Rare Book MonthlyNew Letter
Letters to the Editor
bookfever February 01, 2011
I enjoyed Susan Halas's article on bookselling, although I have a tendency to agree with Bruce that auction records can constitute a "reality check" in terms of valuing books.
Shortly after reading this article, I was researching a juvenile series I came across this blog (on the seriesbooks.com website) and just had to laugh
"Some people feel that it is their duty to tell every seller of a first printing copy of Nancy Drew #1 The Secret of the Old Clock that the book is valued at $1,000—regardless of the condition of the book up for sale. . . .
I seem to recall that a 1930A-1 Old Clock without a jacket sold in the summer of 2008 for around $1,000, but that was to the woman who was spending around $30,000 per month on series books that summer. She worked for a bank and had stolen $300,000 from her bank's vault. She later went to federal prison. That sale does not count because that buyer tended to pay around 10 times the actual value of books during that buying frenzy. People bid against her just to drive the prices up, and I know of at least one instance in which a seller shilled an auction in order to make her pay an extreme amount."
So I guess the bottom line is that no matter which you check out - current listed prices or auction records - you still need to use your expertise to determine the price you want to place on a book (or pay for it.)
. November 23, 2010
Michael Stillman re Library Privatization
I don't know when you published it, but I just saw the above re the Santa Clarita Library lawsuits. One of the best explanations of the issues and suits I've seen.
. November 01, 2010
re: Santa Clarita Library
I understand that several libraries of the Ventura County System --where I live--are also joining or considering joining LSSI. It does seem clearly to be an issue of pensions and union negotiated salaries. With so much bad press about pensions in California (I am a retired librarian and soon to be retired bookseller) in the news this year, it is no wonder that this has again raised it's ugly head.
Thanks for making this issue more widely available to the booksellers of the nation.
. November 01, 2010
re: Better World Books
I read with interest your article on Better World Books, an
organization which holds itself forth as some sort of "humanitarian" and
"green" organization. The author of this article implied that if we as
book dealers were as smart as they, we could also be successful. Most
book dealers, myself included, think it is unethical to put up big green
boxes that say "donate books, do good" when indeed you are a for profit
corporation. This is the worst form of greenwashing. If they were
capable of shame, I would say "shame on them". Your article only helped
to legitimize this fraud.
Mark Holmen - Bookmark
Editor's Note: The writer carefully noted that partners receive only a "portion of revenues generated by donated books," and the donations produce "a decent amount of revenue for the corporation." This is a for-profit business that does some good deeds on the side and we were certainly not attempting to hide that fact.
. October 01, 2010
Your excellent newsletter
Fascinating. The only email re the trade I pay attention to.
. September 03, 2010
re: Dealer Catalogue Listings
I think this unbelievably ambitious project will do much to add meat
to the bones of your data-base. I do not sell 'great books' but I do
sell some 'good' books and I am frequently unable to find them in your
DB even as comprehensive as you are.
It seems that most of these are earlier works that may not have come to
auction in the last 50-100 years. Some are victims of the search
With that said, I have a hard time imagining surviving without your resources.
Your listings of Sabin et al. has been of an immeasurable help to me.
Maggs type descriptions are extremely useful to any antiquarian dealer.
. September 01, 2010
Thoughts on Adding Dealer Catalogues to the AED
I am a long-time collector of Western Americana with emphasis on
Californiana, with a particular concentration on the Gold Rush Period.
As a Research Member of the Americana Exchange, I am a very frequent
user of your database which I find to be a truly wonderful resource
for the advanced collector. Although I have a large collection
of my own of several hundred Americana catalogues dating back to the
19th century, no single collector or dealer could ever amass what you
have made so readily accessible.
As far as the letters "A" and "B" are concerned, in my areas of
interest I would encourage you to consider more of the 1915-1930
auction catalogues of the American Art Association /Anderson
Galleries, which are a wonderful resource on rare Western Americana.
