Any way you measure it 2012 was a difficult and transitional years for books including publishing and book selling Be it new or used, popular titles or antiquarian rarities, the transition from print to digital accelerated. A host of electronic tablets, pads, mobile phones and readers like iPad, Kindle and Nook all showed strong upward trend lines and made ever greater inroads into the territory once occupied by the physical object – the book.
In the big picture of the whole collectible market the top sale of the year went to Munch’s 1895 work of art titled Scream which realized $119.9 million in May. That number was said to be more than the totals for all the book auctions in 2011 for both Christie's and Sotheby's combined.
The top selling publicly announced price paid for a book in 2012 was equally famous; it was Audubon’s Birds of North America which fetched over $7 million in January. Even that high point was down from a record $10 million paid only a few years ago.
Borders Liquidates, Barnes & Noble Falls, Amazon Thrives, Google Yo-Yos
This was a year that saw leading chain bookseller Borders complete liquidation of hundreds of stores and dispersal of thousands of employees. Its competitor in the retail book trade, Barnes and Noble, continued to struggle as it tried to adapt to the changing market place. A brief review of stock prices is instructive. Five years ago B&N stock was selling at $39 per share; at the end of November 2012 the price per share was just over $14.
As the market’s faith in conventional book retailing tanked, its bets on digital and e-book retailing grew ever stronger. Amazon stock, which sold for just over $90 in 2007, hit a high of $261 in Sept. 2012. Google, the mother ship of the whole trend to digitize book texts, went from a of high $693 in 2007, sunk to a low of $262 in Nov. 2008 and rebounded to high of $767 in Oct. 2012.
Still some bright spots
Little of this will come as news to AE readers. Many of those still in the book business as antiquarian or on-line sellers had a challenging year, but there were some bright spots too.
Other venues had some high points as well. ABE books, one of the leading databases for on-line book sellers reported on top sales monthly. Among the figures reported by ABE for 2012 were:
* $46,000 an inscribed first of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale
* $30,000 – Kafka’s Die Verwanglund (The Metamorphosis)
* $25,000 Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are
* $20,000 an Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
* $19,500 La Perrouse voyage
* Almost $17,000 a 17th century book on mushrooms
* $14,500 for Wydnham’s sci fi classic Day of the Triffids
* $12,500 for extremely limited edition of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses
* $9,700 for a Dali illustrated limited edition of Don Quijote
* $5,750 for a signed first trade edition of Steinbeck’s East of Eden
ABE also noted a number of books on cocktails and mixology made top prices
(For fuller ABE report see www.abebooks.com/books/RareBooks/collectible-expensive-highest-price-sold/most-expensive-sales.shtml)
On-line sales at eBay also demonstrated some strong highlights, with categories for antiquarian, antique, fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and cook books. Top sellers in a variety of book related categories included Fleming, Oz books, Hemingway, and the first issue of Playboy with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. (For more details browse the link what sells best on eBay www.whatsellsbest.com/best-ebay-live-book-auction.html)