Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2004 Issue

A Renewed "Half Life"<br>Half.com Lives

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A look around the half.com home page reveals books are an important part of this site.



By Michael Stillman

In our reviews of the major bookselling sites, we have assiduously avoided looking at Half.com. Why would we? Half.com has been a marked man, a website on death row, with its date of execution formally set. Originally, parent eBay just wanted to get rid of this unloved stepchild, purchased from others a few years ago. July was set as the final date. It encouraged everyone who sold books (and other things) on Half to move their listings to eBay stores, the natural child, loved by the parent though not necessarily by all of the booksellers. The migration was slow. Parent eBay figured sellers needed more time, so they postponed the execution until October 14.

But, something happened along that final walk to the chamber. The sellers did not go quietly into the night. In fact, they let eBay know how little they appreciated the closing of Half.com. Evidently, they voiced their opinions in meetings with management, and the message boards lit up with biting comments. Then, suddenly one day (Sept. 23, specifically), eBay sent out a message to its sellers totally reversing its stand. In it they said. "In our last announcement earlier this summer, we said that Half.com would be closing on October 14, 2004. We have decided NOT to go forward with this plan and will keep Half.com open indefinitely" (emphasis theirs).

What happened? Why the change? Did the pleas of their sellers finally get through? Personally, I doubt that was the reason. They have been speaking up for a long time without eBay listening. More likely this was a response to the old saying "money talks," rather than sellers talk. In the letter, Vice-President and General Manager of Half.com Mike Aufricht said that the attempt to shift sales to eBay had not reduced business at Half. "In fact, loyalty to Half.com has remained strong as we witnessed yet another outstanding back-to-school season on Half.com." He goes on to say that sellers have been arguing to keep Half.com alive, and that, "Your input, as well as the data and experience we have gained during the transition efforts, are the basis for our decision to keep Half.com open." Again, I suspect it was the "data and experience," a likely euphemism for "cash," that was the key factor rather than the "your input" they ignored for so long.

Why they didn't see this sooner is both unexplained and hard to explain. Perhaps patent infringement claims pertaining to Half.com's software was the major reason for eBay's plan to jettison the site. Clearly it was an issue. Maybe it was more a desire to strengthen the core eBay name that motivated the earlier decision. Whatever, someone finally looked at the sales at Half and the seller loyalty, and decided not to detach the milking machine from the cash cow. We can't say for certain that the decision is permanent. However, they do say, "There will be no substantive changes to Half.com in the foreseeable future," and, "Going forward, we will invest in both platforms" (Half and eBay). Sounds like Half.com will be sticking around awhile.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> MITCHELL, John (1711-1768). A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America. Copperplate engraving with original hand color. London, 1755. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Brown Pelican (Standing), Plate 251. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $175,000 to $225,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Fish Hawk or Osprey, Plate 81. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London: 1827-1838. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> GONZALES DE MENDOZA, Juan (1545 - 1618). <i>The Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China…</i> London, 1588. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> VERBIEST, Ferdinand (1623-1688). [World Map] Kun-Yu Ch'uan-Tu. Engraved twelve sheet map with vertical sections joined to form six sheets. Korea, Seoul, c. 1860. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> SANGGI, Chong (1678-1752). Korean Atlas. Manuscript map on mulberry bark paper. C. 1750-1790. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Plate 66. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AKERMAN, Anders (1721-1778). & AKREL, Frederik (1779-1868). Pair of Celestial and Terrestrial Globes. Stockholm, c. 1800. 23 inch diameter, each. $60,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> BENNETT, Lieut. William Pyt (d. in action, 1916). AN IMPORTANT AND APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED SERIES OF GELATIN SILVER PHOTOGRAPHS OF LHASA AND TIBET TAKEN DURING THE CELEBRATED YOUNGHUSBAND MISSION OF 1904. $60,000 to $80,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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