Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2008 Issue

The Bookseller's Dilemma: Dealing with the Listing Bottleneck

Listing

It is important to list fields in the most effective manner.


By Renée Magriel Roberts

When the bookselling industry moved into virtual marketing and sales over the internet from a brick-and-mortar environment, a huge (and in some cases insurmountable) problem arose with the change. In a bricks-and-mortar environment books are shelved and are located by sight; in the virtual environment books must be correctly and accurately listed in a database and then uploaded to websites in order to be "seen" and to sell. Books unlisted in the shop of a virtual bookseller make no money.

For many and we include ourselves, this has caused a bottleneck that is still unresolved. Sure, books with ISBNs can be scanned in with a correctly installed barcode scanner and software; this will bring up the basic information in most cases. But the book still has to be graded and described; often the default categories are too broad and unspecific. And in general these easier-to-list books represent the least expensive of the titles.

Rare books and books that pre-date the ISBN present far more difficulties from a listing perspective, and here is where the bottleneck comes in. It is difficult to find another person who will grade, describe, and price a book the way you might wish. First of all you have to be dealing with someone who is honest and can be trusted around valuable material. Care must be taken in handling the books. And entering the information into a database (we use HomeBase) in not a walk in the woods either.

To train someone to do this accurately, I suggest that you start with the lower-value titles. When using HomeBase, you can enter a 10-digit ISBN number without dashes in the ISBN lookup field. If listings are available on ABE, these will be shown as highest value and lowest value for the book, but these are still too inaccurate to be used exclusively in creating a listing, because the value will depend upon the condition of both the book and the dustjacket, if applicable, the edition of the book, and whether it has any additional valuable attributes, such as being signed by the author, or owned by someone well-known, or by someone who might have a relationship to the book or the author. The lookup feature of HomeBase is squirrelly; it won't find anything if too much information is put in, or might not find a real comparable. So, in general, we don't use the lookup feature very much. It should be mentioned that when searching for comparables, the identity and trustworthiness of the shop creating the comparable is just as important as the value of the book itself. There are some wild listings out there.

In the author field, we use last name, first name in upper and lower case. Listings might also include variant spellings for the author name (Edgar Allan Poe and Edgar Allen Poe) for example, because if somebody types in the wrong spelling they are not going to get your listing unless the variant is there. I've seen some booksellers use all caps for author name; I personally do not think that is necessary, and it still sounds like "screaming" to me. Even if the author that makes the book valuable (for example a Poe poem in a large periodical) is not the editor, it is a good idea to list the valuable author name in the author field. Also note that the author field is required by some websites, so if you leave it blank your listing may not be uploaded. When I do not have an author name I either list the publisher's name in that field, or "editor", or some other place-holder. Once an author has been entered into HomeBase it becomes part of a look-up list that automatically fills in the field. Watch out for this, because this automatic feature can sometimes create an incorrect listing.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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 Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750

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