Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2005 Issue

Up for Bid: eBay, Auctions & Book Sites

Noimage

none


These issues, notwithstanding, eBay has a well developed and proven book selling mechanism that will in time resolve many of these descriptive issues because market makers can impose standards. As they do this they will deliver a higher percentage of the retail price.

This makes me wonder why they haven't stepped up to buy one of the major listing sites. Such a site that has internal links and easy options for moving material from online listings into the auction cue is going to be very popular with anyone who doesn't want to have to learn multiple ways to handle their material on line. In other words: with everyone. It might work this way. When a book is listed it carries with it the date first posted and gathers with it over time the accumulating history of changes to the listing. If the price is changed or the descriptive text revised this would be part of the book's information. To this informed approach eBay could offer sellers such options as, at specific dates after first listing, automatic price reductions according to a schedule the seller selects. Perhaps the price drops by 5% or 10% every three months. At one year a seller could then opt to post the item for auction starting the bid at one half of the last price or 30% of the original price. Buyers would understand the book is a relative bargain with the pricing stage identified in color.

Of course some, perhaps even the majority of sellers, will want to control every aspect of their marketing. They won't participate in an automatic sequence of price reduction and conversion from on line listing to online auction. But some will because, with more than 20,000 sellers on ABE, Alibris and other selling sites there is always a population looking to exit even as others are trying to break in. Lawyers who have the responsibility to liquidate book inventory will certainly use this approach because it provides both the potential for maximum income and guarantees that every book sells by some specific final date. In time this will attract buying interest and stabilize the market. In helping to clear the market of its current excess inventory eBay could emerge as the established mechanism for clearing book inventory, something that has real value long term. I believe it might become a legal monopoly.

Of course a decision by eBay to buy Alibris or Abe would probably awaken the sleeping giant at Amazon and they too might want to create a vertically integrated business, perhaps primarily out of fear of an eBay juggernaut. Then too, a combination with Barnes & Noble is logical. In either case two sellers might get a good price. And of course there is the other guy, Bill Gates, who if he decided this was an interesting business and came at it from the database side, could make a battle of it with anyone on the planet.

Finally there is Google who dreams of things not yet contemplated and materializes them out of thin air on a regular basis. While all the world thinks of what is and how to make it better, they think of what has never been but could be.

For those who watch the unfolding world of selling old and rare books on the net there is a sense of what it must have been like in the days of the Roman Coliseum. We all sit in the front row watching the action, wondering what will happen next and hoping the next meal for the lions isn't us.

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.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions