The Collaborative Project Introduction: How You (Yes You!) Can Use the AE Database to Improve...

- by Michael Stillman

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Your Collecting, Buying, Selling and Researching of Rare Books

By Michael Stillman

In September of last year, the Americana Exchange opened its website to the public with a group of services to help the book collector, bookseller, rare book librarian, and historian. Perhaps the most important, and least understood, of these services is the Americana Exchange Database. The AE Database is a revolutionary tool for those who understand it. It is helping these collectors and dealers find obscure, unfamiliar material, make financially rational buying and selling decisions, write descriptions, and build unique collections. To put it another way, it is giving those collectors and dealers who know how to use the database a major leg up on their fellows who don’t.

What is holding back some collectors and dealers, perhaps you included, from using this amazing tool? Probably the technology. Admit it. Most of us tend to be somewhat technophobic. We all know that we need to learn how better to use the internet, computers, databases and the like. However, most of us put this off as long we can, even though it leaves us at a disadvantage to our cutting edge competitors. But, once we get used to the new technology, we can’t live without it.

When’s the last time you rode your horse to work? Scrubbed your clothes on a washboard and hung them out to dry? Sent a message by Morse code? When’s the last time you searched through piles of bibliographies, old bookseller catalogs or auction records, trying to find data, prices, or descriptions of rare books, trekked off to some distant research library to find this material, or, more likely, just assumed that this information was either not available or far too difficult to come by? Your answer to question four can and now should be the same as it is to the first three.

We’ve written many articles on how to use the database, and there’s a complete tour offered from our homepage. You probably haven’t read any of them. We understand. Reading instructions is painful. Nevertheless, you really can’t afford to fall behind technologically. So, this month we are starting a project that we believe will make it easy for you to understand the AE Database. Four of us, who run the gamut from major book collectors and curators to people who never owned a book that wasn’t a “reading copy,” show how we are using the AE Database to locate all kinds of information. No instruction manuals; just easily readable stories on how we (and you) can use this Database. Rest assured, like you, none of us is a technology wizard. If we can use this database, anyone can. We know that once you see what ordinary souls such as we can easily do with the database, you’ll realize that you can too. Then there will be no turning back. Welcome to the 21st Century!