Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2003 Issue

Abebooks: Internet Visionaries


courtesy of Abebooks

We also track and monitor every call and complaint that comes into our Customer Contact center (we have 30 staff that assist booksellers and buyers, in multiple languages). When we become aware of a bookseller that is acting improperly we remove them from the site. We feel that even one “bad” bookseller can ruin the goodwill that Abebooks has built up among serious collectors over the past seven years.

Each month, we have between 200-300 new booksellers listing on Abebooks. (At the moment we have a waiting list for sellers wanting to list, and a current trend is that many new French dealers are coming onboard.)

Also, we have a private area on our site where all our booksellers “talk” to each other about various bookselling issues. We call it “Bookseller Central” and it’s an open discussion board that is hosted (but not edited) by Abebooks. For example, our sellers post their thoughts, complaints or suggestions about the site, shipping rates, and how Abe should do more advertising in the US! This helps us keep track of what our booksellers need and want and to improve our service to them.

AEM: Do you have any idea how many books that cost more than $100 are listed on your site? More than $250? More than $1,000?

ABEBOOKS: We track the average value of books sold on Abebooks. Right now it’s between $25 and $38 and has been steadily rising over the past year. This could be interpreted in many ways, but we see it as a sign that the quality of rare and collectible book listings continues to rise.

AEM: Do you know how long, on average, material is listed before it sells? And can you give us any idea how the amount of time a book is listed varies depending on both price and subject?

ABEBOOKS: At the moment we don’t track this information. Our booksellers decide how long to list a title and we don’t officially keep track. (Not a bad idea though!)

AEM: Some of the books you offer are collectible. Do you know what percentage of the listed books could be described as collectible? How do you see abe.com changing the way people collect books in the future? Where is this leading in the world of books?

ABEBOOKS: One thing we’ve found is that Abebooks is being used as a pricing source for collectible books. People visit the site to “gauge” the market for a certain type of book. We are also able to track trends in collecting. For example we have started creating monthly bestseller lists. These may be valuable for collectors wishing to chart current trends in collecting.

AEM: Recently you changed your pricing. Can you briefly explain how this pricing works and how it differs from your previous pricing plan?

ABEBOOKS: As for pricing, we let our booksellers set the prices for their books, and we don’t interfere with this at all.

What did change recently was introducing a 5% commission for books sold. We looked at the industry and noticed that basically all other sites were charging 15-20% for each book sold. We talked to our booksellers and came up with 5%. This helps fund the growth and marketing of Abebooks.

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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