Also, additional catalogues from Alta California Books would be a fine
Further along in the alphabet, additional catalogues of Holmes Book
Company (Oakland), Talisman Press (Georgetown), John Howell Books (San
Francisco), and Dawson's Book Shop (Los Angeles) would also be great
Among the major dealers further east, if the firms are willing to
permit their inclusion the marvelous catalogues of William Reese
Company (New Haven) and Michael Heaston (Austin) would be truly
wonderful additions. As I don't recall having seen any of their
catalogs referenced in the database, I suspect they may be unwilling
to permit their inclusion. If that is the case, I hope this will some
William J. Coffill (Sonora, CA)
. September 01, 2010
Thoughts on Adding Dealer Catalogues to the AED
Dawsons Book Shop of Los Angeles.... Book catalogs since 1905. Best
collection of Californiana & Western Americana.
Catalogs are available.
prints August 02, 2010
RE: Too Good to Be True
Although you didn't mention it, I would state the obvious, that the Ebay seller appears to actually have committed an insurance fraud against the US Postal Service. Obviously knowing that the piece was a reproduction, what better way to guarantee they get their selling price of $275 other than by packing the piece to ensure breakage during transit? You get your purchase price back from Ebay because the item was a fake, AND the seller gets to keep the $275 insurance claim paid by the Post Office because the piece was damaged in transit. A great way to "launder" reproductions by the unscrupulous seller and to leave the USPS holding the bag...
Mike August 01, 2010
Dear Mr. McKinney,
Your article about the book consigned to Jeff Thomas illustrates one of the problems that can arise when books are consigned.
A more frequent problem, in the antique trade--but also the book trade, is the permanent loss of consigned items in a dealer bankruptcy IF the very exact procedures of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) are not followed.
Consigned books may also be permanently lost, or spend years in limbo, should the IRS seize a dealer's business.
It would be helpful, for both dealers and collectors, if the exact requirements of the UCC--as they pertain to consigned items--were discussed in a future article.
. August 01, 2010
Dear Mr. McKinney:
I read with great interest your "Too Good to be True" column on your experience with acquiring a refund from Ebay on a purchase you found -not- to be a Currier & Ives lithograph.
For your information, Currier & Ives actually sold chromist-made reproductions, -not- lithographs. This link to my monograph documents that fact: click here.
Any questions or comments, please contact me.
artist, creator of original lithographs, scholar & author
P.O. Box 686
Fernandina Beach, Florida 32035
. August 01, 2010
Nice job. As always I look forward to receiving your AE monthly.
John M. Martello
wellesley5 July 03, 2010
Bruce McKinney's article on Bolerium is the most literate/literary description of a bookshop that I have ever read. The entire website is a source of invaluable information and is a "must read" on the first of every month.
Friend July 01, 2010
Jeff Weber makes very critical points about Amazon [see letter below]. The current issue, while interesting, is unenforceable and impractical. Amazon isn't going to waste energy trying to police the millions of individuals listing items for sale on its site and others. However, the points raised by Mr. Weber have a greater financial impact overall on the Amazon retailers. The postage rates are unreasonable. Yet some Amazon retailers make their profit on the postage since a paperback can generally be sent for about $1.00. The putative "price" merely covers the listing fee. Yet here is the dilemma - Amazon's internet prominence outperforms all the others by miles. Consumers start and generally finish at Amazon - not AbeBooks, Biblio or [fill in the blank]. It's about on-line traffic and the other sites - despite being specialized - just don't drive the market. And moribund ebay essentially turned the wrong way (under Meg Whitman) and allowed Amazon to dominate the space. So forget the mirage of the European contretemps and find a way to get the good folks at Amazon to solve the very real concerns expressed by Mr. Weber.
. July 01, 2010
AE monthly on Amazon pricing
Dear Mr. Stillman:
Your article was of considerable interest. I suspect that the
instances where Amazon may actually look for evidence of unbalanced retailing are
few. Instead they may be simply using verbiage to make people think this is their
policy - and it is a good policy to have representing their company. But in practice
it would be impossible for them to actually watch the prices of every book from
every bookseller in all the web-sites dealer's use.
But the issues for me are even deeper: Amazon does not act in any way to protect
either the consumer or the bookseller - thus falling well short of the usual
business practices that all dealers know are necessary - primarily guaranteeing your
product. Amazon does not. For example: in the US Amazon refuses to collect sales tax
which is due for every book shipped within the state you operate in. For me this is
California. Therefore Amazon leaves every bookseller exposed to the wrath of the IRS
and auditors in the issue of tax collection. In addition their standard rate
shipping policy is ridiculous: they offer $3.99 for shipping anything, be it a
paperback or a $10,000 book or a 50 volume set. There are no exceptions. No dealer
will comply to this stringent system, but they must work within it because that is
all that is offered. I am constantly interacting with the Amazon client asking for
more shipping, especially for international orders. Amazon's reimbursement of $12.49
for overseas shipping is even under what the global rate envelope charges are at
$12.80. To add: there is never any room for insurance. In fact this angers some
customers who feel that the set shipping rates of Amazon are what is entirely fair
on their part. However the reverse is true: the shipping rates must be allowed to
vary in accordance with the appropriate charges and insurance for any type of order.
Amazon will also not back up and pay for an item that a customer does not receive.
Who is liable for a loss? You can be sure it is not Amazon. They are the middleman
collecting a percentage - they are not interested in paying for lost merchandise.
So, let the buyer beware - but in this case all buyers on Amazon are not aware. If
they knew that some books were sold on Amazon at a loss to the retailer, would these
same clients understand the abuse the dealer is undertaking from Amazon? Probably
not for now. The Amazon commission is partly a sliding scale - I do not know the
specific of it, but if a book is cheap enough, say $1 to list, their discount is
MORE than $1. Thus they actually force the dealer to sell items at less than $0.00
to get an item out the door.
I have not addressed specifically the issues of price fixing, but Amazon seems to do
nothing in the US that I know about that enforces their policy. And at the same
time, based on the tax collecting issue, Amazon seems to be strong enough to stand
up to the federal government and not become a tax collector. I believe (though I can
not prove it), that California raised its sales tax last year from 8.5% to 9.75% to
make up for the difference in internet sales that they can not regulate. Thus Amazon
is not the only one to blame - but they are a key contributor.
I invite your interaction.
IslandSF June 04, 2010
Stillman asks: "Will newsmen be replaced with bloggers, long on opinion, short on facts?"
Ironic, because that is just what he does.
It is easy to consume a meal that is short of nutrients if you are unfamiliar with a truly nutritious repast; thus many can become used to a constant diet of 'blogging' and take it for real information.
It is easy to have someone else interpret the facts for you, but talented analysts usually get jobs for real publications and don't just write for free for their own companies or websites. Perhaps that is why the Wall Street Journal increased its readership and why tens of thousands of "blogs" are left moldering, to clutter up the internet.
. June 01, 2010
That was an utterly fantastic piece about the Los Angeles book "dealer" case. Thanks
so much for bringing it to our attention.
. June 01, 2010
re: eBay sniping
I have been working with eBay as either a seller or bidder for many years, since 1998 in fact. I have seen their system go through great growth and the sad decline that is presently underway as they make policies and pricing changes to drive away the individual sellers which tend to have the most interesting items on average.
After losing some unique items which were important to us because we overslept the auction close, we decided to stop revolving our life activities to when we could be next to the computer and bid on an auction. The eBay policy of a fixed close time changes the successful strategies for bidding. It makes no difference who is the highest a day, an hour, or a minute before the close. Only the high bidder at the end counts. Hence sniping becomes the tool of choice for people who want to win more auctions and generally pay less for each item won.
I would not, however, use a local program. This would require that your computer be synchronized with the eBay clocks (not merely Apple system time) and that there be a fast connection and an awake computer at all times when you'd be placing an automated bid. For this we found that web site services were a better choice. We initially used AuctionStealer.com but left them when we lost a couple auctions due to service outages.
We now use eSnipe.com and have for many years with satisfaction. There is a fee for using these services based on how much you use it. With eSnipe you buy points for a fairly nominal sum.
There is a tool which can be installed on Firefox so that any eBay auction item page has an eSnipe window to log in and bid.
Of course these systems need to have your eBay user and password so don't use the same ones on eBay that you use for other important things like PayPal, your bank, email, etc.
I also have the eBay app on my iPhone to check in on auctions during the day but not to bid.
Keep in mind that eBay has bid increments so it is necessary to place a bid high enough to exceed this. Hence, if an auction starts at 19.99 and you bid 20.10, unless your bid is the first, you won't have a chance because the increment above 19.99 is higher than 11 cents.
The eSnipe default is 6 seconds before the auction. Although tempted, I have not felt compelled to reduce this to 5 or 4 seconds. The shorter the time, the more chance that the bid may fail.
In general, it's not so much an issue of who bid closest to the close but rather who has placed the highest top bid who wins. It just seems like the former situation when you are starting out.
Don't place a bid with an even amount ending in .00 or .50. Use something odd, especially between .50 and .99, to give yourself a minimal edge in bidding.
The eBay system, with all of its problems, still yields many items which are findable nowhere else. A great number of the prizes in my collection come from there. I make extensive use of the 100 saved searches they give each account though that is a topic for another day should you be interested.
James D. Keeline
San Diego, CA
. May 05, 2010
re: Portland Book Store Fire
Hello Fellow Booksellers,
I have looked into what we can do to help Phil, following the fire which totally destroyed Great Northwest Bookstore. The cost of cleanup alone will be in the tens of thousands of dollars. That means money is what is most needed. A fund has already been established with On Point Credit Union. I have discussed this with the other officers and we decided that PAUBA should donate $300. In addition, I encourage individuals to contribute what they can.
You can contribute in person at any On Point Credit Union or you can use your electronic payment systems. The account number is 1005903 and the address is P.O. Box 3750, Ptld, OR 97208.
I'll let you know if I hear of anything else we can do to help.
2870 N.E. Hogan Road Suite E
Gresham OR 97030-3175
Phone: (503) 667-0807
Toll Free: (877) 694-1467
. May 03, 2010
In your AE article about the New York Book Fair you referred to ILAB as the ABAA's European equivalent. Technically this is incorrect, ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) is a world umbrella organization, of which both ABAA and over 20 other national associations (ABA in the UK, SLAM in France, and so forth) are members.
Editor's note: Thank you for the head's up. The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers is an organization whose membership consists of 22 national bookseller groups from all over the world. The individual booksellers who are members of each of these national organizations are thereby members of ILAB too. More can be learned about this organization and its services on the ILAB website: www.ilab.org.
Grum April 07, 2010
Many dealers regularly visiting the UK will know of Quintos/Francis Edwards shop in London's Charing Cross Road - the Quintos monthly restock (1st Tuesday of the month) has been the source of many a bargain. In case your heart sinks to see it no longer alongisde Leicester Square tube station, fear not. It has moved further up Charing Cross Road to #72 - which in some ways is actually better than the former site. Quintos' stock is in the large basement. Just thought you all might like to know.
Bookman* April 01, 2010
Really, there is no such thing as a discount. Any reduction in price for any reason is simply a new price. The rest is all fluff.
I view discounts as morphing a 'hoped for' price from the Land of Oz into the real world.
I like the bare-knuckles approach of Walmart, they don't advertise discount prices, they advertise low prices. It must work.
As a buyer, I don't pay any attention to the fluff. If the price is right I buy, if not, I pass.
As an aside, as a dealer I don't feel correct offering discounts to special people at special occasions, (ie: book fairs) and then charging a 'full price' to those who aren't so special.
Sellers can do all sorts of marketing dances, but at the end of the day it's going to be about Supply and Demand.
for Book World
Xanman April 01, 2010
RE: BOOK FAIRS
Dear Americana Exchange:
I read with great interest your "New Reality for Book Fairs" article, and would like to offer a few observations.
I have been expanding the number of shows at which I exhibit for the past 10 years, and have been steadily moving away from depending on the internet, or in-store traffic. Many of the customers I have developed over these last few years draw from almost every age group, and demographic. This has necessitated that I bring exhibition stock in a number of different categories, as well as a range of price points.
Next, I would like to comment on the statement that the "serious buyer checks the net." Yes, many of them do check the net, but most of my best buyers care FAR MORE about the condition of the items offered to them in person, the personal experience of having those items treated with enthusiasm and respect, as well as the very real concern by almost all of them that they cannot trust the descriptions and pictures they read online. Many of them occasionally purchase from different websites, ebay, auctions, etc., and yet, they all have stories of books that they've ordered which have sincerely disappointed them when not purchased in person.
In addition, most of my regular clientele understands that they are rewarded for their ongoing patronage by being offered books before they are listed online, or in catalogues, or other venues. That's not to say they are loyal to only one, or two, booksellers (i.e. Rosenbach and Huntington), but they definitely enjoy a chance to buy material before anyone else.
