Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2005 Issue

Alibris Bids Amazon Adieu, Adds "Search-by-Seller"

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Once you place an item in your shopping cart, a small seller contact link appears.


By Michael Stillman

Alibris recently conceded that the end has come to its reseller relationship with online book and everything else giant Amazon.com. Last month, Amazon announced that it would no longer accept listings from "aggregators," other book listing sites which provided them with bulk listings from their booksellers. Starting sometime in October, Amazon said, booksellers would have to set up their own individual accounts on Amazon and deal directly with that online seller.

Abebooks, the other aggregator, immediately notified its sellers that the relationship was over. Alibris, a pioneer in such programs, went back to Amazon in an attempt to change its mind. Ultimately, Alibris earned a one-month extension, but that was all Amazon would grant. The result is that the Alibris-Amazon program will come to an end in November. In their announcement to their booksellers, Alibris pointed out that Amazon was their first partner eight years ago, that they had made numerous investments in the relationship, and helped launched Amazon's zShops program. That, as they say, and a dime, will get Alibris a cup of coffee with Amazon. Alibris also noted that it maintains "partnerships with dozens of leading libraries, retailers, and distributors."

Alibris then added an act of goodwill for its sellers. They told their members that they will prepare some tools that will help those sellers who wish to continue to list on Amazon migrate those listings, and manage their Amazon accounts. "We understand the value and importance of this channel and will help transition sellers who can afford to pay Amazon.com fees," Alibris stated in their letter to members. The tools will be available in early November and are offered free to Alibris sellers.

We asked A.J. Kohn of Alibris whether Amazon's decision was based on problems they were having with the aggregators' sellers or a simple desire by Amazon to exclude the aggregators from their sales. His response was a neutral, "I can't comment on their motivation." However, he did go on to point out that Alibris' sellers maintained decent ratings. "What I do know", Kohn stated, "is that prior to their decision, other aggregators had some quality issues. This may have reflected poorly on all aggregators in general. Alibris maintained solid positive feedback (90%) and a decent rating (4.6) across our 20 regional accounts." Alibris attempted to alleviate quality issues by offering to restrict uploads to Amazon to "five star" dealers, but Amazon rejected this offer. "In addition, we were unable to reach agreement on proposals to restrict the program to five star sellers and other measures that would have improved performance," Kohn said.

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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