Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2005 Issue

What Is happening At Abebooks?

Abeb

Abebooks offers more old books for sale than any other website.


By Michael Stillman

Consternation, confusion, controversy and downright anger are swirling around the largest old and used bookselling site in the world today, Abebooks.com. All of the major bookselling sites have strained relations with their sellers at one time or another, but Abe has been pilloried by the trade of late in ways not seen before. The explanation is that the venerable bookselling site has undergone some major changes recently. Changes almost inevitably lead to disgruntled users. Some don't like any change; others have legitimate beefs. On top of this, the implementation of these changes has evidently not gone smoothly, and this has led to further upset in the bookseller community. Sales have apparently been lost, and work multiplied. This is not a prescription for happy customers.

The sense of chaos and insufficient concern for the interests of their sellers has made Abe a target for much bookseller wrath. What Abe may see as "enhancements" can come across as mere attempts to grab more money to harried booksellers. However, I think this may be the side issue for Abe. Changes do not always go smoothly, and while implementation may have been a bit rough at Abe, technical glitches are usually worked out. A few acutely upset sellers may carry out their threats to walk, but as long as Abe is able to correct the technical problems in a reasonable amount of time, the great majority will stick around. Just like Abe, booksellers are out to maximize their profits, and whatever consternation and anger they feel, ultimately they will stay with Abe so long as the relationship, though it may be strained, is profitable.

However, beyond the upset of these surface tensions there are some underlying fundamental changes taking place, and I believe this is the really important issue between Abe and the booksellers, particularly those who specialize in antiquarian and rare books. While I don't believe this is intentional, these changes are having the effect of turning the knowledgeable, experienced bookseller into just another listing amateur. However, it is precisely this knowledge that enables the professional bookseller to successfully conduct his business. Turn a master chef into just another hamburger flipper, and he becomes nothing but another minimum wage employee. Turn an experienced, knowledgeable bookseller into just another lister, and he becomes just that, another amateur book lister. He's of no more consequence than a high school kid selling some books he found at a yard sale. But first, a little background to understand why these fundamental changes, which I believe are really unintended consequences of the new way Abe seeks to conduct its business, are occurring.

In the beginning, and for many years thereafter, Abe charged its booksellers only a listing fee. The listing fees were quite reasonable, enabling dealers to participate even if their sales weren't that high. It was a very successful formula for gaining listings, and it enabled Abe to zoom to the top of the list of bookselling sites.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Online Only<br>25 June to 8 July 2020</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> Acted at the Dukes-Theatre. London: printed for William Cademan, 1673. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> MUYBRIDGE, EADWEARD. Panorama of San Francisco, from California-St. Hill. [San Francisco:] Morse's Gallery, 1877. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> BRUNUS ARETINUS, LEONARDUS. <i>De bello Italico adversus Gothos gesto.</i> Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1471. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Online Only<br>25 June to 8 July 2020</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> HILL, JOHN. <i>Compleat Body of Gardening.</i> London: printed for T. Osborne; T. Trye; S. Crowder and Co.; and H. Woodgate, 1757. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> GASPAR DE PORTOLA. Document Signed Twice ("Gaspar de Portola," & "M. Portola"), 29 pp, Puebla, Mexico, December 10, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> VINGTIEME SIECLE. A complete set of the second series of <i>Vingtieme Siecle (XXe Siecle),</i> together with all fourteen special numbers. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Online Only<br>25 June to 8 July 2020</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> ROOSEVELT, FRANKLIN DELANO. Autograph Letter Signed ("F.D.R.") as President, Washington, [1941], to Norman Davis, on White House stationery. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> HAYEK, FRIEDRICH AUGUST. Autograph Manuscript, "Discipline of Civilisation." $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> ADAMS, HANNAH; ADAMS, THOMAS "BOOK". Daubuz, Charles. <i>A Perpetual Commentary On The Revelation Of St. John.</i> London: Printed for Benj. Tooke, 1720. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> EMPEROR NORTON. Photograph signed ("Norton I"), albumen print carte-de-visite. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun. 25 – Jul. 8:</b> ROBERTS, DAVID. <i>Egypt and Nubia from Drawings Made on the Spot ... with Historical Descriptions by William Brockendon.</i> London: F.G. Moon, 1846-9. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Albert Einstein, typed letter signed, explaining the nature of his personal atheism and belief in God. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> George Washington. Autograph letter signed to Bryan Fairfax, looking forward to the Treaty of Paris, 5 February 1783. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Alfred Swaine Taylor. Early “photogenic drawing,” photograph of a fern, dated 2 December 1839. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> "Departure of Mr. Lincoln—Parting Address" in the <i>Weekly Illinois State Journal,</i> Vol. XXX, No. 1541, Springfield, February 13, 1861. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Benjamin Harrison document signed certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a black Revolutionary soldier. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Front page printing of the Articles of Confederation in the <i>New-Jersey Gazette,</i> Vol. 1, No. 22. Trenton, April 29, 1778. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> George Washington Funeral Procession Broadside. Boston, January 6, 1800. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Philippe Laroque, printed score for “The Heroe of New Orleans Battle.” Philadelphia, 1815. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Report of the Battle of Queenston Heights, the first major battle in the War of 1812, in <i>Supplement to the Quebec Gazette,</i> 24th October 1812. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including the Eric C. Caren Collection Part 8<br>Online July 6 - 21, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, On Tuesday the Eighteenth Day of November, 1760. London, 1760. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Elegy on the Death of James Lawrence, Esq. late Commander of the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake. [Boston]: A. Bowen, 1813. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jul. 6 to 21:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's Commission as Major General, signed by John Hancock, 19 February 1777. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>Latin Book of Hours, around 1480.<br>Est: € 30,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>Northern journeys - Collection of around 120 works, 17th-19th century.
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>J. Joyce, <i>Ulysses,</i> 1922. Est: € 8,000
    <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>Florilegium, <i>Fleurs du Printemps et de l‘Este,</i> around 1630. Est: € 35,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>T. R. Malthus, <i>An essay on the principle of population,</i> 1798. Est: € 60,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: € 2,000
    <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br><i>Bulla aurea,</i> 1485. Est: € 40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>A. Verschaffelt, <i>Iconographie des Camellias,</i> 1848-60. Est: € 10,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>M. Duchamp & A. Breton, <i>Le surréalisme en 1947,</i> 1947.<br>Est: € 16,000
    <center><b> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on July 6th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>H. Schedel, <i>Liber chronicarum,</i> 1493.<br>Est: € 25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>M. E. Chevreul, <i>De la loi du contraste simultané des couleurs,</i> 1839.<br>Est: € 5,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, July 6:</b><br>F. Léger & P. Éluard, <i>Liberté j‘écris ton nom,</i> 1953. Est: € 15,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Great Blue Heron,</i> hand-colored aquatint and engraved plate, 1834. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson, <i>A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia,</i> Dalrymple edition, 1755. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>The Birds of America,</i> sign & inscribed to Brantz Mayer, 1840-44. $18,000 to $22,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Vincenzo Maria Coronelli & Jean Baptiste Nolin, Paris, 1688. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Henri Abraham Chatelain, <i>Atlas Historique,</i> 7 volumes, Amsterdam, 1705-1720. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Johann Baptist Homann, <i>Atlas Mapparum Geographicarum...,</i> Nuremberg, circa 1750s. $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Lowell Mason, <i>Musical Exercises for Singing Schools,</i> Boston, 1838. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries July 9:</b> Alexander Wilson, <i>American Ornithology,</i> 9 volumes, Philadelphia, 1808-14. $6,000 to $9,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions