Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2005 Issue

Amazon Cuts The Cord: Now What For Abe and Alibris?

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The mighty river is washing away its partners.


By Michael Stillman

Just when it seemed there was enough confusion in the online bookselling world, Amazon decided there wasn't, and proceeded to terminate their well-established relations with the top used book selling sites. The ramifications of their decision immediately spread to Abe, Alibris, and Half.com. Where it all will settle is anyone's guess, but once the stuff hits the fan, no one is ever quite the same.

Of course Abebooks has been leading the way in controversy over the past few months. They have been redesigning their site in a way which, if intended to antagonize their sellers, was certainly successful. On the assumption this was not their intention, the call is still out as to whether these changes will be a step in the right direction. Technical glitches in the implementation have evidently affected sales and raised much ire in the Abebooks community, while an obscuring of direct contacts with the individual dealers has particularly angered antiquarian, rare, and other high end booksellers (see our article from last month: http://www.americanaexchange.com/NewAE/aemonthly/article.asp?f=1&page=1&id=290). The last thing Abe needs at this point is more controversy, but more controversy is just what they have been granted, courtesy of Amazon.

As everyone undoubtedly knows, Amazon is the world's largest online seller of new books. A few years ago, they expanded into used books as well, and quickly developed a huge supply of available titles through cooperative ventures with used book leaders Abebooks and Alibris. Dealers who listed their books on these sites could automatically have their books listed on Amazon as well. A similar program was also instituted with the website of the largest traditional (bricks and mortar) new book seller, Barnes and Noble.

However, on or around September 20, Amazon informed its partners that they would be partners no more. Amazon decided that it would no longer accept listings from what Abe calls "aggregators," sites which aggregate listings from multiple booksellers. They would only accept listings from the individual booksellers themselves. This change is major. While we do not know what percentage of Abe and Alibris sales are actually made on Amazon, we do know that it is substantial, and for some booksellers, it is a majority of their sales. Once the dust settles, we can anticipate some of those dealers may be realigning their loyalties based on how their sales are affected. For beleaguered Abe, the timing could not be worse, as there is much disaffection already within their community. Fence mending will be paramount for them.

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>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.

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