Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2011 Issue

AbeBooks Purchases ZVAB/Choosebooks

Zvab4-11

The ZVAB website, expected to remain in operation after its purchase.

A major combination, and contraction in terms of the number of companies engaged in the book listing business, occurred on March 2 when AbeBooks announced that its European division had purchased Germany's ZVAB. As best we can tell, ZVAB is that nation's largest online book listing/selling company, though AbeBooks already has a major presence in the country through its Abebooks.de website. This is not Abe's first foray into purchasing a German competitor, it having purchased JustBooks years ago (Justbooks.de still exists on the web as a multi-site search engine, much like BookFinder in the U.S.). This time, it is fairly clear that AbeBooks will emerge the major force in the German market.

AbeBooks itself was purchased by Amazon, the largest online bookseller (when you include new books), in 2008. ZVAB's parent purchased the American listing site Choosebooks in 2004, and while that site was thrown in with the deal, it seems unlikely to survive independently of the Abe site. Choosebooks was on its deathbed when ZVAB's corporate parent, Mediantis, purchased it in 2004. At the time, it was Mediantis' entry into the American market, but the corporate parent has now chosen to exit the book-listing field entirely.

While firm numbers are hard to come by as sales figures are proprietary, we believe ZVAB/Choosebooks was the fourth largest of the sites dedicated primarily to selling used books, behind AbeBooks, Alibris, and Biblio. AbeBooks has been the leader since the turn of the century, and this purchase will solidify that position even further. If its sales of used books are combined with parent Amazon, which also does a substantial business in second-hand books, its leadership position becomes that much greater.

The price of the purchase was not disclosed. AbeBooks did reveal that ZVAB works with over 3,000 booksellers in 27 countries and offers over 35 million antiquarian and out-of-print books in many languages. AbeBooks does not reveal its figures, but we would estimate the number of sales and sellers to make ZVAB around one-fourth the size of AbeBooks.

We asked Richard Davies, Public Relations Manager for AbeBooks, what the combination would mean for the separate ZVAB and Abebooks.de websites. His response was, "We’re committed to keeping the ZVAB.com and AbeBooks.de brands, and to offer sellers and buyers the same services that they receive today. It's too early to give any details about exactly how we're going to be working together." However, the lights appear to be going out on Choosebooks, a casualty of the inevitable consolidation in any field of business as it matures. "We intend to redirect Choosebooks to ZVAB/AbeBooks in the near future and the sellers using Choosebooks were notified of this on the day of the announcement. We’re doing this because the two brands, ZVAB and AbeBooks, are far more established in their markets."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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