• <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Ernest Hemingway, Autograph Letter Signed "Love / Mr. Papa," to Marlene Dietrich, Cuba, 1952. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Alexis de Tocqueville, Autograph Letter Signed, on the publication of <i> Democracy in America </i>, 1837. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Hart Benton, Autograph Manuscript, draft of <i>The Mechanics of Form Organization in Painting</i>, with sketches, 1926. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Elliot Erwitt, photograph of Kennedy & Eisenhower, signed by both,<br>c. 1960. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> John Adams, Partly-printed Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, 1798. $4,000 to $6,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Graphite drawing of Albert Einstein, signed by him & the artist, S.N. Swamy, 1950. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, London, 1888. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Partly-printed vellum Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State James Madison, 1809. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Agatha Christie, Autograph Manuscript notebook with early drafts for numerous novels, Baghdad, circa 1948. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Claude Monet, Autograph Letter Signed to Desmond Fitzgerald, in French, 1889. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Photograph of Fidel Castro, Signed & Inscribed, in Spanish, 1955. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Frederick Stuart Church, archive of 17 illustrated Autograph Letters Signed to Evander Schley, 1905-11. $5,000 to $7,500.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2007 Issue

Red Stars Over Abe: AbeBooks Goes Live with its Ratings

Stars

Abe rates its booksellers by number of red stars.


By Michael Stillman

Abebooks finally went live with its Bookseller Rating system last month, and we have heard two reactions from the dealers: so what, and this represents a knife in the heart. There was, theoretically, one other response -- we love it. We say "theoretically" as that response was not a realistic possibility. Booksellers are a tough audience, and besides which, we all tend to express our displeasure vociferously when we are wronged, but say little when we are righted. It's a shortcoming of human nature, but we are almost all guilty.

Most booksellers, as best we can tell, have taken a ho-hum attitude, and this must be to Abe's relief. When the plan for a rating system was originally mentioned a year ago, there was much trepidation among the sellers. Rating systems in use by sites like eBay and Amazon allow customers to post comments, which means a seller can be saddled with ratings that reflect some problem on the part of the customer, shipping service, or site, rather than the seller himself. The customer may have it out for the dealer for some totally unrelated reason, but his negative, maybe even slanderous comments, still stand posted for the world to see. Who wants to take a chance with a seller when some customer claims he's a cheat? It's safer to go elsewhere rather than take a chance.

The result was that when Abe decided to base it's rating strictly on fulfillment rates, much of the booksellers' fear disappeared. Instead of a subjective, possibly grossly unfair rating, the sellers' ratings would be based strictly on a mathematical formula. And, with the percentages used for the stars, most sellers achieve either a four or five (the best) star rating. That is probably reasonable, since most dealers do their job fairly well.

The shortcoming of this system is it really doesn't tell customers very much. Fulfillment percentage probably isn't the major concern on people's minds when they buy from a new vendor. Ethical considerations are more likely the concern. Is this seller honest, will he overcharge my credit card, is the book as described, will shipment be timely, will a refund be made if I return the book -- these are the types of issues that are most likely on buyers' minds, though fulfillment rates aren't unimportant. The major issues really aren't addressed by this rating system.

This leads to the problem that sellers who do not like the ratings have expressed. The ratings seem to say more than they do. All that is shown is "Bookseller Rating" and the number of stars. Sure, if you click on "Bookseller Rating" you will get a complete explanation of the system, that it refers only to "completion rate," or orders minus returns and cancellations. Five stars means 95%+ completion, four 85%-94%, three 70%-84%, two 60%-69%, and one 0%-59%. But, how many people click on this link to read the explanation? People are rushed and generally don't like reading lots of explanations. Many people will undoubtedly look at the ratings, assume they somehow measure a bookseller's integrity, and draw conclusions from them that don't necessarily follow.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 37. Anonymous, <i>[Untitled - Ancient World]</i>, 1553. Est. $20,000 - $23,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 45. Cellarius, <i>Haemisphaerium Stellatum Australe</i>, 1708. Est. $2,400 - $3,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 51. Kircher, <i>Systema Ideale quo Exprimitur</i>, 1665. Est. $1,600 - $1,900
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 152. David H. Vance, <i>Map of the United States of North America</i>, 1825. Est. $8,000 - $10,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 309. Mark Storm, <i>Official Texas Brags Map of North America</i>, 1948. Est. $350 - $425
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 426. B. Crété, <i>Carte Symbolique de l'Europe / Europe en 1914</i>, 1915. Est. $2,000 - $2,300
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 636. Hartmann Schedel, <i>Folio LXIIII - Destruccio Iherosolime</i>, 1493. Est. $1,100 - $1,400
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 649. Heinrich Bunting, <i>Asia Secunda pars Terrae in Forma Pegasi</i>, 1581. Est. $3,000 - $3,750
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 747. Theodore de Bry, <i> [Lot of 22 - Complete Set of De Bry's Virginia Natives]</i>, 1590. Est. $6,000 - $7,000
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 769. Lotter/Lobeck, <i>Atlas Geographicus Portatilis</i>, 1760. Est. $1,900 - $2,200
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 772. Henry Teesdale, <i>A New General Atlas of the World</i>, 1835. Est. $1,200 - $1,500
    <b>Old World Auctions, Apr. 26:</b> Lot 777. Marco Coltellini, <i>[3 Volumes] Il Gazzettiere Americano</i>, 1763. Est. $5,500 - $7,000
  • <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b>  Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, The Moon, From a Negative taken at the Observatory of Mr. L. M. Rutherfurd...May 19, 1874. Est: $5,000-8,000 (Lot 3)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Alvin Langdon Coburn. London. With 20 photogravures by Coburn and text by Hilaire Belloc, London and New York: 1909. First edition. Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 32)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Lee Friedlander, Newark, New Jersey, 1962 and Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1972.<br>Est: $7,000-9,000 (Lot 50)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> The  papers of Brevet Major General John Gross Barnard (1815-1882), Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac. Est: $75,000-100,000 (Lot 160)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> James Joyce, Dubliners, London: Grant Richards, 1914. First edition. Est: $5,000-8,000 (Lot 362)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> George Sand, Group of five volumes inscribed to Henry Harrisse. Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 405)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Thomas More, Sir, Saint [Utopia]: De optimo reip. statu deque nova insula utopia libellus vere aureus… Basel: Froben, March 1518. First Basel edition. Est: $15,000-25,000 (Lot 308)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Johannes Brahms, Autograph letter in German signed "Joh. Brahms.” Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 285)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Kelmscott Press, [Guilelmus, of Tyre, Archbishop]. The History of Godefrey of Boloyne. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1893. Est: $2,000-3,000 (Lot 270)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Gilles Robert de Vaugondy, Gilles Didier, Atlas universel...Paris: the author and Boudet, 1757[-58]. Est: $10,000 - $15,000  (Lot 222)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1820. First edition. Est: $5,000-7,000 (Lot 399)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Specimen book of Schumacher & Ettlinge, between 1870-1895. Original roan-backed boards.. Est: $2,000-3,000 (Lot 195)
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000

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