I clicked on the BID LIVE button and the first item of the sale appeared on the right of the screen; meanwhile, a pale blue button invited me to bid and a red one kept me informed of the on-going bid. I was surprised at how reactive the system had become. The information is updated very rapidly and the blue button consequently offers a superior bid. If you wish to bid, just click. If you do, then the button turns red and informs you that you’re the best bidder. If nobody overbids you, then the button turns dark blue and reads Adjugé en votre faveur (You win—you can access an English version of the website). If somebody dares overbidding you, then the button turns red again.
You can’t choose the precise amount of your bid; you have to go with what is suggested by the website—apparently, it is based on the amount of the previous bids. An assistant responsible for online bids shouts the results as they reach, and the auctioneer takes them into consideration. This sale was hosted by the famous auction house of Cornette de Saint Cyr, and might have been particularly well organized. But it seems like Drouotlive.com has already gone a long way.
Live sales stand sovereign, of course. Mostly as you can see the books while bidding and even “keep” them once you’ve bought them. An assistant then hands you—against a blank signed cheque, that is—your book right away. This is an irresistible feeling. I feared online bidding would spoil the joy. But I found myself excited enough to bid—more than I expected to. The screen doesn’t lower the bidding fever, after all. As a matter of fact, though interested in one item only, I kept on watching the whole sale. At the end of the day, I bought a book that looks terrific—at least in pictures. That’s the worst part about it, no more “I keep it!”. It’s up to you to pick up your book later at the auction house’s office, or to pay for shipping. And this part of the process can be real slow. But if you live abroad or in the countryside, what an incredible access to books! So, is online bidding the future of auction sales? One thing is sure, once you’ve tried, you can’t go back.