Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2011 Issue

A Bookseller Success Story... Amazon

Kindlefire11-11

The new Kindle Fire.

A couple of major, seemingly unrelated announcements came out of Amazon.com a few weeks back. We doubt they are all that unrelated, and they signify a move to a still higher level in the stratosphere of business in which Amazon has participated the past few years. The largest internet retailer now seeks to become deeply involved in the lives of its customers. It looks to compete with the likes of Apple and Facebook, rather than Barnes & Noble and Alibris. Many others have tried to make this move; few have succeeded. Many business analysts believe Amazon is poised to succeed. Let this be an inspiration for all of you booksellers out there. Amazon, too, started as a bookseller. Now, it is about to become one of the most important companies on earth.

Amazon began in the late 1990s as an internet bookseller, nothing more. Their business plan was to take advantage of the savings afforded by not having to maintain bricks and mortar stores and their staffs, and the ability to sell nationally, even internationally, from one location. These competitive advantages would allow them to sell new books at a discounted price. The model was extremely successful. People would go into a Barnes and Noble or an independent bookstore, see something they liked, and buy it from Amazon for less. It was a model similar to that of Wal-Mart and other discounters a generation earlier, when they used large stores and volume buying to undercut local merchants. People would check out what the Main Street shop was offering and then go to Wal-Mart to buy it for less.

Within a few years, Amazon had expanded its offerings. First, they went to the obvious next categories, videos, music, and used books. However, they never stopped. Amazon expanded to anything they could sell, in effect becoming the discount department store of the internet. The formula continued to reap dividends. Today, Amazon is the world's largest internet retailer.

Amazon never forgot its bookselling heritage. That was not likely out of sentimentality. Books always remained an important category for the Seattle firm. However, Amazon, in a trait they share with Apple, realized they always needed to stay out in front of the next technology if they didn't want to end up being buried like the once great bookseller, Borders. So, when electronic books were first developed, Amazon created the first electronic reader, the Kindle. At the time, many traditionalists scoffed. Who would ever give up the feel, the comfort of a physical book for an impersonal electronic gadget? Turns out millions of people, especially the young, would and did. Amazon was onto to the next great leap in books, just as they had been a decade earlier with online discounting.

I don't know whether Amazon foresaw where this would lead when they introduced the Kindle. I suspect not, but it doesn't matter. Amazon is now in the process of parlaying that electronic book reader into a sphere of business where not even they have participated in the past.

A few weeks ago, Amazon announced the production of the new Kindle Fire. This is a Kindle e-book reader that has evolved into something more. What that more is, essentially, is a tablet computer, an iPad if you will. Amazon has moved into Apple's space. For those who haven't been following, Apple, near bankruptcy in the 1990s, the almost totally vanquished PC competitor of the behemoth Microsoft, passed that company in terms of its value a couple of years ago, and now challenges Exxon for the most valuable company in the world. Apple succeeded where Microsoft stood still by using the same game-plan that Amazon now employs, getting ahead of the next wave of development. Apple recognized that consumers were looking for compact, mobile devices to keep connected to the world, so they developed their iPods for music, and then their iPhone smart phones that did far more than the ordinary cell phone. Then, they introduced their iPad tablet computer, a small portable computer that they sold tens of millions for around $500 each. People were ready to move beyond their bulky PCs, with their Microsoft operating systems. Apple totally dominates this market. They have beaten back all attempts to compete for significant marketshare, recently driving even the venerable HP from its attempt to edge in. Now, Amazon will take them on, and Amazon is a far more serious challenge than any computer or cell phone maker before them.

What makes Amazon a serious competitor is their reach. Unlike an HP, Amazon already has a relationship with millions of consumers. And, Amazon has been selling them a related electronic product in the millions – the Kindle e-book reader. Furthermore, Amazon is willing to use the strategy that gave birth to their business a decade and a half ago – undercutting the price. Apple has long been noted for innovative and superior products. They have not been known for low prices. If you want something from Apple, you better be prepared to pay up for it. Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet will retail for $199. The entry level iPad sells for $499. Experts will tell you the Kindle Fire does not have all the features of an iPad, just like a Toyota Corolla doesn't have all the features of a Mercedes. They sell a lot of Corollas anyway. There are lots of people for whom $200 is a lot more affordable than $500, and they have already made Amazon the largest online store.

However, there is something else going on here, and it promises to be much larger than all of those millions of Kindle Fire sales Amazon expects to make. The sale of an electronic gadget can be more than a one-time sale. It can draw you into the seller's world, where they can sell you more goods and services, or subject you to advertising that fills their coffers with additional revenue. Apple parlayed its music devices to sell music from its iTunes store. Amazon sells electronic books to its Kindle customers. Getting you onto their electronic devices opens the possibility of drawing you deeper into their world. Amazon may be happy to sell you a Kindle Fire at a low price as a gateway to a continuously flowing revenue stream.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> C.F. Payne, <i>Micawber—Imitating Norman Rockwell's "Triple self-portrait,"</i> acrylic, watercolor & colored pencil, 2002. Sold June 2021 for $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Jane Russell, archive of letters written during a whaling voyage, 1840s. Sold July 2021 for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Guild of Women Binders, exhibition binding of A.F. Pollard’s <i>Henry VIII,</i> London, 1902. Sold July 2021 for $12,350.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Robert Frost, <i>Collected Poems,</i> author’s presentation copy, signed, with entirety of <i>Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening</i> inscribed, NY, 1930. Sold June 2021 for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> James Joyce, <i>Ulysses,</i> deluxe limited issue, signed, London, 1936. Sold June 2021 for $21,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Mercator [family], <i>[World and Continents],</i> 5 double-page maps, Amsterdam, c. 1633. Sold June 2021 for $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Schlegel, <i>New York, Taken from Central Park,</i> hand-finished color-tinted lithograph, 1874. Sold June 2021 for $11,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolaus Copernicus, <i>De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium,</i> second edition, Basel, 1566. Sold April 2021 for $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Utrecht, illuminated manuscript, c. 1435-45. Sold April 2021 for $60,000.
  • <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>September 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 20. ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY. Letter to the editors of the Boston Atlas on slavery and its political ramifications, 1842. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 208. HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. <i>A Farewell To Arms.</i> New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929. First edition. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 237. ADDAMS, CHARLES. Original drawing "Now Remember-act casual." $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>September 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 4. SMITH, ADAM. <i>An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.</i> Philadelphia, 1789. The first American edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 131. BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VON. <i>Cinquieme Sinfonie en ut mineur: C Moll de Louis Van Beethoven. Oeuvre 67.</i> First edition of the complete score. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 73. Chinese Export Painting. Album of twenty-three original Chinese natural history studies of flowers and insects. Likely Canton: circa 1850. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>September 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 241. GOREY, EDWARD. Original drawing "Cat Drawing Wallpaper." Signed in Pencil in lower right margin. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 36. LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. Autograph note signed instructing Edwin Stanton to meet with the important African American abolitionist and officer Martin Delany. [Washington:] 21 February 1865. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 112. JONSON, BEN. <i>Workes</i>. London: William Stansby, 1616; Together with <i>Workes.</i> London: Richard Meighen,1640-41. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 161. STURGIS, LEE. <i>Salmon Fishing on Cain River, New Brunswick.</i> (Chicago:) Privately printed (for the author by Ralph Fletcher Seymour), 1919. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
  • <b><center>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>The Library of Howth Castle<br>September 22nd & 23rd, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Rosellini (Ippolito). <i>I Monumenti dell Egitto e Della Nubia,</i> Plate Volumes 1, 11 & 111, 3 vols. Elephant folio. €50,000 to €80,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Curtis (William), 1746 - 179, & other Editors. <i>The Botanical Magazine: or, The Flower Garden Displayed.</i> London 1793 - 1982-83. Together 184 vols. [with] other botanical material. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Berkeley (George). <i>A Treatise Concerning the principles of Human Knowledge, wherein the chief Causes of Error and Difficulty in the Sciences…</i> Part I, Dublin, 1710 Rare First Edn. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b><center>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>The Library of Howth Castle<br>September 22nd & 23rd, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Ruskin (John). A large finely executed Pencil Drawing, captioned <i>Oxford Cathedral, The Choir,</i> & Signed 'J. Ruskin Ch. Ch. 1838. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Sir Edward L. Lutyens. Howth Castle Plans: A Series of 10 Original Architects Drawings and Sketches, Alterations and Additions for J.C. Gaisford St. Lawrence, County Dublin, Ireland. €8,000 to €12,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Newman (Rev. Fr. John Henry, later Cardinal, now Saint) A very good collection of 24 A.L.S. to [Thomas] Gaisford of the Gaisford St. Lawrence family of Howth Castle. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <b><center>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>The Library of Howth Castle<br>September 22nd & 23rd, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Manuscript Atlas: Hodges, Smith & Co. <i>The Estate of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Howth Situate in the County of Dublin,</i> lg. atlas folio Dublin (Hodges, Smith & Co.) 1863. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Anon. <i>Herbolario Volgare: nel quale se dimostra conoscer le herbe et le sue vrtu…</i> Sm. 8vo Venice (Gio Maria Palamides) 1539. €3,000 to €4,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Baron (Caesar). <i>Annales Ecclesiastici</i>. [With] <i>Annalium Ecclesiasticorum Caesaris Baronii... Apparatus.</i> [With] <i>Index Universalis Rerum Omnium</i> [and one other]. 38 vols total. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b><center>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>The Library of Howth Castle<br>September 22nd & 23rd, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Log Books of Three British Warships. Three folio Volumes, containing meticulously arranged logs of the voyages of Royal Navy Ships from 1876 – 1881. €1,200 to €1,800.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Walpole (Robert). <i>Memoirs Relating to European and Asiatic Turkey,</i> lg. 4to Lond. 1817. €1,000 to €1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Sep. 22-23:</b> Bosio (Antonio). <i>Roma Sotteranea,</i> Opera Postuma. Large thick folio Rome (Guglielmo Facciotti) 1632. €1,000 to €1,500.
  • <b>Il Ponte, Sep. 21:</b> ZEILER, Martin - <i>Topographiae Italiae.</i> Francoforte: Mattheus Merian, 1688. €3,500 to €4,500.
    <b>Il Ponte, Sep. 21:</b> HAMILTON, William, Sir -- HANCARVILLE, Pierre-Francois HUGUES - Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Hon. William Hamilton. Napoli: Francois Morelli, 1766-67. €38,000 to €48,000.
    <b>Il Ponte, Sep. 21:</b> [ASTRONOMIA] - Manoscritto astronomico. Italia: 1650. €1,000 to €1,500.
    <b>Il Ponte, Sep. 21:</b> DALI, Salvador - <i>Biblia Sacra vulgatae editionis.</i> Edizione “Ad Personam” Milano: Rizzoli, 1967. €40,000 to €60,000.

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