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 13:</b> <i>Manhattan Gay Scene Guide 1969, Summer Edition,</i> Mattachine Book Service. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Harvey Milk, 2 autograph letters signed, to Pat Mormon, during US Navy service, 1954. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>“The secret of life is in Art,”</i> autograph quotation dated and signed, 1882. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Daniel Abraham, original art for <i>Stonewall Romances,</i> pen, ink & gouache, 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Antonio Lopez, 9 men’s fashion studies, graphite, 1974. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Susie Gaynes & Amy E. Bartell, <i>March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,</i> 1987. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Paris is Burning,</i> photo offset poster by Anne Dutlinger, signed by film director Jennie Livingston, 1991. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Toyen, pen & ink illustration from <i>Marquis de Sade: Justina cili prokletí ctnosti,</i> 1932. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Untitled (Genet with Dog),</i> mixed media collage. $8,000 to $12,000.

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