ILAB Launches New Website
By Michael Stillman
ILAB recently completed a major overhaul of its website, which gives us an opportunity to look at this book dealers' organization and its bookselling website. ILAB stands for the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and it is the largest such group in existence today. Formed in 1947, it includes members of twenty different national associations. The largest is America's ABAA, The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America. However, even the ABAA comprises only about one-quarter of the membership of ILAB. This is truly an international organization, and its booksellers naturally offer books from all over the world.
Among the services offered is a book listing search of members' inventory. These include the listings which can be searched through the ABAA website along with material posted by members of the 19 other worldwide organizations. This covers approximately 4 million books from 2,000 vendors. In another era, this would have been astonishing. However, with Abebooks now boasting of 70 million books for sale, it sounds small. ILAB cannot compete in number of books available. What, then, can they offer the collector?
For starters, ILAB member organizations are composed of serious booksellers. This is not to say that nonmembers aren't also serious. There are many worthy booksellers who are members of other organizations, or operate independently of such groups. However, anyone who has searched through the mega-listing sites will be aware that many of those who list are rank amateurs, people with little true knowledge of books who post what they find in attics or garage sales. Their descriptions of what they offer, particularly when it comes to condition, can be wanting. Others simply deal in used books. There is nothing wrong with this. I buy used books this way as it is a much easier method of buying a recently out of print title than trying to track down a new copy. However, if you are searching for an antiquarian or rare title, it may be hard to find among the swarms of recent reprints posted on these sites.
Finally, there are the complete frauds; people who post books they don't even own, but look to fill their sales from other booksellers' inventories, after tacking on a healthy up-charge for providing absolutely no value. And then, or course, there are the "books-on-demand" reprints. This is a useful service for people seeking a reading copy of a hard-to-find book, but these listings are a nuisance for those seeking the original itself. ILAB filters out such extraneous material.