Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2006 Issue

Abebooks Purchases LibraryThing.com

Libthing

The LibraryThing website


By Michael Stillman

Abebooks recently purchased a stake in LibraryThing.com, following up on its acquisition of BookFinder last fall. In this case, Abe purchased a 40% interest, rather than the entire company. LibraryThing is a site which appeals to bibliophiles, allowing them to post information and converse with others holding similar interests.

LibraryThing was launched less than a year ago, in August of 2005, and already has a reported 35,000 members. Members are able to catalogue their books on the site, write reviews, compile their own profiles, and examine the collections of other bibliophiles with similar tastes. LibraryThing provides software to search the books of other members owning some of the same titles as your own, so you can find other books that appeal to someone with similar interests.

Another feature of LibraryThing is that it provides access to numerous public databases to help members catalogue their books. Those databases include the Library of Congress, Amazon, and roughly 45 others.

Membership in LibraryThing is free, at least for those who catalogue no more than 200 books. Unlimited cataloguing is provided for $10 per year, or $25 for a lifetime. For those with a life expectancy greater than 2 1/2 years, the latter sounds like the better deal. According to Social Security actuarial tables, that includes men under the age of 96 and women under age 99.

While the potential for each site to help the other is obvious, Abe's press release was a bit vague on how this would be implemented. In the release, Abebooks' President Hannes Blum is quoted as saying, "the most exciting part of this deal is the unique information LibraryThing generates about books and book-buying habits. This data will help people find and buy more books on our site." It's not clear exactly how the data will do this, and on his blog, LibraryThing founder and majority owner Tim Spaulding says, "LibraryThing will not suddenly sprout Abe ads all over the place or prevent you from buying from other booksellers. Rather, LibraryThing will provide Abe with certain anonymous and aggregate data, like book recommendations or tag clouds, to help Abe users find books they want." While this statement is somewhat unclear as well, one can't help but think that LibraryThing will at least steer members to the availability of books they might like on Abe. There may not be Abe ads plastered all over the site, and nothing may prevent members from buying elsewhere, but it is hard to see why Abe would make this investment if it didn't help steer some business their way. If so, this is good news for Abe's sellers, for while 35,000 is not an enormous number, it is a significant number, and this must include some of the most active book buyers. It provides a piece to Abe's commitment to invest in promoting the site.

No price was stated, but Spaulding's blog certainly implies that not a lot of cash changed hands. "I want to make it clear I did not just get rich," he writes. "I'm walking away with just enough to cover my legal fees and some new shirts..." Rather, it appears the funds expended by Abe will be used to improve and grow the site. LibraryThing will now be able to hire a couple of full-time employees to develop the site, while gaining access to more stable servers. Additionally, promotion of the LibraryThing on Abe should be enormously beneficial to the latter, as the number of bibliophiles who visit Abe must be many, many times the number who know about LibraryThing. I was not previously aware of the site, and from what I can tell, not many others in the book trade were either. This should provide LibraryThing with a large boost in publicity, while providing Abe's sellers with additional traffic.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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