Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2003 Issue

Abebooks: Internet Visionaries

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AE Monthly Feature Article


To provide an example: a bookseller lists a book for $100, a buyer purchases it for $100. The bookseller gets $95 and Abebooks gets $5.

We haven’t change our monthly costs for booksellers who list their books:
  0-500 books      US$  25.00
  501-4,000        US$  37.00
  4,001-10,000     US$  42.00
  10,001-20,000    US$  53.00
  20,001-30,000    US$  80.00
  30,001-50,000    US$ 125.00
  50,001-100,000   US$ 175.00
  100,001-150,000  US$ 225.00
  150,001+         US$ 300.00 
AEM: Do you have any statistics about the different kinds of books that are listed on Abebooks?

ABEBOOKS: We have a general idea, but nothing statistical yet about genres, specialties, etc.

AEM: In the past book collecting was a personal and kind of intimate business and passion. The dealer knew his customer, their collecting ambitions and their budget. Now, with the internet, book selling and book buying have become relatively anonymous. There is anecdotal evidence that the loss of connection between buyer and seller is destructive to the old collecting patterns while new collecting patterns have yet to be clearly defined and understood. What is ABE’s opinion?

ABEBOOKS: Since Abebooks was created by booksellers (Cathy Waters, wife of Keith Waters one of the founders of Abebooks, owned an antiquarian bookstore here in Victoria and is still in the book business), the company’s roots came from our passion for books. Abebooks is rooted in a passion for books and bookselling.

We’re happy to be unique and we work hard to keep our booksellers visible online. That’s why we post bookseller profiles, and continue to show the buyer the name of the bookstore that a book is available from. (This isn’t so common on other book sites.)

As for losing the “intimacy” of book collecting, we have found that in some cases the Internet has enhanced the search, rather than taken away from it. I’ve spoken with serious collectors who will do their research online, find their books, contact the sellers, then go to see the books in person. In the past, some of this interaction took place via the mail (and still does). So the contact is still there, and I believe the intimacy is too, but perhaps the speed has changed.

We joke that if we could reproduce the smell of musty books online, we would! And we’d love to have a “virtual cat” purring in the corner or wandering through our site!

We’ve also given thought to the idea that the Internet is causing people to close their book shops. We decided to look into this by speaking with our booksellers and found that in many cases the reverse occurs: by being able to make significant sales using the Internet, bookstores are able to keep their physical shops open and continue to pay their rent. We have especially heard this from booksellers who operate stores that are close to some of the larger, big box bookstore retailers.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Les Cigarettes Mekka,</i> 1919. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Plinio Codognato, <i>Cicli Fiat,</i> circa 1910. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> L.N. Britton, <i>Warning! Consider the Possible Consequences,</i> c. 1917. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonardo Bistolfi, <i>Première Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Modernes,</i> 1902. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Paquet Pernot / Biscuits Pernot,</i> 1910. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Francesco Nonni, <i>Font Meo / Acqua Minerale Naturale,</i> 1924. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell, <i>American Crescent Cycles,</i> 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> <i>Be a Tight Wad! Own Something!</i> designer unknown, 1925. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Candido Aragonese de Faria, <i>Chamonix–Mont–Blanc,</i> c. 1910. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> W.E.J., <i>Irishmen Avenge the Lusitania,</i> c. 1915. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Maitres Affiches by MUCHA - Papier a cigarettes Job. 202. $5,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> De Bry - Map of the West Indies (including Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Parts of Central & South America, Sea Monsters, Ships). $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gould - Short-billed Toucan (Ramphastos Brevicarinatus). $5,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Redoute, Folio - Pale Iris - Iris flavescens. 375. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gillray - Light Expelling Darkness or The Sun of the Constitution. $200 to $500.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gerard - Wild Hemp or Weed, Cannabis. 708. $150 to $450.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Shaw & Nodder - Head of The Dodo. 165. $100 to $300.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Family photograph album ("The Hughes family Album"), 1957-1962. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Typed letter signed, to Ted Hughes, on "my own private doctrine", with a poem, 5 October 1956. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes, [1956]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Joint autograph letter signed, to William and Edith Hughes, March 1960. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photographic portrait by David Bailey, inscribed by Plath, 1961, and another press photo. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Tarot de Marseille. Deck of cards owned by Sylvia Plath. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Pair of gold wedding rings. £6,000 to £8,000.

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