Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2009 Issue

Browsers as Servers: Is Change Coming to Bookselling?

Operalogo

Opera has figured out how to make a browser function as a server.


By Michael Stillman

Opera, the somewhat obscure Norwegian internet browser and software designer, recently announced the development of a browser that also lets your computer function as a server. Yes, this article is related to books. Stay tuned. We will not get technical! A browser is the software on your computer that lets you access the internet and view all of those countless sites and web pages out there. A server is the place where those web sites and pages are hosted. So, the browser looks at what is on the server, and displays it on your computer screen.

Now a server is really just a computer. It may be larger than your personal computer if it has a whole lot of stuff on it, but your computer can function as a server. It just needs to be configured to do this. My son has done it, though I wouldn't have a clue how. Anyway, what Opera is doing is using its browser to make your computer function as a server too.

What does this mean? It means you can make your material available to others on the internet from your own computer (since it is now a server). Right now, you may already have things available for others to see on the internet. Perhaps you have a My Space Page, or something on Facebook. Your information is available online, but you don't control it. That's because it is being hosted on My Space or Facebook's server, not yours. This is why they can stick an advertisement on "your" page and you cannot do a thing about it. Well, with Opera's new product (called "Unite"), now you can host it on your own server, meaning you can choose the format, and choose the advertisers (or have none). You are in control and can post whatever you like because you don't need to use someone else's server.

Now it's getting to be time to tie all this to books. If you are a bookseller, you probably have your books posted on someone else's server right now. It belongs to Amazon, AbeBooks, Alibris, or even the Americana Exchange's Books For Sale. Maybe you aren't entirely pleased with your server provider. Perhaps you think they charge too much. You can see where this is going. The listing sites provide servers where you can place your book listings and other people can find them. But, Opera is saying that as long as you have a computer and their browser (free), you can host your books online without any need for Amazon, Abe, Alibris or us. Hm...

Of course it's not quite as easy as this implies. There are issues such as your computer would have to be on 24 hours a day, a serious crash could bring your business to a halt, the risk of hackers or viruses infecting your computer/server has barely been addressed, and you probably have no more idea how to set this up than I do. This is in its infancy. However, there is an even bigger issue this does not address. The listing sites provide something else besides hosting your listings. They provide the ability for buyers to find them. Each provides a search of their listings. Some of you may already have your own personal website, placed on someone else's server. You know how hard it is to be seen in the jungle that is the internet. The listing sites provide a place where buyers can go to search many sellers' listings at the same time, so book buyers congregate there.

So, does this mean all of this irrelevant to booksellers? Not so fast. As we noted, the listing sites exist on the basis of providing two major services: web hosting and search capability. The previous existence of relatively inexpensive web hosting for your own site, now augmented by Opera's effectively free web hosting, is rapidly making this first function unimportant. What is not yet provided outside of the listing sites is an effective book search mechanism. However, it is certainly possible for someone to design a targeted book search engine that looks at listings on your personal websites and computer/servers and aggregates these in one place. Should some big search engine company do this, well... there goes the second major service of the listing sites. You just might conclude that you no longer had any need for the Three A's or our Books For Sale. You might be able to have your listings easily found by the public for little or no cost.

How far down the road is free or inexpensive listing and searching for books online? The complications previously mentioned may make it sound distant, but these days technology moves at lightening speed. The internet that gave birth to book listing sites a dozen years ago has evolved exponentially, yet book listings have barely changed at all. Change is inevitable, and overdue. It will be coming to our neighborhood soon, even if we cannot yet fully envisage its form. The Opera ain't over until the fat lady sings.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <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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