With the rise of the internet and rare and used book listing sites the formulas, processes and costs for dealers have been undergoing generational changes every few years. Not so long ago dealers had shops, relied on walk-in traffic, sent offer letters, and issued catalogues. With the coming of the listing sites and the clarity they provided on rarity and importance local shops found themselves being compared out of business. And by that I mean their local stock was increasingly compared to online listings, found to be too expensive and as a consequence more difficult to and less frequently sold. Hence, over the past 20 years the loudest sound in the rare book business has been the sound of open shops closing – hence setting off a scramble to develop a new model.
Today their new strategies are a work in progress but one of them is clear and relatively simple, the issuance of electronic catalogues that are today, the quick product of the search of a dealer’s database and the selection of some category of material that at least loosely fits together. Then bingo, using what software a dealer has, an electronic catalogue is created. A few hours, even only minutes in some cases later, using one of the emailing programs their eCatalogue is on its way to the dealer’s emailing list.
The sales weren’t of the same volume as the earlier paper catalogues but the very idea of the catalogue has also being transformed from a difficult to create printed presentation to a quickly prepared eCatalogue whose role, although hoped to be identical to the traditional paper catalogue, is actually different for such catalogues, while selling, also convey expertise to the ever large audience that sorts through mountains of data and looks for evidence of quality and expertise. The eCatalogue then, has become, the effective calling card to the next generation of collecting institutions and collectors. As such, what constitutes success for such mailings must be viewed as distinctly different from the now declining printed version whose success was judged by return on investment over the first 30, 90, and 180 days. eCatalogues build sales more slowly, cost much less, provide much more flexibility, and build relationships.
Into this evolving world, as other selling techniques have declined, that of the eCatalogue is rising and the logic is simple.
Adding impetus to this trend, those that receive these catalogues are also adapting to the decline of the printed catalogue and reading more quickly. Count me among the avid readers of Michael Brown’s eCatalogues of archival lots. They are very interesting. Dewolfe and Wood’s Tuesday releases of 20 to 25 well priced, frequently rare and often obscure items arrive so regularly that I know to check my email at around 10:00 am on the west coast for their releases – to which I have succumbed perhaps a half dozen times this past year.
For Rare Book Hub members, we have for some years, offered a place to list/attach eCatalogues to be immediately posted to our eCatalogue section and included in section lll of Rare Book Monthly. If you are a paid services member at any level you should post yours.
The tide that has run against dealers for a generation will now return some of the advantages that have been slowly lost.
For RBH paid members at any level listing eCatalogues is a standard benefit and I want to explain how to post yours on our site.
Go to Rare Book Hub – www.rarebookhub.com
Log into your RBH account.
Select Rare Book Monthly from the toolbar and scroll down to eCatalogues and select it.
Online eCatalogues appear. Under the eCatalogues header on the right is the link: Add or Update My Catalogue Here
Select this link to Add or modify any eCatalogues in your account.
If/as you have questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call for help or advice.