Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2003 Issue

Abebooks: Internet Visionaries


Lewis Diary, 1783, $28,500courtesy of Abebooks

ABEBOOKS: Our sites are visited by over 150,000 people per day. This number shows the “unique” visitors but in fact, we’ve found that close to 50% of these people come back again during the day, so the number of times the Abebooks sites are visited is much higher.

Each day we sell between 10,000 and 15,000 books. But we prefer to say that we “facilitate” the sale of these books: we help our booksellers sell these books.

Each day our booksellers upload between 25,000 and 50,000 “new” books onto the Abebooks sites (meaning used, rare and out-of-print books that have not yet been posted on the site). For a lot of our bookbuyers this is a good thing: each day there are new treasures to search for and find.

Some other interesting statistics:
  • The average number of books our sellers post is 4,000.
  • Two thirds of our sellers do not have a storefront or shop.
  • In the last few months, booksellers have been joining Abebooks at a rate of 200-300 per month.

AEM: How is Abebooks.com different from EBay, Amazon, TomFolio, bibiliofind and the many other sites that help people find books on the web? There is relentless competitive pressure to constantly perfect the formula. Are you willing to discuss the competitive environment with us?

ABEBOOKS: We are happy to remind people that Abebooks really does offer the most books and the most selection—significantly more than any other website. And we are happy to be the site that takes the lowest percentage from the sale of each book.

Our first goal is to sell our booksellers books. This means that we have been open in working with the competition in ways that our CEO Brent James likes to describe as “co-optition”. Barnes and Noble invited us to list our booksellers books on their sites several years ago, and Amazon invited us to do the same last year. We presented these “options” to our booksellers and let them decide if they wanted to list on Amazon.

We are aware that many booksellers list on multiple sites. This doesn’t bother us. Our focus has stayed consistent on finding new ways to sell our booksellers books. We have an advisory group of booksellers who list on Abebooks, who let us know what is needed or how to improve.

AEM: How does Abebooks.com help collectors to screen its listing dealers? What information does Abebooks.com offer collectors about their dealers? What recourse do unhappy purchasers have on ABE that they might not have otherwise?

ABEBOOKS: Each of our bookdealers signs a “Code of Conduct” before being able to list their books on Abebooks. It outlines our policies on duplicate listings, international shipping, redirecting orders etc. As well, we have fulfillment policies that have to be followed by our sellers, to make sure that books get to their buyers within the proper time period.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> <i>[Sutro Baths] / On the Shore of the Pacific Ocean,</i> designer unknown, 1896. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> Osvaldo Ballerio, <i>Biscottini e Amaretti Delser,</i> circa 1900. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> Maxfield Parrish, <i>Harper’s Weekly,</i> 1896. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Les Parfums de J. Daver Paris,</i> 1903. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> Jacob Lawrence, <i>Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture,</i> 1968. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Lion Noir, Cirage – Crème,</i> 1949. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> <i>Keep Calm and Carry On,</i> designer unknown, 1939. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> Walter L. Greene, <i>Adirondack Mountains / Lake Placid,</i> 1930. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 27:</b> Laura Brey, <i>Enlist / On Which Side of the Window Are You?</i> 1917. $1,500 to $2,000.

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