Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2003 Issue

Abebooks: Internet Visionaries


CEO Brent James courtesy of Abebooks

By Abby Tallmer
Abebooks began as the Advanced Book Exchange in 1996 as a mere scribble on a notepad. Keith Waters, then a government web programmer, and his wife Cathy were running a used bookstore in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Cathy often spoke of how difficult it was to find certain out-of-print titles for her customers. She knew the books were available in bookstores somewhere, but how to find them?

A short time later during a rather dull business meeting, Keith began to scratch out a solution, one that combined books, databases, and the Internet. He sought the help of Rick Pura, a senior programmer and database administrator and together they came up with Abebooks, a marketplace to buy and sell rare, secondhand and out-of-print books online.

Abebooks found immediate success providing booksellers with an affordable means of selling to a worldwide market. Today, buyers shop Abebooks for an unprecedented selection of over 40 million titles. The Abebooks team is now over 80 strong and works hard to pursue new customers and develop new markets. The acquisition of Germany’s JustBooks has resulted in the development of Abebooks.de in Germany, Abebooks.fr in France and Abebooks.co.uk in the UK. These sites feature language-specific customer service and country-specific purchasing features.

Prestigious organizations such as the Canadian Information Productivity Awards (Excellence in Information Technology) and Forbes Magazine (“best of the best in the rare book category”) have recognized Abebooks’ efforts. With offices in Canada and Germany, and services in French, German, and English, Abebooks truly has become the world’s largest online marketplace for secondhand, rare, and out-of-print books. And it all began as a scribble on a notepad.
                  (From Abebooks: “Our Story”, publicity leaflet)
No matter their opinion on the subject, there is scarcely an antiquarian bookseller or collector who hasn’t heard of or used Abebooks’ multifaceted services. They are an international corporate success story, and their rise to prominence in the used and rare book world has been chronicled in such esteemed publications as The New York Times Magazine (“An Actual Internet Success Story” by Richard Rayner, June 2, 2002) and Maclean’s (“Turning Old Books Into Gold” by Ken MacQueen, January 27, 2003). Like any established corporation they have developed both a thriving base of loyal consumers as well as the occasional less-than-thoroughly-faithful user who might avail him or herself of Abebooks’ considerable features while almost perversely resenting his or her dependence on the very product that is so helpful – one might almost say indispensable – in today’s book world.

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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