Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2006 Issue

Abebooks Purchases LibraryThing.com

Libthing

The LibraryThing website


By Michael Stillman

Abebooks recently purchased a stake in LibraryThing.com, following up on its acquisition of BookFinder last fall. In this case, Abe purchased a 40% interest, rather than the entire company. LibraryThing is a site which appeals to bibliophiles, allowing them to post information and converse with others holding similar interests.

LibraryThing was launched less than a year ago, in August of 2005, and already has a reported 35,000 members. Members are able to catalogue their books on the site, write reviews, compile their own profiles, and examine the collections of other bibliophiles with similar tastes. LibraryThing provides software to search the books of other members owning some of the same titles as your own, so you can find other books that appeal to someone with similar interests.

Another feature of LibraryThing is that it provides access to numerous public databases to help members catalogue their books. Those databases include the Library of Congress, Amazon, and roughly 45 others.

Membership in LibraryThing is free, at least for those who catalogue no more than 200 books. Unlimited cataloguing is provided for $10 per year, or $25 for a lifetime. For those with a life expectancy greater than 2 1/2 years, the latter sounds like the better deal. According to Social Security actuarial tables, that includes men under the age of 96 and women under age 99.

While the potential for each site to help the other is obvious, Abe's press release was a bit vague on how this would be implemented. In the release, Abebooks' President Hannes Blum is quoted as saying, "the most exciting part of this deal is the unique information LibraryThing generates about books and book-buying habits. This data will help people find and buy more books on our site." It's not clear exactly how the data will do this, and on his blog, LibraryThing founder and majority owner Tim Spaulding says, "LibraryThing will not suddenly sprout Abe ads all over the place or prevent you from buying from other booksellers. Rather, LibraryThing will provide Abe with certain anonymous and aggregate data, like book recommendations or tag clouds, to help Abe users find books they want." While this statement is somewhat unclear as well, one can't help but think that LibraryThing will at least steer members to the availability of books they might like on Abe. There may not be Abe ads plastered all over the site, and nothing may prevent members from buying elsewhere, but it is hard to see why Abe would make this investment if it didn't help steer some business their way. If so, this is good news for Abe's sellers, for while 35,000 is not an enormous number, it is a significant number, and this must include some of the most active book buyers. It provides a piece to Abe's commitment to invest in promoting the site.

No price was stated, but Spaulding's blog certainly implies that not a lot of cash changed hands. "I want to make it clear I did not just get rich," he writes. "I'm walking away with just enough to cover my legal fees and some new shirts..." Rather, it appears the funds expended by Abe will be used to improve and grow the site. LibraryThing will now be able to hire a couple of full-time employees to develop the site, while gaining access to more stable servers. Additionally, promotion of the LibraryThing on Abe should be enormously beneficial to the latter, as the number of bibliophiles who visit Abe must be many, many times the number who know about LibraryThing. I was not previously aware of the site, and from what I can tell, not many others in the book trade were either. This should provide LibraryThing with a large boost in publicity, while providing Abe's sellers with additional traffic.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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>

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