Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

Abe Down

C9c22e13-cef7-46dc-b9fe-6f3a549a4e56

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>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>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions