Mark Funke, ABAA, expanding

- by Bruce E. McKinney


Elsewhere we’re learning that Ken Karmiole is slowing down and downsizing.  Here you’re finding confirmation that old books have many lives and Ken’s inventory has now moved 400 miles joining Mark Funke’s. After 7 years in the trade and 10 days in his new office in Mill Valley, California Mark now 44, is expanding to make room for Ken Karmiole’s entire inventory.

To date Mark specializes in German material, informing me that since starting in the trade he has traveled to Europe no less than twice every year covering a wide circuit of antiquarian shops, auction houses, and European institutional customers. He acquires eclectic material for lavish thematic lists with modern topics such as East Germany or German Fascism.

In the book world, one must zig and zag to run a successful business.   Here is how Mark describes the why and how of that transaction: 

Our tagline on is that the story of modern history exists because of paper. To date, our offerings focused on 19th and 20th century European history with a specialty in German material. Ken’s stock of mostly pre-1800 scholarly books dovetails with our inventory to provide a broad offering of historically important material.

The first book fair I attended was the 1999 California ABAA show – my father had invited my girlfriend (now wife) and I to meet up in San Francisco and browse books. Ken exhibited at that fair and that is how I first became aware of him. As I started attending more fairs and my interest in the trade grew, Ken was a fixture.

Ken’s reputation is self-evident in the responses I received after the announcement went out that we purchased his entire stock. I received emails and phone calls from no less than 35 dealers and customers. Ken was described as “one of the greatest bookmen” and I was told that I’m attempting to “carry an Olympian torch”. The praise for Ken has been overwhelming.

All I can say in response is that I will do my utmost to give his books their proper due.

We are surprised to hear Mark’s inventory will not be on Abebooks, Biblio, or Ebay. We understand his reluctance to pay 12%-15% total transaction fees on every sale. Yet currently almost all ABAA dealers believe the customer traffic from third-party marketplaces is worth the cost. Mark, however, is intent on building direct customer relationships. An attitude reminiscent of good times gone by. We don’t doubt Mark will have more fun running his business this way but may need to ponder whether the approach is sustainable. We at Rare Book Hub, as a small business with direct customer relationships, certainly wish him luck in these efforts.  The future belongs to they who have fresh ideas!

Here is how Mark summarizes his approach:

Looking ahead, our books will only be available directly from us at fairs, through lists, on our own website, in our catalogues, and in a new category I now call: the Fresh Sheet. For it we are placing new inventory on in regular batches of 16-20 items. The Fresh Sheet is reasonably priced, intended for serendipity and scouting. Our goal: 

As well, we have a new office in downtown Mill Valley (just north of San Francisco) and welcome visitors by appointment. There you will find thousands of uncatalogued high-quality scholarly books that are literally not available anywhere else. Come visit, and let’s make scouting fun again!

To reach Mark here are several options:

Mark Funke, Bookseller ABAA

Tel: 206-632-1535