Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2005 Issue

Biblio: Number Three Tries Much Harder

Biblio

Biblio has grown to be the third most popular book listing site.


By Michael Stillman

If Number 2 needs to try harder, what must Number 3 do? This month we posed that question to Biblio, the online bookselling site that has moved into third position in this extremely competitive and narrowing field. Perhaps they are the ideal candidate to ask this question, as somehow, Biblio has been defying the odds and managing to grow in an environment that ought to be choking them.

At the turn of the millennium (a literary-sounding way of saying 2000), there were dozens of online bookselling sites competing for market share. Biblio wasn't one of them. They arrived in 2003, long after most bookselling sites were deep into retrenchment. To understand how remarkable their success has been, just take a look at the normal evolution of new technologies. New technologies spawn new businesses in a predictable manner. In the early stages, dozens compete to get a foothold. Soon, a very small number, perhaps just one or two, emerge as leaders. The others hang on, hoping for a miracle, or at least a combination or buy out which will enable them to make another run at the top. A few may evolve into something else, perhaps surviving by serving some highly specific small niche. But, for the most part, it is over for those who were not among the first few to emerge as leaders.

If you look back to the pre-2000 internet "bubble" days, you will find there were many search engines that people selected among. Today there is Google. Sure, some people use the searches on major destination sites like Yahoo and MSN, but for pure search, who else is of significance? "Google" has even become a verb. We may "google" something, but does anyone ever "altavista" something, or "lycos" it? Once upon a time there were several online auction sites. There still are, but can you name any that don't begin with the letters e-b-a-y?

So into this maturing online bookselling environment, with Abebooks and Alibris already established as the leaders, and the rest fighting for either a niche or mere survival, Biblio was born. Born too late. By all logic, the game was already over. This baby should have died in infancy. Yet here it is. Biblio is not only still around, it is growing. It has managed to leapfrog the entire field save the two megalisters at the top. And, its environment is even tougher than having two strong market leaders ahead of you implies. There may be only two pure competitors ahead, but there are also the likes of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and eBay/Half up there. They aren't pure competitors in that they do much more than old books, but they compete for old book listings nonetheless, and each carries far more market recognition than any of the pure book listing sites.

From its beginnings in 2003, Biblio has grown from nothing to carry 25 million listings from 3,500 dealers today. The market leaders are Abebooks, with a stated 75 million listings from 13,000 dealers, followed by Alibris with 50 million listings. After Biblio, the next in line is believed to be ZVAB/Choosebooks. While Biblio still has a long way to go to catch the top two, their growth has been extraordinary. Besides which, they really aren't that focused on Abe's and Alibris' numbers anyway. Perhaps that explains their surprising success while most book listing sites have been slipping into oblivion. To discover how Biblio has done so well in a seemingly impossible environment, we went to Kevin Donaldson, Biblio's Director of Sales and Marketing.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1937. PRESENTATION COPY OF THE FIRST ENGLISH EDITION PRINTED IN ENGLAND. $50,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [SHACKLETON, Ernest]. –– BROWNING, Robert. <i>Poetical Works of…</i> London: Smith and Elder, 1906. PRESENTED TO SHACKLETON AND THE OFFICERS OF THE NIMROD BY A MEMBER OF THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York: George R. Lockwood, [1870]. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> ARISTOTLE. Opera, in Greek, parts one and two only: Organon and Natural Philosophy I. Edited by Aldus and others. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1 November 1495–February 1498. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> COOK, James, Capt. [Collected Voyages]. First and Second Voyages: London: W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1773, 1777; Third Voyage: London: H. Hughes for G. Nicol and T. Cadell, 1785. $14,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne (“Mark Twain”). <i>The Writings of…</i> Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1899–1900. $12,000 to $16,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Poems of…</i> Edited by Frederick S. Ellis. Hammersmith: William Morris for the Kelmscott Press, 1893. $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> LONDON, Jack. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905. PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY LONDON. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CROWLEY, Aleister (1875–1947). <i>The Winged Beetle.</i> London: privately printed, 1910. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> WILDE, Oscar (“C.3.3.”). <i>The Ballad of Reading Gaol.</i> London: Leonard Smithers, January 1898. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> DRYDEN, John. <i>Fables Ancient and Modern; translated into verse from Homer, Ovid, Boccace, & Chaucer: with original poems.</i> London: John Tonson, 1700. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [MAP]. LINSCHOTEN, Jan Huygen van. <i>Delineatio Orarum Maritimarum…</i> London: John Wolfe, 1598. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Antiquarian Books<br>Including a series of views of Milan<br>September 27 to October 4</b></center>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Livius, Historia Romanae decades, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira, 1470, contemporary Morocco. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Blaeu, Nieuw Stedeboeck van Italien (Piemont), The Hague, 1724-1725, 8 volumes, marbled calf gilt. €70,000 to €90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Baysio, Rosarium decretorum, Venice, 1481, later vellum. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> [Niccolò da Poggibonsi], Viaggio da Venetia al santo Sepulchro, Venice, 1529, later half calf. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Hieronymus, Epistole [Italian], Ferrara, 1497, blue crushed morocco with the Rocco di Torrepadula arms. €12,000 to €15,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Extensive archive of papers of Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> George Catlin, <i>North American Indian Portfolio,</i> 1844. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> The Twenty-Four Books of the Holy Scriptures, Carefully Translated…after the Best Jewish Authorities, Philadelphia, 1853-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Wedding book of Eleanor Roosevelt’s bodyguard, Earl Miller, signed by the Roosevelts, 1932. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Textile titled <i>The Resignation of Pres’t Washington,</i> Scotland, circa 1800. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Gideon Welles, Pass for President Lincoln’s White House funeral, 1865. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Confirmation of arms and nobility in favor of the Diez y Mora family, Madrid, 1710. $2,500 to $3,500.

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