Rare Book MonthlyNew Letter
Letters to the Editor
. July 30, 2009
Thanks for your article. A few points:
I think it is very likely that the next decade will see many university libraries get out of the business of maintaining special collections. This in itself is not unhealthy. You make a very good point about the economy of scale with Columbia, and as general access grows electronically, the number of places willing to be what I call "holders of record" will diminish. This has already happened with public libraries; a large amount of what has flowed into the market in recent years has come from antiquarian holdings of local, and state public libraries.
Right now the American Association of Museums (AAM) has a very clear policy on deaccession by members of institutions - they allow it if the money is spent on other collections. This is not USF's intention - the money would go for bricks and mortar. They might justify it in my mind if they spent the money on enhancing resources, including electronic. But spending on buildings has been condemned by their peer institutions for decades, when funded through collection sales. In the museum world, that is formalized. There is no such firm standard in the ALA or even the Rare Book and Manuscript section of ALA.
If USF cannot care for its special collection, it has the option of transferring it to another institution, perhaps with the agreement that they will retain duplicates and sell them. This would get them out of the special collections business and keep faith with their donors.
People give things to institutions for all kinds of motives, as you point out; some selfish, and some because of a belief in scholarship and learning. Don't be persuaded by arguments that you could get all this stuff somewhere else - the Gleeson collection in its areas of strength is unique.
Gentleman's club? I don't agree. When Wilmarth Lewis, a consummate gentleman, gave his collection to Yale, it was protected by a hedge of legal documents that stipulates it reverts to Harvard if not kept as he wanted it. This has had the sad effect of lessening the usefulness of the collection after the Paul Mellon gifts, when the collections should sensibly have been combined. Terry Belanger is right: this kind of thing will change the way donors act, to the detriment of the institutions.
As to the dealers, they won't mind if good material comes back on the market, even if they mourn the loss of a fine special collection.
The public and the students have never cared - didn't 50 years ago, don't now.
My solution: either USF lives up to its obligations or it transfers the collection to a place that will. UC Berkeley, Stanford, I'm sure would both want to take it in, probably others.
Thanks for writing the piece.
William Reese Company
Rare Books & Manuscripts
ABAA - ILAB
409 Temple Street
New Haven, CT 06511 USA
greatwar June 05, 2009
With regard to dust jackets, your readers may be interested to see my site - one of the few on the web dedicated to preserving the images of rare dustjackets - www.greatwardustjackets.co.uk.
Its shows images of over 1200 jackets on works of World War 1 literature published between 1914 & 1939. I am constantly receiving contributions from other collectors and the site has recently been archived by the British Library.
. June 04, 2009
re: Dust Jackets
To the Editor:
I just saw your report about the 1829 dust jacket on the English annual Friendship's Offering for 1830, which was discovered years ago at Oxford. I just wanted to ask if you could mention my website nineteenthcenturydustjackets.com.
I am writing a book called "Nineteenth Century Dust Jackets: An Illustrated History." In March this year, I asked Oxford about the famous 1833 Keepsake jacket that John Carter had discovered in 1934 and subsequently lost when he was showing it at Oxford in 1951. During the course of that enquiry, Oxford told me about the earlier jacket they had found and gave me images of it for my book. The existence of this jacket was first announced on my website in March, where it is posted with much more information.
Your readers may also like to view the 1857 jacket on the Poetical Works of the late Richard S. Gedney, which is also an all-enclosing "sealed wrapping" jacket like the 1829 model - except that the 1857 jacket is still sealed around its book! Many other early jackets are posted there as well.
I am gathering images from institutions, collectors and dealers all over the world. If any of your readers has early or interesting jackets, I'd like to hear from them (email@example.com).
North Canaan, CT
. June 01, 2009
re: Early Dust Jackets
When I was a full-time antiquarian bookseller with the Prince and the Pauper Collectible Children's Books (1988-2000), I was interested in the concept of early dust jackets. Of course with juvenile books, the jackets are often among the first parts to be damaged or lost entirely.
My own collections focus on authors like Jules Verne and books written by Edward Stratemeyer and those produced by his Stratemeyer Syndicate. Among the early Stratemeyer jackets in my collection are:
1898: Estella the Little Cuban Rebel (Street & Smith, 1898) by "Edna Winfield". First and only printing in hardcover.
1902: Malcolm the Waterboy (John Wanamaker, 1900) by "D. T. Henty". Originally published by Mershon. 1902 date is an estimate. Very scarce title in any form, partly because the G. A. Henty collectors also seek it even though it was not written by that famous author. Wanamaker editions for any Stratemeyer titles are scarce. Dust Jackets on any Wanamaker books are almost unknown in collections. Hence, having a Wanamaker of this title in jacket is especially interesting to Stratemeyer collectors.
1908: Rover Boys in the Mountains (Grosset & Dunlap, 1902) by "Arthur M. Winfield". Originally published by Mershon. Reprint from the first year that G&D issued the books with the jacket design replicating the cover that Stratemeyer claimed to design himself.
1909: First at the North Pole (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1909) by "Edward Stratemeyer". Probable first printing. Jacket and book list to Dave Porter and His Classmates (1909).
1913: The Campaign of the Jungle (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1900) by "Edward Stratemeyer". Originally published by Lee & Shepard. Early reprint with the original cover design on the book and jacket. Pre-text list of titles includes Dave Porter and the Runaways (1913).
For Stratemeyer I know from photographic evidence that jackets were issued on the 1897 books issued by W.L. Allison. Not enough copies from Merriam in 1894-1895 survive to know if any of them were issued in dust jackets.
Finding jackets on pre-WWII juveniles can be quite a challenge unless they were from the cheap mass-market publishers (Saalfield, World Syndicate, etc.).
I have handled earlier jackets on books no one has heard of. And this is the basis of one of my complaints about this article. The survival of a jacket depends on many factors but chief among these is how well and often the book was handled.
Jackets for children's books are less common because the kids who read and reread and loaned and traded the books they liked were not always careful in doing so. They say that you only hurt the ones you love. This seems to be especially true for children's books.
In my experience, jackets on modern books (I'll use WWII or later) generally represent 50%-80% of the value of the potential value of a book as you indicated in the article. That means that a copy in a jacket is generally worth double to as much as five times that of a similar-condition copy without a jacket.
Some books won't sell at all to a collector unless the jacket is present and in nice condition. The more recent or more common the book, the higher the baseline standards are among the savvy collectors. For scarce books, those same savvy collectors will be wise to find a book without a jacket until one with a jacket may be located.
However, as with prices of any collectible, the supply and demand factors come into sharp focus. There have to be at least a few people who want something and it has to be somewhat elusive for the value to exceed the intrinsic value of the pile of paper, ink, and cloth (or the retail price of a new reprint, if available).
For that reason, I question your off-hand analogy that because this is presently the earliest known dust jacket that it is somehow the Gutenberg of jackets. For the Gutenberg Bible, the notion is that it is the first major book composed with movable type. It is a significant milestone in the history of printing, publishing, and information transfer.
The first dust jacket might be a milestone in advertising but this is not as strong of a claim. It is interesting that this early example has any printing on it at all. Many of the early jackets I have seen (even from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries) have little or no printing on them at all.
Further, even if this is the earliest jacket or at least the very first one to include advertising (some documentation needed here!) I can see no reason why the value of the jacket on this book has any relation at all to the value of a Gutenberg Bible.
Instead, the value of the jacket is some multiplying factor (perhaps with a bonus for the earliest extant jacket) based on the value of that book in the same condition in the market. I don't recognize the book and perhaps it is valuable in some circles or maybe the reason the jacket survived is that no one read the book :)
Jackets on significant printings of significant books have been discovered in unique or almost unique copies and these tend to be the most valuable compared with the books themselves. The examples which come to mind include The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Moby Dick, an early Sherlock Holmes, etc.
Numerically, one example I can recall is Tarzan of the Apes (A.C. McClurg, 1914). The true first printing in VG condition generally sells for $2,000. A couple copies in VG dust jackets have sold in the $50,000 range. In that case, the jacket represents 98% of the potential value of the book. However, find a jacket on another 1914 A.C. McClurg book not by Burroughs and you might have a very low-value item indeed.
James D. Keeline
. May 01, 2009
re: Objects of Desire
Thanks for highlighting "Objects of Desire," one of the best books ever written on collecting, American antiques and a love of the past.
. May 01, 2009
re: Auction Search and Results
Right you are, the auctions are making the market. Love your coverage and love your new
searchable base. Keep up the good work.
Prints Pacific Ltd
. March 02, 2009
Your website was nicely laid out before.
Why do companies with good websites always
change them for the worse?
