Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2009 Issue

Browsers as Servers: Is Change Coming to Bookselling?

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

  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
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    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
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    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • ALDE, May 28: KIPLING (RUDYARD). Le Livre de la Jungle. – Le IIe livre de la Jungle. Paris, Sagittaire, Simon Kra, 1924-1925. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: NOAILLES (ANNA DE). Les Climats. Paris, Société du Livre contemporain, 1924. €50,000 to €60,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MILTON (JOHN). Paradis perdu. Quatrième chant. S.l., Les Bibliophiles de l'Automobile-Club de France, 1974. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LEBEDEV (VLADIMIR). Russian Placards - Placard Russe 1917-1922. Saint-Petersbourg, Sterletz, 1923. €1,000 to €1,200.
    ALDE, May 28: MARDRUS (JOSEPH-CHARLES). Histoire charmante de l'adolescente sucre d'amour. Paris, F.-L. Schmied, 1927. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: TABLEAUX DE PARIS. Paris, Émile-Paul Frères, 1927. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LA FONTAINE (JEAN DE). Les Fables illustrées par Paul Jouve. S.l. [Lausanne], Gonin & Cie, 1929. €4,000 to €5,000.
    ALDE, May 28: SARTRE (JEAN-PAUL). Vingt-deux dessins sur le thème du désir. Paris, Fernand Mourlot, 1961. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: [BRAQUE (GEORGES)]. 13 mai 1962. Alès, PAB, 1962. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MIRÓ (JOAN). Je travaille comme un jardinier. Avant-propos d'Yvon Taillandier. Paris, Société intenationale d'art XXe siècle, 1963. €1,000 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MAGNAN (JEAN-MARIE). Taureaux. Paris, Michèle Trinckvel, 1965. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: PICASSO (PABLO). Dans l'atelier de Picasso. 1960. €15,000 to €20,000.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

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