Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

Abe Down

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AbeBooks notifies its patrons that the site is down.

You might have thought the world had come to an end. Comments from some booksellers that appeared on the internet expressed such dire sentiments, at least in regards to their livelihoods. Abe was down. The AbeBooks website went dark, and for many, their primary means of selling books came to a halt. What's more, no one, not even management, seemed to have any idea when service would be restored.

 

The outage came shortly after Hurricane Harvey knocked out power for extended periods, and destroyed much equipment in Texas. Such downtime by Abe was hardly a major issue on a grander scale at the time. However, AbeBooks is located in British Columbia, Canada. It wasn't Harvey's fault. The timing was coincidental.

 

AbeBooks response was brief. They posted only that "we are experiencing a hardware issue which is causing all AbeBooks sites and services to be unavailable." They went on to say they were "working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible," did not have an estimated time as to when it would be resolved, but that all buyer and seller information was secure and not at risk.

 

AbeBooks never provided any great details beyond the initial description of a hardware failure. Nor did they have any updates during the time the site was down. It went dark on Friday, September 1, and two days later, on Sunday, it came back. With similar brevity, Abe announced, "Good news. Our websites and services have been restored. We’re really sorry for all the inconvenience."

 

There is something a bit ironic in AbeBooks having an issue with its hardware. Perhaps they should consider farming out their servers to Amazon. After all, AbeBooks is owned by Amazon. Many websites these days are hosted on Amazon's servers. For instance, this site is hosted on Amazon's servers. It is much less expensive, and far less demanding, to have the experts at Amazon and their massive server farms host your website than do it yourself. They undoubtedly have many IT (information technology) experts on staff ready to jump on such a problem at a moment's notice.

 

Not that even Amazon is perfect, which leads me to be sympathetic for the predicament in which AbeBooks found itself. We have all become accustomed to a highly efficient electronic world where things unimaginable a generation ago are expected and demanded by all of us today. Earlier this year, Amazon had an outage that affected many, though not all of its customers. We were one. For four hours, our site was down. Customers notice. Never mind that access to such vast quantities of information, 24/7, from a screen inside your own home, would have been beyond the dreams of your grandparents when they were young. My grandparents marveled at the invention of radio, scratchy, barely audible sounds supernaturally brought through the air to a crude crystal set. Today, lose access to any of these incredible modern wonders for a few hours and people are upset. They will contact you and let you know they are displeased. Our customers let us know, and I can only imagine what people at AbeBooks were experiencing with their much larger audience.

 

Of course, while making fun of others' dependence on an electronic, technological world, I am no better when placed on the other side of the equation. Being on the fringe of Harvey's swath myself, an exile who returned home from evacuation to find the electricity restored but internet and television access down for another day, I was helpless. I could not work. I could not be entertained. I could not buy anything on AbeBooks. I suppose there were still some old technology devices around that still worked, like books, but how can one concentrate on reading a book in such distressing circumstances? Worse yet, we did lose power a few nights later. Now I found myself reduced to groping around in the eerie light of a couple of scented candles, which give off a stench some people mysteriously find pleasing. I huddled up in a corner with a smart phone, my last connection to the outside world. Our expectations are outrageous, but we expect them anyway. Hopefully, the good people at AbeBooks, for whatever battering they took during the two days they were down, at least realize it proved the old adage, "absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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