Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2018 Issue

The Great Revolt

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Books on Vacation (from ILAB website).

Not since David and Goliath... A ragtag army of independent, unrelated booksellers took on the largest retailer the world has ever known, Amazon, and won. Experts looking at the situation could not recall this ever happening before. Amazon moves for no one. Now there is an exception, and it comes from the field that gave the marketing behemoth its birth - bookselling.

 

It began in late October when AbeBooks, the antiquarian and used book selling subsidiary of Amazon, decided to cut off dealers from a few countries from selling on their platform. AbeBooks sent notices to dealers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, Poland, and South Korea that it would no longer accept their listings after November 30. It was but a short, terse notice, without explanation as to why or much feeling beyond a standard "we apologize for this inconvenience." Digging into the reasoning it turned out that a change in the service provider for payments was the cause. Evidently, a better deal must have been struck, but one that called for the jettisoning of sellers in certain countries.

 

The tiny spark that led to the fire proved to be a posting from a dealer in the Czech Republic on the ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) site. Jan and Ondrej Schick of Antikvariat Valentinska of Prague posted a letter saying that they had listed books on ZVAB, then ABE after its takeover, for 15 years. They said they had worked hard to treat their customers well and had never received a major complaint from them or from ABE. Nevertheless, on October 18, they received a brief, impersonal letter stating, "Effective November 30, 2018, AbeBooks will no longer support sellers located in certain countries. Your business is located in one of the affected countries and your AbeBooks seller account will be closed on November 30, 2018. We apologize for this inconvenience."

 

The Czech booksellers described the decision as a shock, "especially since no reason was given." They went on to say they would have to dismiss at least five employees and had no idea where else to sell their 20,000 foreign books. They said this in effect would cut booksellers in these countries off from the world antiquarian book trade, and asked which countries would be next. They closed with a request for Amazon and AbeBooks to reconsider its decision.

 

One of the booksellers who took this message to heart was Simon Beattie of England. You couldn't ask for a better bookseller to start such a revolt. Beattie specializes in books that are unusual, sometimes daring and radical. He announced, in effect, he was going on strike. ABE has a feature that allows booksellers to put their books "on vacation" when they go away. They don't remove their books from the site. They just make their books invisible until they return. Beattie put his books on vacation.

 

He would not be the only one. Other booksellers put their books on vacation too. The number grew, until around 600 booksellers, with 3.5 million listings, put their books on vacation. Then, Britain's Antiquarian Booksellers' Association announced they would would not renew ABE's sponsorship of their London Book Fair in 2019, saying they could no longer consider the firm a "suitable fair sponsor" as a result of the "significant negative impact on the businesses of our friends and colleagues."

 

Amazon/ABE blinked. They realized they had made a terrible mistake and needed to reverse course. It may have been the first such substantial reversal by Amazon over a policy having a major effect on its suppliers.

 

On November 7, Sally Burdon, President of ILAB, spoke with Arkady Vitrouk, CEO of AbeBooks. Ms. Burdon said Mr. Vitrouk apologized for the decision and said that the dealers would not be dropped from ABE's listings on November 30. According to an email she sent, "Arkady told us that ABE are very well aware of the mistake they have made. He stated that it was a ‘bad decision’ and that they deeply regret the hurt and harm they have caused." She also noted that Vitrouk was up at 4:30 a.m. for the call, so obviously it was of great importance to him. Even more significantly, Burdon explained that booksellers in the affected countries could continue to post books as they do now until December 31, and that Vitrouk had pledged to find a solution that would enable them to continue selling books on AbeBooks indefinitely thereafter.

 

With that, the booksellers began ending their "vacations." An improbable victory against an immensely powerful company had been won, with many of the booksellers expressing surprise that it had turned out so well. Hopefully, Amazon/ABE will see this as a victory too. For almost two decades, the balance of power between ABE and its clients has shifted, booksellers, being unorganized, feeling increasingly weak and dependent on them. There has been resentment against Amazon, ABE and other such sites, such as eBay. That isn't healthy. Good relationships come from equals, not master and servant. If this helps renew a greater spirit of a shared vision, not a boss telling his underlings what to do, everyone will be better off, ABE included.


Posted On: 2018-12-01 10:06
User Name: PeterReynolds

I suspect that an article in the New York Times "Booksellers Protest Amazon Site’s Move to Drop Stores From Certain Countries" which not only associated ABE (previously "good" for some) in the book-buying public's mind with Amazon ("bad" for some), but was bad publicity for Amazon itself, might have been what tipped the balance! A frequent US customer of mine saw it, and I told ABE about this.


Posted On: 2018-12-01 14:59
User Name: bookdemon

A small battle was won this time. When serious booksellers permanently remove all of their stock from Abe/Amazon, the war is over and booksellers will be victorious. Sadly, this will probably never happen.


Posted On: 2018-12-16 13:46
User Name: quaggabooks

Earlier this year ABE announced that all dealers in South Africa have to have American bank accounts. A number of my colleagues here in South Africa have found a solution by making use of an online portal that, (for another fee) allows them to keep trading. We at Quagga Books have pulled our listings from ABE as the fees are now so high that I would feel ill every time I got an order. We are focusing more on our own website and other online platforms. Goodbye and good riddance to ABE.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DE CORDOBA, JACOB. <i>Map of the State of Texas.</i> New York, 1866. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ARNOLD, BENEDICT. Autograph bookseller's receipt for Dr. John Dickinson, Signed ("B. Arnold"), February 1767. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. 4 Typed Letters Signed ("A Einstein") to Cleveland E. Dodge offering early reports on the meetings of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. Typed Letter Signed ("Dwight D. Eisenhower") to General Henri Giraud written from a secret bunker in Gibraltar on the eve of Operation Torch, November 4 [but 6], 1942. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> Early Broadside Printing of the GADSDEN PURCHASE, Puebla, August 16, 1854. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ALLEN, ETHAN. Autograph Letter Signed to Crevecouer during the Constitutional Debates in Congress, 2 pp, August 29, 1787. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> DARWIN, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> London John Murray, 1859. FIRST EDITION. THE VERY FINE MELLON-GARDEN COPY. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> ECKERT, J. P, H. H. GOLDSTINE, and J. G. BRAINERD. <i>Description of the ENIAC and comments on electronic digital computing machines.</i> N.p., 1945. FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED BY GOLDSTINE. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> EUCLID. <i>Elementa geometriae.</i> Translated from the Arabic by Adelard of Bath. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 25 May 1482. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> [HAMILTON, Alexander, James MADISON and John JAY]. <i>The Federalist: A Collection of Essays…</i> New York: John and Andrew M'Lean, 1788. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> GALILEI, Galileo. <i>Dialogo...Dove ne i congressi di quattro giornate si discorre sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo Tolemaico, e Copernicano.</i> Florence, 1632. FIRST EDITION. $30,000 to $40,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922. FIRST EDITION, ONE OF 100 COPIES SIGNED BY JOYCE. $120,000 to $180,000
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> KEYNES, John Maynard. <i>The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money.</i> London: Macmillan, 1936. FIRST EDITION. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> NEWTON, Isaac, Sir. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> London: Joseph Streater for the Royal Society, 1687. FIRST EDITION. $150,000 to $250,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> ROWLING, J. K. <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.</i> London: Bloomsbury, 1997. FIRST EDITION, SIGNED BY ROWLING. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 5:</b> SMITH, Adam. <i>An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.</i> London: for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776. FIRST EDITION. $70,000 to $90,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks,</i> first edition, first issue, London, 1704. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Johannes Jacobus Canis, <i>De modo studendi in utroque iure,</i> first edition, Padua, 1476. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Pope Clemens V, <i>Constitutiones,</i> Nuremberg, 1482. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Panormitanus de Tudeschis, <i>Lectura super V libris Decretalium,</i> Basel, 1480-81. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Michael Faraday, <i>Experimental Researches in Electricity,</i> complete set, first editions, London, 1832-56. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> William Gilbert, <i>Tractatus sive physiologia nova de magnete,</i> Sedini, 1628. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> John Bulwer, <i>Philocophus,</i> first edition of the first book in English on the deaf, London, 1648. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> James Cook, complete set, 9 volumes, London, 1773-84. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Bertrand, <i>Opus de Tholosano[rum] Gestis ab Urbe Condita,</i> with the earliest known view of the city of Toulouse, 1515. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> RATZER, Bernard. <i>Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767.</i> London: Jefferys and Faden, “Jan.y” 12, 1776. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. COCKERELL, Sydney C. <i>Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century.</i> Hammersmith: The Kelmscott Press, 1897 [issued 1898]. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [GOLDEN COCKEREL PRESS]. KEATS, John. <i>Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems.</i> Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berkshire: The Golden Cockerel Press, 1928. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center> <b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [GRANT, Ulysses S.— GRANT, Julia, First Lady]. Carved Applewood and 18-karat Gold Jewelry Suite, Browne & Spaulding, Jewelers, New York City, 1865. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [LINCOLN ASSASSINATION]. GARDNER, Alexander. <i>Incidents of the War |Sic Semper Sicariis</i> [caption title]. Washington, D. C.: Philip & Solomons, 1865. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> A COMPLETE COLLECTION of 115 titles published in R. R. Donnelley's Lakeside Classics series. Chicago, 1903-2017. COMPLETE RUN OF THE LONGEST-RUNNING CONTINUOUS SERIES OF BOOKS IN THE WORLD. $5,000 to $7,000
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> GLEIZES, Albert. METZINGER, Jean. <i>Du Cubisme.</i> Paris, 1947. LIMITED EDITION, number 19 of 20 copies on papier d'Auvergne. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [THE LITTLE REVIEW]. ANDERSON, Margaret, ed. POUND, Ezra, ed. HEAP, Jane, ed. <i>The Little Review.</i> Vol. I, No. 1 through Vol. XII, No. 2. 1914-1929. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [MOUNTENEY, Leonard, binder]. LOUŸS, Pierre. <i>Songs of Bilitis.</i> Chicago: Argus Books, 1931. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Nov. 6:</b> [HANCOCK, John]. Partly-printed U.S. Loan-Office Transfer Certificate issued on behalf of Hancock. Sgn’d on recto by William Imlay, as Commissioner of Loans of Connecticut. 28 February 1793. $2,000 to $3,000

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