Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2005 Issue

Alibris Eliminates Its $1 Per Book Sold Program

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Alibris is eliminating its $1 per item sold fee schedule.


By Michael Stillman

Alibris announced a step last week to eliminate some of its smallest merchants, or "hobby sellers." Interestingly, it was a reversal of a recent step designed to encourage this group of very small dealers. Not surprisingly, the news was greeted negatively by the hobby sellers, but positively by many of those for whom bookselling is a more significant business.

The program Alibris eliminated was its recently instituted $1 per item sold fee for dealers listing under 500 books. This schedule had been implemented to spare monthly listing fees for the very small dealers who sell few, or maybe no books in any given month. This per item sold fee (in addition to standard commissions) was in lieu of monthly listing fees. It made it possible for these smallest of dealers to sell via Alibris without incurring losses in months where few if any books were sold. Dealers with more than 500 listings were subject to standard listing fees, but presumably these larger sellers were less likely to experience monthly "shut outs" which would cause them to lose money. Essentially, this program could be seen as an attempt to reach out to the hobby dealer, the individual selling books from a personal collection or a few items picked up at garage and library sales. But if the earlier decision to implement this program could be interpreted as a conscious attempt to reach out to these sellers, the change must be seen as a decision to eliminate this type of micro-seller from the site.

The $1 per item sold fee has been replaced with the standard $9.95 per month fee. A little quick math reveals that this is a benefit for those dealers selling ten or more books per month, a minus for those selling under ten. But, how many dealers with fewer than 500 titles listed sell more than ten in a month? That comes to 2% per month (presuming a full 500 items are posted), or 24% per year. We all should be so lucky! This is not happening. Even more importantly, not only would it reduce profits (small as they must be) for such sellers, but would convert a profit to a loss for the dealer who sells only one or two low priced items in a month. When you get down to the smallest levels, $10 may well be the difference between a profit and a loss. Of course, one might argue that such a dealer is not really operating a serious book business, but with listings spread among numerous book sites, it's possible this could also affect those a step above the "hobby" category, such as a part-time bookseller.

In their announcement, Alibris started with the rather strange explanation that this action "reduces the confusion surrounding the '$1 per retail item sold' program." Confusion? Is $1 per item sold confusing? Heck, even I can understand that! They then proceeded to give a much more rational explanation. The program "was difficult to manage and resulted in a substantial group of sellers who abandoned accounts and were less than professional in their fulfillment operations." This I can understand. With no minimum financial commitments required to list, any fly-by-night was free to post books, including those who "abandoned" their listings, or were unprofessional in their conduct. After all, the $1 program was risk-free. If one looks at this change as a method of assuring a more professional caliber of dealer listing on the site, it makes far more sense.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.

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