Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2012 Issue

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing 2

The Customer as a God

For many, probably most of the world’s serious booksellers, selling books

is more than having the right material at the right price.  It’s essential to have the right customer.
  

For acquirers, who increasingly are aware of online inventory, it often turns out there are several copies of the same book in varying states and if left to their own devices simply choose the apparent best copy for the money.  That judgment will be logical if narrow and possibly ignore other often-invisible factors such as collection appropriateness, other possible copies and editions and collecting trends.  This information and perspective is worth a great deal, knowing who has it difficult to access.  Anyone can buy books.  Building a collection is a more complex challenge, building a successful collection:  rare.

For that insight many serious collectors will willingly rely on skilled dealers if they understand who and what they are.  The problem of course is that there are thousands of dealers and most, qualified or not, are prepared to be a collector’s Svengali.  In the past many such relationships were struck up at bookshops.  The world of books was opaque and the doors to the shop sometimes more than just the entry to thousands of books.  Occasionally they were also portals to knowledge about collecting that otherwise was difficult to obtain.  Today most shops are gone and the geezers who manned them now reading in the mews.
   

In their place the collector today finds first the listings online and later the reference/research sites where there is more information than was ever earlier available.  With this a collector can establish a focus and pursue it with confidence to a point.  The point?, the point beyond which prices exceed the collector’s confidence to act independently.  From there on, or at least for material beyond a certain price and/or complexity the collector seeks help, declines to purchase or takes a flyer.  For those seeking help the problem is that these next generation collectors, the ones most sought after by dealers and for whom a half dozen relationships can make a career, may find it difficult to identify the one or two dealers among the many who are a good fit.  It’s a problem for both sides.

The answer or at least part of the answer may lie in two trends taking hold.  Collecting, that has been structured by object type, ie. book fairs, book dealer organizations and listing sites selling books and not much else, is becoming subject-centric, that is becoming communities of the like-interested.  Listing sites have copies of Shakespeare, a subject centric approach on Shakespeare has nothing but Shakespeare.  Such organizations have long existed primarily for the sharing of academic perspective.  But as the discovery of more material within subjects is confirmed the subjects themselves are increasingly large enough to support symposia, newsletters and fairs where material can change hands.

And there is another change.  The web is reversing the traditional seller/merchant based model that is organized to give the seller efficient access to buyers.  In its place, as discussed in the Saturday July 21st edition of the Wall Street Journal in an article on The Customer as a God the author looks ahead to a future that is customer-centric, electronically aggregating vendors and suppliers [and dealers] around the client and the client very efficiently controlling access through filters that include/exclude based on criteria analyzed by the apparently next big thing.  In that world the collector theoretically creates their own fair, setting criteria, creating instant cloud databases, selecting online presentations to read, watch or listen to, reading descriptions, placing orders or making bids.  In this world the next generation of collector says I’ll have a book fair on Saturday. 

Before that happens however vertical organizations, an association of heart surgeons with a yen for the history of their field for example, will create 3 or 4-hour auxiliary electronic events and dealer material fill the stadia with possibilities.  How so?  Dealers whose online material is managed by a participating aggregator need only opt in and decide whether to be present with stock or available by videophone to discuss items accessible electronically.  In this world a dealer may, without exaggeration “I’m exhibiting at three shows today.”

When or whether this comes to pass is another thing.  It brings to mind the Saturday Evening Post article in the mid 1950s that showed cars moving down the highway with the driver swiveled to the back to chat.  That hasn’t happened yet although Google is now demonstrating self-driving cars.
  

In the meantime one aspect of the recasting of the relationship between seller and consumer is underway.  Vertical organizations will overtake the industry standard horizontal ones because collectors will continue to intensify their focus and be naturally attracted to events that more efficiently than book fairs encompass their interests.  Along the way more academics, collectors and dealers will attend and more relationships be established.  These events will become multi-day specialist fairs with a combination of academic presentations and commercial opportunities.

Do they already exist?  Yes and for many if not most subjects in most states and countries.  And how do I find out? 
  

If there are such meetings and symposia information about them is as near as your computer.  A Google search for symposium, subject, state and year yields Google-normal multi-million match results that can be pared down with further terms.  You are going to find events regularly occurring that are already attracting academics, dealers, collectors and collecting institutions.  There are in fact many such meetings.  In the field of history on Google a search for history symposium finds 45,200,000, adding quotes narrows the search to a mere 131,000.

Botanists it turns out do a lot of symposing:  1,320,000 matches on Google.

Rare book symposium finds 2,220,000 matches, “rare book” symposium 2,950,000 but don’t ask me why using quotes get more.  Rare book symposium 2012 finds 1,540,000.  Adding Ulster County brings up an article I wrote a few months back about a dinner I hosted for those interested to discuss the future of collectible books. 

So when someone says to you that traffic at book fairs is down, or that sales are soft, on AE we are seeing no decline in interest but we are seeing changing approaches.  The next step may be for you to look for a symposium or two to see for your self.   If you do I expect you’ll see the roots taking hold in this vertical shift.  You won’t see much evidence though of the consumer–centric approach that the Wall Street Journal sees coming.  We’re all still learning how to use our iPhones.  But our kids?  Yes, they’ll probably experience it but possibly never know how exciting it was to go into an old and used bookshop to find some treasures.

Because many areas and subjects will be unspoken for, it's logical that dealers may want to organize symposia to create focused communities around what they believe are worthwhile collecting subjects.   It’s logical but also needs to be neutral.  Other dealers should not be excluded and no trade affiliations a requirement.  The terms for one should be the terms for all.

Links to the WSJ article

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, <i>El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha . . . Nueva Edición,</i> first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French, France, 1530-40s. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin, France, mid-15th century. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b><br><i>Die Ernsthaffte Christenpflicht,</i> earliest known edition of the first complete Mennonite prayer book, 1708. $300 to $500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Georg Agricola, <i>De ortu & causis subterraneorum Lib V.,</i> first edition, Basel, 1546. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Frederick Ruysch, <i>Icon durae matris in concava [convexa] superficie visae,</i> with 2 mezzotints by Jan Ladmiral, first edition, Amsterdam, 1737. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, <i>Eine Neue Art von Strahlen,</i> Würzburg, 1895. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pietro Carrera, <i>Il Gioco de gli Scacchi,</i> first edition, Militello, 1617. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> William Lithgow, <i>The Totall Discourse, of the Rare Adventures</i> [etc.], London, 1632. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Michel de Nostradamus, <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> first complete edition in English, London, 1672. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pseudo-Methodius, <i>De revelatione facta . . . beato Methodio,</i> Basel, 1504. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Hrabanus Maurus, <i>De laudibus sancte crucis opus,</i> Pforzheim, 1503. $1,000 to $2,000.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Autographs & Memorabilia. February 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Autograph album featuring signatures by prominent actors, politicians, musicians and authors, including Rudolph Valentino. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> An extremely rare working radio script for Crazy People No 29, the first series of <i>The Goon Show.</i> £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Manuscript prayer book, in German. 8vo, 1755 £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Italian Manuscript on Geometry, with diagrams, 18th century. £500 to £700
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Thorburn (Archibald). Sparrowhawk, original watercolour & gouache, signed & dated lower right, 1917. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Burton (Sir Richard Francis). <i>Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah.</i> 3 vol., FIRST EDITION, 1855-56. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> [Mount (Richard) & Page (Thomas)]. <i>The English Pilot. Describing the Sea-Coasts…</i> 31 engraved maps, W. & J. Mount, T. Page, 1756 £4000 to £6000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> D’apres De Mannevillette (Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Denis). <i>Le Neptune Oriental.</i> Paris & Brest, [1775 – 1781]. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Loring (Josiah). Terrestrial Globe Containing all the Late Discoveries and Geographical Improvements. Boston, Gilman Joslin, 1846, £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Shelley (G. E., Capt.). <i>A Monograph of the Nectariniidae, or Family of Sun-birds,</i> FIRST EDITION, by the Author, 1876-80. £4,000 to £6,000
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Franklin, Benjamin. <i>The Independent Whig.</i> First Magazine Published in America, Philadelphia: Keimer, 1723-4. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Powell Expedition. Autograph diary of Rhodes C. Allen kept during the Powell Expedition of 1868, June 29, 1868 - November 16, 1868. $20,000 to $40,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions