Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2006 Issue

Alibris Has A Sale

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Here are a few suggestions Alibris and the others might consider. A $1 discount is great on a book that costs a couple of dollars, but is not much incentive on a more expensive book. Perhaps a sliding scale or percentage discount could extend the reach of that incentive. Alibris will still make more on a $100 book after a $5 discount than on a $2.95 one after a $1 discount. It is also wise to make use of deadlines. People act when they know a deal is about to end, but can put off action indefinitely if there is no stated ending time. As of this writing, Alibris' AddAll discount is set to expire in two days, but potential buyers don't know that, so there is no urgency for them to buy now! Deadlines are one of the greatest marketing tools ever devised.

Alibris might want to find ways to encourage their dealers to discount, especially with stock that has been sitting around for ages. The listing sites frequently like to brag about their number of listings. Alibris has something like 60 million, Abebooks now claims 90 million. That may sound impressive to some, but to us it signifies a whole lot of books that are not being sold. I'd rather list on a site that has nothing left at the end of the day! Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like eBay's formula. Clear it all out about once a week. Perhaps Alibris could cooperate with dealers on discounts. If they provided matching discounts instead of carrying the whole burden, those $1 discounts would be $2. Of course they would need to be sure their dealers didn't simply raise their prices to pay for their share of the promotion.

In a separate article this month, Bruce McKinney suggests eBay's "Make an offer" button to the listing sites. This enables potential buyers to negotiate on prices. The selling sites have discouraged such negotiations in the past as they have sought to discourage direct seller-buyer contact, obviously from fear of sales being conducted outside of their sites. However, "Make an offer" negotiations could be conducted in anonymity. Booksellers may not want to offer this option on all of their stock, but if something has been sitting around for a few years, it's a safe bet that the price they want is not one the market is willing to pay. Successful retailers understand that when something doesn't sell, it is time to move on. Many booksellers do not yet realize this.

This just scratches the surface. There are unlimited marketing possibilities, and the listing sites and their booksellers are capable of devising enticing new promotions, especially if they work together. It is time to start turning over some of that huge backlog. Congratulations are in order to Alibris for lifting their booksellers on their backs and starting the journey.

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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