Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2016 Issue

AbeBooks – 20 Years Down, the Next 20 Ready to Go

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AbeBooks recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in business. That was the opening salvo in the new means of book selling that changed the trade as it had been known for over five centuries. Starting with a test run of three booksellers in Victoria, BC, Canada, by the end of 1996, the site had members from all around the world. The exact number has been forgotten – AbeBooks didn't keep great records back then. However, PR & Publicity Manager Richard Davies reports that co-founder Cathy Waters told him that by August 1997, they had a party celebrating 1,000 booksellers. Sixty-four of those early adapters, "Heritage" booksellers in Abe's parlance, are still selling books on AbeBooks' website today. Most are from the United States, but the list includes six Canadians and one each from Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. Those who were once the pioneers are today the veterans.

 

How many Abe booksellers are there today, and how many books are listed? Mr. Davies said they do not release those numbers. As he explained, "We don’t reveal our exact number of sellers but simply say ‘thousands’ located in more than 50 countries. In terms of books for sale, we say ‘millions’ – I can assure you that it’s an awful lot of books." Several years ago, the number of listings passed the 100 million mark, so it is surely a very large number today.

 

This trip down memory lane led to the inevitable question. We asked Mr. Davies where will AbeBooks be 20 years from now? "That's a good question," he responded, before tackling the impossible to answer inquiry. "Well, I am 100% sure that physical books will still be read, loved and desired. There will still be people who love books as an object and will want to own copies of significance. The historical significance of books has not faded and that’s going to continue. Thanks to social media, more is written (and photographed and videoed) about books than ever before, and that’s not going to change.

 

"There’s bound to have been several more rounds of major technological change by 2036 – print on demand technology will probably become more accessible to buyers and more common inside bookshops. Could there be more ways to read a book?

 

"The actual range of books available via the Internet is incredibly broad today but it’s only going to get broader. For instance, people still want translations of particular books that are loved in one part of the world and not available elsewhere. AbeBooks does not have enough books to satisfy everyone on a global scale – that’s why our Wants system still exists to help people find books we don’t currently offer. We’re a global business and our inventory could be much more global."

 

We asked whether Abebooks foresees branching out beyond books. After all, its parent, Amazon, started out as a bookseller and today markets everything under the sun. That type of diversification does not appear to be in Abe's plans, and really wouldn't make any obvious sense. Amazon already fills those needs, and Abebooks' role is logically focused on being the leader in a specific market – books, particularly old and rare ones. However, they have already expanded into related items, notably in the paper field, and this type of expansion is likely to continue.

 

Davies explains, "We are already experimenting with non-book items that are currently listed for sale on our site. A traditional used and rare bookshop will typically also offer ephemera and art, and we have been slow to acknowledge this fact and make these types of items findable on our site. We are currently making an effort to learn about the market for art and ephemera by promoting it more aggressively via our merchandising team. Since November, we have promoted lobby cards, posters, maps, prints from a French fashion journal, photographs, and lithographs. Our next job is make this inventory easier to find.

 

"With that in mind, we have also launched a new type of product display called Collections. It’s experimental at the moment but it’s intended to improve our browse experience. The collections themselves are based upon seller catalogs, which sellers create when uploading items to the marketplace. Our catalogs were intended to be online versions of the print catalogs sellers traditionally produced. Typically, used and rare sellers create AbeBooks’ catalogs so Collections is focused on those areas. A few examples of what Collections can look like are vintage dust jackets from Between the Covers, Folio Society books from multiple sellers, and film still photographs from Royal Books. Visitors can see a lot of books, or photos, or posters, in a short space of time and jump from collection to collection. It’s quite different from our regular search results. Personally, I have found items via Collections that I have never seen before and I’ve been here 11 years. Right now, it’s a Beta and we’re still working to improve it, and that includes developing a search functionality.

 

"We have also just introduced updated seller storefronts and Collections are part of that upgrade. If a seller offers catalogs and they fit the Collections criteria, then they are now visible on the storefront. It’s a great way to explore specific inventory from a particular seller."

 

Check back in 2036 for an update on how these changes play out.

 

 

Here is a link to the stories of the 64 pioneers.  

 

These are links to some of the specialties:

 

Lobby Cards

Posters

Maps

Prints from a French Fashion Journal

Photographs

Lithographs

 

Examples of "Collections":

 

Vintage Dust Jackets

Folio Society Books

Film Still Photographs

 

Examples of Updated Storefronts

 

Raptis Rare Books

Royal Books

Books Tell You Why


Posted On: 2016-07-01 10:21
User Name: PeterReynolds

My experience is that my sales at ABE have been higher in the past two years than previously, while sales at other sites (including Amazon) are generally lower. Whatever ABE is doing it should continue with, and be very cautious about making radical changes beyond keeping their site modern and easy to use on all kinds of devices.


Posted On: 2016-07-01 10:23
User Name: PeterReynolds

Incidentally I think I started selling on ABE in 1999 (working for a charity bookstore) and have been selling there under my own name since 2000.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Used to Write "A Moveable Feast", Impeccable Provenance From His Biographer A. E. Hotchner. $50,000 to $100,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Samuel Colt, "The Gun that Won the West": 3 Signed Patent Items for "Revolving Cylinder Guns". $40,000 to $50,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Jack Kerouac's Own Typewriter From His Estate Used to Write His Very Last Book. $18,000 to $20,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Rare Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence Printed in 1848. $15,000 to $18,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Superb Tchaikovsky ALS to Napravnik, 4pp on "Mazeppa". $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Wounded Knee Massacre Same Day Eyewitness Account by Participant, "the 7th needn't be ashamed of today's record". $10,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> F. Scott Fitzgerald Signed Gordon Bryant Portrait -- Finest Known. $8,000 to $9,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Neil Armstrong ALS on NASA Letterhead Regarding His X-15 Flights. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> "Damn the torpedoes!" Riveting 24pp ALS of Admiral Farragut's Steward Describing the "Battle of Mobile Bay”. $6,000 to $7,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Order to Suspend Execution. $5,000 to $6,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.
  • <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.
  • <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.

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