Yesterday was my first time—and it was great!
It all started at 2 p.m., when my computer screen suddenly broadcast the images of some red-carpeted walls, and the confused sounds of an auction sale held at the biggest Parisian auction house, Drouot. Leaning over my desk, I made out several famous booksellers from Paris as they passed in front of the camera to gather round the first items of a sale—some boxes composed of various books. Here I was, live and direct! in the heart of Drouot, without leaving my living room, drinking a cup of coffee and, shall I confess it?, barefoot—welcome to online bidding, welcome to Drouotlive.com!
Bidding via the Internet is not exactly something new; it’s been going on for a while. But for what I had experienced from the other side of the camera so far (see the article The Book War At Drouot), I wasn’t totally convinced. Uneven transmission, slow recording of bids, and most of all, the lack of consideration from the auctioneers, often led the interns to frustration. But things evolve quickly nowadays, and Drouot now offers the live option to the auction houses that rent a room there. Of course, they have to pay for it, but 30 people virtually attended the sale I’m talking about, and bought 10% of the items—it seems worth it. Though a little bit sceptical, I decided to give it a try. A sale featured a book I was vaguely interested in—not enough to spend the whole afternoon at Drouot, that is—, so I logged in.
The process is simple. The day before the auction, I went through the online catalogue at Drouot.com, spotted a book, and then clicked on Visite de la salle (visit the room) as this option, available 24 hours before the sale, only, gives access to some high-resolution pictures of the items exposed in the room. Of course, nothing can beat a physical check out—but along with the written description of the expert, it gives a good idea of the overall condition of a book.
Afterwards, I went to Drouotlive.com, and picked up my sale in the list. On the right-hand side of the screen, a window read: Sale not started yet / Log in to register. You must register at least 24 hours before the sale, and it only takes a few minutes—they ask for your name and address, a username and your banking details. The following morning, I received an email of confirmation, and logged in a few hours later. The process seems to apply to both national and international registrations—but having registered for another sale recently, I was contacted by phone by the auction house. A charming woman asked for my bank details I had already sent. I enquired about so much care, and she confessed that Drouotlive.com had given them trouble lately, as many e-bidders failed to pay for their items.