There are also many of my customers, who do not buy online, and prefer to touch and see the books, as well as find something they haven't predetermined to find by certain sorts of searches. These are the treasure hunters who don't want to wait for a week or more to receive their books, but instead want to enjoy them immediately. These clients should never be ignored, or underestimated.
Finally, I definitely agree about a discount for customers who often patronize my stock at Book Fairs, or through Catalogues. I would rather let my direct customers have a discount, than pay the monies to ABE, Alibris, Amazon, and others.
Zephyr Used & Rare Books
JK March 31, 2010
Bookfairs, like open stores but (at least as of today) unlike the internet, have the disadvantage of requiring the charge of sales taxes.
Bookfairs, like any other sales channel need their, customized marketing.
However, to promote a sales channel, here bookfairs, is it advisable to do this through discounts? Wouldn't it be better to promote the value added? The value many of our customers see is in connecting with the seller and seeing, touching, handling a book of their interest. For us, the value of a fair is similar, i.e., to connect with our customers and learn more from and about them, in addition to connecting with other sellers. Do we like the instant gratification of a sale on the spot, sure. Is it critical in our business model, no. Many (outside) industry trade shows don't anticipate selling the cars they have on the floor but to generate interest, market a brand, forge selling or buying arrangements, etc.
The suggestion is to rethink what we expect from bookfairs, e.g., the quick sale, potentially at the cost of a discount, or a possibility for continued and improved interaction and education of customers and booksellers alike. If a seller wants to offer books at a certain price, potentially lower than through other channels, that'd be their choice.
The "achieve better fair results with discounted prices" is the normal request of a salesman being able to sell better (fairs) at lower (book) prices.
How can fairs be more attractive to individuals though? Let the sellers do their job but make their lives easier with presenting them with more, qualified prospects.
An endless list of opportunities comes to mind, e.g., educational sessions about the trade, on-site/live auctions, combination with events such as antique road show, etc.
If the value of a book is there, it shouldn't be offered at a lower price but sold as such. If the value is NOT there, then there's another set of issues to be addressed.
Books Tell You Why, Inc.
Blog with us: http://blog.BooksTellYouWhy.com
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Note from the writer
I'm not focusing on the value of material. I'm focusing on the audience for it. In a more perfect world every good book will find a home but this is not the case today. Institutions and collectors have choices. I would like to see them incentivized. In this way shows may prosper.
Duff March 01, 2010
As a visitor to many Los Angeles ABAA fairs over the past 25 years - starting with those at the Ambassador in the 1980's - the "hotel" business model is moribund. The entire affair was old and the material on the shelves was extraordinarily expensive. Not only were there few bargains, there was limited stock of moderately (
We all like fairs - sharing a common interest in books, the book arts, collecting and the like. The anticipation was exciting and the fair full of discovery. Now however it is clear that for the dealers the cost of a booth, transportation, hotel, food, etc., has made these biennial events ridiculous for all but the well to do on both sides of the glass case.
Unfortunately there just aren't that many of us willing to plonk down $2,000 - $5,000 for a book. This is especially true when it is doubtful a collector will see a return "of" that investment when the future of the book trade seems so precarious.
When this is combined with the a finacial model that requires dealers to "swing for the seats" in the hope of selling two or three expensive books, the decline of this selling model is complete. It has systematically caused the thinning of the collector audience and potential erosion of a collector base.
I believe book fairs can survive, but the business model - not just the venue - must be changed.
First, leave the hotels and old conference centers behind. Second, align with other, popular events - e.g, Los Angeles Festival of Books at UCLA - which draw a ready made audience to a central geographic locale. Third, make sure the inventory is priced in a way that invites readers to look and consider buying beautiful books, not gasp at prices that represent for most of us a mortgage payment. Finally, make sure you get a bunch of dealers who are under 40 years old and have a solid general stock - it doesn't have to be every dealer but enough to make readers in the 20 - 35 age range have some in the trade to identify with. [It also makes for a more diverse and intellectually interesting group of sellers for veteran fair attendees.]
These, or variations on these themes, need to be implemented immediately and not two or three years from now when if all accounts are reasonably accurate book fairs will be footnotes of history.