We appreciate your kind words about the former structure of our website. However, your view seems to have been something of a minority. The old site included 25 links on the side and a jumble of features in the middle. Some of these links were important, others of at most minor significance. What we have done is combine these into the 7 main features offered by the site. They can be reached via the side links or the "wheel" on the home page. It is no longer necessary to search through dozens of links to find them. Less important features can be still be reached, but as subsets to the main feature. In other words, everything now follows a logical outline.
We think the site may have seemed fine the way it was because you were used to where to find things. New viewers were mostly confused. In addition, many of our regular visitors and members were only using the site for one or two features, unaware that others existed because of the jumble of confusion.
We are confident that after using the new site a little while, you will soon find it at least as friendly and probably more so than the previous version.
With our best wishes.
. March 01, 2009
Congrats on your new website. Works really well, even with Safari (before it wouldn't work with Safari). Now I can finally junk my old Internet Explorer.
. February 03, 2009
Problem with Overseas Mailing
I very much appreciate your monthly mailing. What I have is a scary happening
that occurred on a fairly recent sale to a collector in France that might be worth
relaying to other dealers. This collector had previously purchased several ebay
offerings from me in the $2000 to $3000 range, so he was a good customer. On the
occasion of concern, he purchased two titles from me for a combined value (purchase
price) of $2800. He asked for and received insurance and I sent them out via USPS
to Paris. Fortunately, notation of the weight of the package was made at the local
post office of 7 lbs. and 6 oz. Insurance value was $3,000.
Several weeks went by
before the customer received the delivery. It weighed slightly over 6 lbs. and
consisted of a several hundred pages of typing paper. The purchaser was quick to email
me with the information and I sent him (at his request) the insurance paperwork from
the Post Office. He submitted it to the International Postal Union in Paris along
with the contents of the package (but apparently not all of the wrapping). The
insurance was denied and my purchaser was out his $2800 plus insurance cost. There
was nothing I could do from this end, except that now all overseas shipments to
France, Italy and Germany (where I have heard of similar "missing delivery items")
are via FedEx. The rationale is that FedEx is reported to have their own "resident"
customs inspectors. In the case of this incident, the loss was traced to the
customs office in Paris. Just thought you might want to pass on this type of
information to your readers...and thank you for the very pertinent content and
information your monthly mailing contains.
stephenb February 01, 2009
I enjoy reading the AE Monthly and occasionally check the Letters to the Editor, but I'm not a book seller but a book buyer. Mostly they are books for myself to read (ancient history and languages, mostly). Usually the transactions are not worth mentioning, but perhaps you will enjoy the following story of a book purchase that went very well.
About three weeks before Christmas my wife asked me to make nine copies of a book called "Smith's Barn, A Child's History of the West Side of Worcester," by Robert M. Washburn. She wanted to give them to her two sisters, five nieces and two sons.
She was interested because her grandmother's family was the Smiths of Worcester, and quite a few of her great- or great-great aunts and uncles were mentioned in the book. Her copy had been her mother's, and she and her sisters had all wanted to have it for their own. I think they drew straws and of course this meant two disappointments.
Instead of making copies, I did a quick search on ABE (not the only one I might have used, I know), and found that there were eleven first edition copies for sale, and two reprints. This was a bit of a surprise, since the family had always thought that this book must be quite uncommon, but also uninteresting to most of the world.
Since eleven is greater than nine, I knew I had it made. From the descriptions, I selected what seemed like the nine "best" copies. So, nearly cornering the market on Smith's Barn, I ordered all nine, and each of the nine booksellers responded quickly. This is a good record, but is consistent with my past experience: people who sell books are good, reliable people.
One day we opened all nine parcels. Some were packaged with an astonishing number of layers. Some made good use of stray pieces of cardboard, bubble wrap or old newspaper (I enjoyed reading again one of the humorous pre-election stories). One even came with a pencil imprinted with web address.
It worked out so well that I sent each seller a special thank-you for making this part of our Christmas quick, easy and meaningful.
And this letter is to thank the bookseller community as a whole for a much-needed and much-appreciated service.
Blue Bell, PA
Editor's Note: Thank you for your kind comments. The rare bad experience is usually the only one that gets retold. Your batting nine for nine attests to how the vast majority of sales are transacted. And, as for its rarity, you have made it a rare book. There is now only one first edition available on Abe. Thanks again.
. January 02, 2009
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your newsletter. It's always fun to read and contains very useful information. I appreciate that a lot of work must go into everything you do for the site.
Happy New Year to you!
Kind regards from Sabine.
Sabine's Fine Used Books Ltd.
3101-115 Fulford Ganges Road
Salt Spring Island, BC
Canada V8K 2T9
. January 01, 2009
Price Correction (re: AE Top 500)
Please note that your numbers 63 and 64 are in fact Old Master Prints, and not books!
Otherwise your list is greatly appreciated, and quite interesting. Keep up the good
. December 15, 2008
I must formally disagree with the article by Michael Stillman regarding the future
of Real Books.
I think we are dealing with different sorts of people here. On the one hand, you
have those who appreciate the Real Book, love its feel, the paper, the covers, the
dustjacket or leather binding. Once read, it keeps on giving. That can never be
replaced by plastic.
The look of the book on the shelf and in your library enhances your environment, and
I have had a lot of customers comment on that recently. The Real Book is the art of
the environment in your home, that constantly offers positive, in most cases, feed
On the other hand, you have a piece of plastic.
Useful if you just want information.
No aesthetic value whatsoever.
Different people will use this.
. November 11, 2008
Hi, I've been remiss in not thanking you earlier for the very nice article you wrote about me and my upcoming book auction. I did want to tell you and others that I am not retiring from the book business - just paring down personal collections plus many duplicates from my book stock.
Now if you could just convince my new computer (with the lovely Vista features) that I really want to look at a page when I hit a link for it, I will be forever in your debt.
. November 04, 2008
RE: Alibris pricing data
Being an Alibris seller, I checked out this new tool after I saw your write-up. It
seems to be as much of a JOKE as the pricing info they provide on the Sellers
The first book I checked was 0810912228, The Story of Kodak, their recommended price
point is $7.98. Unfortunately it weighs 6 pounds without packaging. With the Alibris
postage allowance, that isn't going to be very profitable.
The second book checked is 0486236544, The Book of Wood Carving. Their
recommendation is $1.99. However I sold that book on Alibris on Nov. 1 for $4.99.
Third try is 1567312640, A Fly Fisher's Life. Alibris recommends $2.44. Their
current listings show a range from $4.99 to $99.00, with an average of $16.37.
Thanks for the good info, Alibris.
It must just be a rehash of the garbage you get when you check their pricing
recommendations. The data I saw in these trials tells me it would just be a waste of
time and feed me a ton of intentionally misleading misinformation.
They must be suffering from the eBay disease, an overabundance of MBA's who don't
know how to do anything else but sell on price. What do they care, it isn't their
P&L statement! Make it cheaper and we'll sell more and the consumers will love us!
Same thing on Amazon with their little blue checks for the lowest price. Designed to
push the seller's prices down.
But being brain-dead MBA's, they don't realize that in the real world, there are
other things to do with books. Dump them on the ground at a flea market for a $1 or
$2 each and they will sell. Why bother to grade, describe, inventory, pick, pack and
ship them for that kind of money? Selling books for a penny? You might get more from
a re-cycler. Or feed them into a box stove.
Thanks for trying but that tool isn't worth a darn.
. November 01, 2008
Regarding your article on the Google settlement, I think it really misses the boat
in one area. When huge quantities of out-of-print books will be easily purchased in
a download form at a very inexpensive price, it will make vast amounts of actual
printed books very unsalable. This lawsuit, which I have been watching for a long
time, is probably the biggest event since the advent of the internet in terms of
effecting the used and rare markets. For example, the value of bibliographies which
are already vastly declined because of information available on the internet will go
down to almost nothing. All kinds of books will follow this form. Also, the number
of sales of rare books by dealers to libraries will decline. Rare book dealers who
sell obscure and odd editions of material from the 19th century on back will face
the problem of that the library can get a digital of the book for free that is being
flogged to the library by the dealer. The material which is the information in
physical form is no longer obscure in that only three libraries actually have the
physical book in their holdings, it is accessable to anyone in seconds. We are
already in the era of the penny sellers, but this is different. Great quantities of
books will get trashed because their information status has been eroded and they are
not commercially viable. There will, of course, still be plenty for the dealers to
sell, but when the 7 million and expanding Google books come on line, it is going to
be a whole new world.
. November 01, 2008
Not all your readers are politically liberal, though it is evident in your pronouncements over the years that you labor mightily to further that goal.
An article supporting the election of John McCain and Sarah Palin would doubtless have cost readers and caused you mental anguish.
It would have been inappropriate.
Supporting Barack Obama and John Biden? Well, that's perfectly appropriate, isn't it?
Graham October 30, 2008
As an abebooks dealer I think this may be of interest to many readers. I
have just been used as a pawn in an unsuccessful bank fraud scam. Cannot
go into details as it is under investigation but basically I got an order
for over 3,000 GB pounds worth of books directly from someone in Sweden who claimed
to be setting up a bookstore, he said he could pay by GB pounds check so I
agreed. He then said check had erroneously been made out for too much and
could I refund by Western Union when I received it. Eventually check
arrived (for 3,210 GB pounds) from a bank in Northern Ireland drawn to a different
name. Meanwhile he told me the Western Union transfer should go to Dubai.
Unfortunately for him the check bounced 'drawer unknown' with check
retained by bank suspected of being counterfeit. Over last couple of days,
while check was due to clear, he phoned me and I assured him I would
transfer money around noon, but notification of it bouncing came just
before he made what was his third phone call - as soon as I told him he
just put the phone down. Clearly the aim of this strange
Sweden-Dubai-Londonderry triangle was to defraud the bank of around 2,000 GB pounds,
leaving me none-the-wiser - presumably his 'shipping agent' (to whom he
kept refering) would have collected the books (5 antiquarian items) so they
would have had those as well. Seems to me to be going to great lengths
for a fairly small sum of money, but presumably it was part of a bigger
scam. I might have twigged something was odd from the books chosen - an
odd volume of Wolff's Theologia Naturalis (instead of both), A.R.Wallace's
Autobiography, Stahl on Haemorrhoids, Palmer's 1710 Essays on proverbs and
the 1852 volume of Mullers Archive!
. October 02, 2008
re: Smart Phones and Database Access
Hello - Thank you for your article in AE Monthly, & for your
invitation to ask you further questions.
As a secondhand bookseller I have been thinking about the need for a
device of this kind for many years - specifically for use in a used
bookstore or bookfair, where quite often a book one hasn't seen before
looks interesting & possibly worth buying for resale, but there is no
way of knowing whether it is in fact rare (& whether the asking price
is fair), since there is no way there of checking on ABE or AE.
Please forgive me if this is a stupid question, but I am not very up
on these matters - is there no handheld device available where one
could check this kind of thing on the net, without it also being a
phone? I have had for years a simple pay-as-you-go cellphone from
Virgin which suits me fine - it is very inexpensive - & I don't want
to buy a new one if I can help it, as finances have to be taken into
The writer's response:
Thanks for the inquiry, Isabel, and no, of course that's not a stupid question! While there are devices that allow you to browse the web and check email without having a cell phone built in, there is a major hitch with this. Take the iPod Touch for example. It's an iPod, but also has a wireless card built-in and software to browse the Internet. However, you must have a wireless network available to connect. Without it you're connectionless. What having a phone built-in does is allow you to create an Internet connection through your phone service. That way, you can be on the bus, in the car, at a bookstore, wherever, and assuming you have cell phone reception, you'll be able to get online. This service is definitely expensive, though! Fortunately, this technology is being improved by leaps and bounds and I think smartphones will come to replace cell phones as a whole, meaning the price's will be coming down. Also, if you time your purchase with the renewal of or the start of a cell phone contract, you can get major discounts; I believe some RIM Blackberry's are under $100 after signing and rebates. Thanks again for your email!
. September 02, 2008
A Note Concerning "History on the Cheap"
Mr. McKinney says he recently searched Google for information about a book he
purchased this past month - "A History of the Minisink Region" by Charles E.
Stickney. He further remarks that the publishers' names "are not linked to other
known printings [of anything]" and that in "OCLC only eight are recorded". This led
me to some literary poking about into some dusty, virtual corners of a few
databases, and if what was brought to light doesn't spark someone's thesis, it is
nonetheless an interesting collection of bibliographic minutiae, which we all know
is the publishing plankton upon which we all love to feed:
By OCLC's count, there at least 60 copies of the early edition (OCLC: 3780077) held
in various libraries, rather than only 8, and even a few reprints are also
available, published in 1970, 1989 and 1995.
The publishers might not have issued any further monographs, but both "Finch Coe"
and I.F. Guiwits were in the business of issuing serial publications, some of which
are mentioned in The American Newspaper Directory of 1872 by George Presbury Rowell
(OCLC: 9693297)--which is also a rather rare item, with only 2 copies listed in
OCLC--(and let's hope the one at New Orleans Public survived Katrina!)
Guiwits published "The Middletown Daily Mail" (OCLC: 23960147), later a weekly
called The Middletown Mail" (OCLC: 9977927), a Democrat Party newspaper, from
1868-1873 in Orange County, NY, and was itself succeeded by "The Middletown Mercury"
(OCLC: 10002454), which J.H. Norton and I.F. Guiwits both published for a time. The
paper finally ceased around 1918, by this time long without the editorship of
He may have also had something to do with an even earlier poetry periodical that
began its life in 1849 in Starkville, NY, called "The Poet", whose publisher was an
"A. Guiwits" (OCLC:191123373). The publishing gene might have passed to the next
generation as well, since there are two music scores of songs with piano
accompaniment published by Presser and Company in 1926 and 1929 with music by
Thurlow Lieurance (1878-1963) and words by an Emily Guiwits.
"Finch Coe" was associated with "The Pequannock Valley Argus" (OCLC: 12777613) and
its successor, "The Butler Argus" (OCLC: 12777628), published in Bloomingdale and
Butler, New Jersey, in the late 1880's.
It has crossed my mind that there might be a possibility that "Finch Coe" was in
reality Coe Finch Austin (1831-1880), a Princeton botanist with a specialty in
bryophytes and other mosses, particularly of the class Hepatiae, on which he wrote a
number of papers. Several of his publications date from the same period as "Finch Coe", and some are published in Closter, NY.
Given the very real possibility of a newspaper publisher being tarred and feathered
if the political weather shifted the wrong direction, it would make sense that Coe
Finch Austin would have preferred to remain hidden in amongst his flora, rather than
risk being skewered with the journalistic fauna.
Joseph Valles - Books
The writer's response
I'm a bit more sanguine about which "versions" are on hand in the libraries listed in the OCLC. I did some research last year on the number of original copies of the Northwest Ordinance held by OCLC members and learned that the emphasis for many libraries is simply text. Therefore they didn't necessarily differentiate between original copies and reprints. They aren't book dealers.
I do think you are right that there are more original copies in libraries than I stated but I'll guess the number is still under or around 30. I'll also state that OCLC members probably have some copies that have not been entered into their catalogues and in other cases the copies will not be located. The OCLC is a monumental undertaking but it is also a bit dated.
The information you add about these men's publishing history perhaps pulls them a step or two back from the abyss of of history. I was happy for them to come up in conjunction with the Minisink history. Your research suggests in time, as more older material is posted, more of their histories will be unearthed. We are all going to die. It's encouraging to think we may not be so easily forgotten.
. September 01, 2008
re: Abe - Amazon
The ho-hum reaction to the acquisition of abe by Amazon was not universal. From where I sit this is as tragic as learning that your beloved independent local bookstore has just been bought by Barnes and Noble. I loved abe. I hate Amazon. This is a sad day. abe was simple, accessible, unpretentious, helpful, and had excellent customer service in the rare event that something went wrong in a sale. Amazon is like a sleazy guy in a trenchcoat who'll sell you anything on a dark street corner: "Watches, you want? Guns? Fountain pen? My little sister...is virgin?!" You Google on "brain tumor" and ads from Amazon pop up offering you discounts on "brain tumor cream", "designer brain tumors", free credit cards from the "brain tumor bank of Philadelphia", and "special offers from brain tumor manufacturers, this week only!" Ugh. Sigh....
Bainbridge Island WA
. September 01, 2008
re: Abe - Amazon
ABE, a great resource that became an expensive arrogant disappointment, is no great
Amazon has always been timely and straightforward in my dealings with them. ABE no
I think we all figure ABE is so screwed up for first edition sellers that only good
. August 01, 2008
Just a word to let you know how much I appreciate receiving the newsletter.
Thanks very much.
for Book World
2353 S. Havana St. D-18
Aurora, CO 80014, USA
. July 31, 2008
Bruce E. McKinney and Michael Stillman,
There were some important differences between the Microsoft and Google Book
projects as seen by the end user.
The Google search is lightweight and does not burden the browser on the client
machine or Internet connection. An advanced search is available and
In Microsoft the search required processing and network resources. A search
pulled up a list with a preview window on the right. If the mouse hovered over
an entry in the result list on the left, the data for the book was loaded via
AJAX and displayed in the preview window. This occurred even when you didn't
want it unless you were careful to place the pointer on the right edge of the
list, outside of the hot spot for each entry. No advanced search was offered.
In a Google search results page, browsers with tabs (Firefox, Safari, IE7) can
open the book pages in these tabs (CTRL-click on Win, Cmd-click on Mac, or
right click on either) while maintaining the search result list.
Attempts on Microsoft to CTRL-click or Cmd-click the links would open a new tab
with the book browser but would also replace the search result page with the
full-screen book browser. Only a right-click (Open Link in New Tab) would work
to get the expected behavior of opening just the desired results in tabs.
The Google book browser could be improved by including the bibliographic and
PDF file size information in the right-side data pane. The default file names
for the PDFs were reasonable but I often chose to include a year and author as
well as the title provided.
The Microsoft book browser allowed PDF downloads as well but the names were not
as useful and always had to be renamed for my purposes.
The Microsoft PDFs included a text layer which allowed keyword searching
offline in Adobe Acrobat. The Google PDFs do not allow this. Both book
browsers allowed online keyword searching.
Scope of Material
The Microsoft and Google projects generally had different books scanned. It is
possible that each group tried to prioritize volumes not scanned by the other.
Hence, it was usually worthwhile to check both systems. There was not a single
search system to pull up results from both projects. Perhaps a mashup would
have appeared eventually if the Microsoft project had continued. A Google web
search could bring up Google books.
Where are the Microsoft books now?
Many of the Microsoft PDFs came from other book scanning projects such as those
which are stored on www.archive.org. While the Microsoft system had only
the PDFs, the Archive.org editions are often available in multiple formats such
as plain text in addition to the PDFs (sometimes in color and grayscale).
Because of this origin, the Microsoft PDFs did not have usage restrictions as
Google has tried to add. For public domain works, this extra licensing is hard
to justify and might not be permitted under the US copyright laws.
The downside to unrestricted PDFs from Microsoft/Archive.org is that some
enterprising individuals have sent these files (warts and all) to print on
demand systems to "publish" these books. These have been listed in quantity in
the used book databases and eBay, making it harder for buyers to locate vintage
copies as they wade through the sometimes overpriced POD reprints.
This is part of the nature of public domain material. A person can try to sell
an abridged Horatio Alger, Jr., print on demand volume for more than $100 when
the PDF which was used to create the reprint is available free of charge. What
I don't like is when an old copy, scanned in a library, has its access blocked
or restricted because one of these POD reprints exists.
Google has also blocked or restricted access to pre-1923 items which should be
positively public domain. A bound volume of 1910s Publishers' Weekly magazine
cannot be construed to be protected. However, it is likely that Google is
granting additional protection to avoid creating another litigant against them.
The problem with this is that it effectively grants more rights, in terms of
copyright duration, to these publishers than that to which they are entitled.
I liked the PDF search capability of the Microsoft/Archive.org files. I
suggested to Google that they add this. Perhaps it would be time consuming to
add the text layer to the existing PDFs. However, I found the Google search
interface to be much more powerful in capability and less tedious to use on my
older laptop system.
I hope Google continues to refine and improve their book offering. For
example, the recent announcement of a 300M XML document with US book copyright
renewal records from 1923 to 1963 provides a single place to check for
renewals. A listing basically says the book is still protected. However, a
lack of a listing makes a case for public domain status. Anyone who has taken
a logic class knows about the difficulty of proving something with a lack of
My own research projects have benefited from both book projects. I have
discovered texts which would be impossible to locate without them. No library
or bookstore provides level of content access these projects have made
available. I have purchased a number of books as a result of discoveries on
these systems. I have also downloaded dozens of PDFs for later reference.
While the Microsoft one had some useful material, I hope most of it is still
available on Archive.org.
James D. Keeline
San Diego, CA
Full-time antiquarian bookseller, 1988-2000
Full-time web developer, 2000-2008
. July 28, 2008
Dear Bruce & all at AE,
I sell books on the internet from Gloucester, England. I used to run a bricks and
mortar store with my partner, but since we split I rarely meet other booksellers. I
really love your monthly newsletter and feel like it is putting me in touch with
what is going on in the world of books, quite different from the on-message messages
I get from ABE!
Keep up the good work,