before observing, “It would seem that one of the greatest threats facing AbeBooks would be in the booksellers building of their own websites. Coupled with Google’s dominance in the search arena and Amazon’s far reach and you potentially have a situation where the user will eventually bypass the traditional 3rd party books sites like AbeBooks...” Abe's CEO is quoted in response, “Booksellers realize that they have to offer books for sale through as many different ‘channels’ as possible. Before the internet, that meant auctions, book fairs and catalogs as well as bricks and mortar bookstores. Today, the same rule applies and we accept that sellers are going to sell through other online marketplaces and also develop their own retail websites. We understand this and accept this. This is a part of the online bookselling world that we want to be involved with – Chrislands already does a great job and has fantastic potential. We’re not straying away from online bookselling but simply making sure we have a strong presence in another developing area of internet bookselling.”

Why does AbeBooks no longer need a presence in this other area of internet bookselling? In 2008, Abe likely saw Chrislands, or at least the concept of cooperative individual bookseller websites, as more of a threat to their business model. Booksellers loved Abe in the beginning, but numerous price increases and other demands later, that relationship had become more tense. Some dealers looked for alternatives. Add the interviewer's comment about “Google’s dominance in the search arena” to “another developing area of internet bookselling” and you have a potentially dangerous mix for aggregators like Abe.

In 2008, the idea that Google could become a powerful aggregator, not just of books but of everything, seemed like a serious possibility. Google had an advantage. They weren't listing products themselves. They would pick up listings from the sellers' own websites and enable customers to sort them in a useable order. You could search for books almost the way you could on a traditional aggregator's site. However, Google did not have to deal with the expenses of listing books and interacting with dealers since they picked up the listings from someone else's site. Therefore, they did not have to charge fees. They could make money through advertising and offering a check-out service for those who needed one. Booksellers (like everyone else) like free.

Google opened a specific product search in 2002 under the name “Froogle.” It developed slowly, but in 2007, Google renamed it “Google Product Search” and ramped up the service. By 2008, one could imagine it becoming a serious threat to even Amazon. And, Google was showing an especially keen interest in books, as it developed its massive database of scanned books under the name “Google Books.” That might have provided an extremely good place to promote books found through “Google Product Search.” It is no wonder AbeBooks would have wanted to own the company that built and operated the largest number of individual booksellers' personal websites.

A lot has changed since 2008. Google never became the force in shopping, and particularly the book field, it appeared it might. Do you search for books or anything else by going to Google Shopping (successor to Google Product Search) instead of Amazon, eBay, a regular Google web search, or AbeBooks (for books)? I thought not. Google Shopping is now another pay-to-play service like the other sites. Meanwhile, Google Books has been bogged down in lawsuits for years with no end in sight. Their interest appears to have waned. Google seems to be focused elsewhere. They are involved in such fields as wearable computers and driverless cars. How exciting are old books to them now?

So, some combination of dealer websites and Google no longer appears much of a threat to Abe. Meanwhile, though books are still an important part of Amazon's business, they are hardly the focus any more. In their early days, books were the next big thing. That is no longer the case. Most booksellers would likely acknowledge these as tougher times, not the growth era of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Chrislands may have appeared more of a distraction than an opportunity today for Amazon/AbeBooks. It likely belongs in the hands of a small, privately and personally run business than in those of an internet giant. We suspect that is what AbeBooks and Chrislands' old management concluded recently.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio!</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio!</b>
  • <b>Sotheby’s New York: The Magnificent Botanical Library of D. F. Allen. October 26, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Redouté, Pierre Joseph, and Claude Antoine Thory. <i>Les Roses</I>. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1817–1824. Est. $225,000 to $325,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Trew, Jakob Christoph. <i>Hortus Nitidissimis Omnen Per Annum Superbiens Floribus</i>… Nuremberg: Johann Joseph Fleischmann, 1750 [–1786]. Est. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Trew, Christoph Jakob, and Benedict Christian Vogel. <i>Plantæ Selectæ</i>…[Nuremberg:] 1750–1773; Supplement, [Augsburg:] 1790 [–1792]. Est. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: The Magnificent Botanical Library of D. F. Allen. October 26, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Jacquin, Nikolaus Joseph von. <i>Plantarum Rariorum Horti Caesarei Schönbrunnensis Descriptiones Et Icones.</i>Vienna; London; Leiden, 1797–1804. Est. $180,000 to $250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Weinmann, Johann Wilhelm. <i>Phytanthoza Iconographia; Sive Conspectus Aliquot Millium, Tam Indigenarum Quam Exoticarum</i>… Regensburg, 1735–1737–1745. Est. $120,000 to $180,000
  • <b>Sotheby’s London: Fine Autograph Letters and Manuscripts from a Distinguished Private Collection. Part I: Music. 26 October 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Beethoven, Ludwig van. Autograph Manuscript of the Canon "Ewig Dein" Woo 161, signed at the end ("...[Ewig] Dein...Freund Ludwig Van Beethowen"). Est. £120,000 to £150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Brahms, Johannes. Autograph Manuscript of the "Geistliches Wiegenlied", Op.91 No.2, for Contralto, Viola And Piano, the original version of 1864, signed and inscribed at the end by the composer. Est. £200,000 to £250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Chopin, Frédéric. Autograph Manuscript of the Opening of the Étude Op.25 No.2, in A-Flat Major, signed and dated ("Paris Ce 28 Avril F. Chopin"). Est. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Fine Autograph Letters and Manuscripts from a Distinguished Private Collection. Part I: Music. 26 October 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Haydn, Joseph. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jos Haydn[Paraph]"), to the Baden Choirmaster Anton Stoll, 30 July 1802. Est. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Verdi, Giuseppe. Autograph Working Manuscript of a scene from Ernani. Est. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Verdi, Giuseppe. Highly Important Series of Thirty-Six Autograph Letters Signed to The Librettist Salvadore Cammarano, written between 1844 And 1851, the greater part unpublished and unrecorded. Est. £250,000 to £300,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions