Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2013 Issue

TomFolio.com Book Dealer Co-op Now in its 13th Year - An Uphill Struggle to Make it Work

Tom foliopix board

Tom Folio President Henry Hain III and board member Bette Feinstein.

TomFolio.com may not be the best known name in the world of bookselling databases, but it is one of the most innovative and unusual. Founded back in 2000, the heady early days of on-line bookselling, it had big plans to wrest control of internet used and out-of-print sales from the bean counters and place it in the hands of the individual dealers with a real knowledge and love of the trade.

TomFolio took its name from a 1710 quote by Joseph Addison describing a ubiquitous bibliophile who seemed to show up everywhere that books were sold. Its cooperative format was loosely adopted from other kinds of ventures such as credit unions and farmers’ organizations where the members were also owners and then paid modest fees to sustain the enterprise.

Today it’s evident that the bean counters are in the lead -- Amazon, Alibris and Abe are filled with penny sellers and mega-listers. They are clearly being run by people whose main focus is financial and technical and whose interest in books is secondary (if in fact that interest exists at all).

Though TomFolio is still struggling to stay afloat, it has outlasted a number of other cooperative ventures, and except for a paid webmaster, it is still an all volunteer organization.

Lee Kirk of The Prints & The Paper, an ephemera specialist in Eugene, Oregon, is a charter member, TF blogger and perhaps semi-official den mother to the clan. She pointed out that the site currently has over 120 member dealers throughout the US and Canada, as well as South Africa, the Netherlands, UK, India and other countries.

“Selling books on TomFolio is not an easy solution,” said Arne Schaefer, a past TF president, who runs Africana Books in Cape Town, South Africa. But, he continued, “If you want to be a bookseller that is in some way different from the soulless big boys and faceless bulk listers, be it because of your choice of subject, your knowledge of a genre, your dedication to giving outstanding service to your clients, your willingness to share knowledge, or being prepared to work just that little bit harder to spread the good word about TomFolio (and yourself, of course) – then you will probably find that your ‘marriage’ with TF is a good one.”

“TomFolio offers its members many services for a small monthly fee,” said Don Gallagher, who with wife Sue runs Gallagher Books in Denver. “Those fees,” he said, “haven’t changed since TF opened and there are no commissions on sales. Customers have been impressed by the category system (an attempt to facilitate browsing). The technological stability of the site has been impressive – very rarely any downtime.” Other site features he noted included author autographs, awards, biographies, and pseudonyms.


Posted On: 2013-02-02 00:00
User Name: barbsbooks

Thank you for telling your readers about TomFolio. You have presented a very accurate picture of what it has to offer both booksellers and boo


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.

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