Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2016 Issue

AbeBooks – 20 Years Down, the Next 20 Ready to Go

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AbeBooks recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in business. That was the opening salvo in the new means of book selling that changed the trade as it had been known for over five centuries. Starting with a test run of three booksellers in Victoria, BC, Canada, by the end of 1996, the site had members from all around the world. The exact number has been forgotten – AbeBooks didn't keep great records back then. However, PR & Publicity Manager Richard Davies reports that co-founder Cathy Waters told him that by August 1997, they had a party celebrating 1,000 booksellers. Sixty-four of those early adapters, "Heritage" booksellers in Abe's parlance, are still selling books on AbeBooks' website today. Most are from the United States, but the list includes six Canadians and one each from Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. Those who were once the pioneers are today the veterans.

 

How many Abe booksellers are there today, and how many books are listed? Mr. Davies said they do not release those numbers. As he explained, "We don’t reveal our exact number of sellers but simply say ‘thousands’ located in more than 50 countries. In terms of books for sale, we say ‘millions’ – I can assure you that it’s an awful lot of books." Several years ago, the number of listings passed the 100 million mark, so it is surely a very large number today.

 

This trip down memory lane led to the inevitable question. We asked Mr. Davies where will AbeBooks be 20 years from now? "That's a good question," he responded, before tackling the impossible to answer inquiry. "Well, I am 100% sure that physical books will still be read, loved and desired. There will still be people who love books as an object and will want to own copies of significance. The historical significance of books has not faded and that’s going to continue. Thanks to social media, more is written (and photographed and videoed) about books than ever before, and that’s not going to change.

 

"There’s bound to have been several more rounds of major technological change by 2036 – print on demand technology will probably become more accessible to buyers and more common inside bookshops. Could there be more ways to read a book?

 

"The actual range of books available via the Internet is incredibly broad today but it’s only going to get broader. For instance, people still want translations of particular books that are loved in one part of the world and not available elsewhere. AbeBooks does not have enough books to satisfy everyone on a global scale – that’s why our Wants system still exists to help people find books we don’t currently offer. We’re a global business and our inventory could be much more global."

 

We asked whether Abebooks foresees branching out beyond books. After all, its parent, Amazon, started out as a bookseller and today markets everything under the sun. That type of diversification does not appear to be in Abe's plans, and really wouldn't make any obvious sense. Amazon already fills those needs, and Abebooks' role is logically focused on being the leader in a specific market – books, particularly old and rare ones. However, they have already expanded into related items, notably in the paper field, and this type of expansion is likely to continue.

 

Davies explains, "We are already experimenting with non-book items that are currently listed for sale on our site. A traditional used and rare bookshop will typically also offer ephemera and art, and we have been slow to acknowledge this fact and make these types of items findable on our site. We are currently making an effort to learn about the market for art and ephemera by promoting it more aggressively via our merchandising team. Since November, we have promoted lobby cards, posters, maps, prints from a French fashion journal, photographs, and lithographs. Our next job is make this inventory easier to find.

 

"With that in mind, we have also launched a new type of product display called Collections. It’s experimental at the moment but it’s intended to improve our browse experience. The collections themselves are based upon seller catalogs, which sellers create when uploading items to the marketplace. Our catalogs were intended to be online versions of the print catalogs sellers traditionally produced. Typically, used and rare sellers create AbeBooks’ catalogs so Collections is focused on those areas. A few examples of what Collections can look like are vintage dust jackets from Between the Covers, Folio Society books from multiple sellers, and film still photographs from Royal Books. Visitors can see a lot of books, or photos, or posters, in a short space of time and jump from collection to collection. It’s quite different from our regular search results. Personally, I have found items via Collections that I have never seen before and I’ve been here 11 years. Right now, it’s a Beta and we’re still working to improve it, and that includes developing a search functionality.

 

"We have also just introduced updated seller storefronts and Collections are part of that upgrade. If a seller offers catalogs and they fit the Collections criteria, then they are now visible on the storefront. It’s a great way to explore specific inventory from a particular seller."

 

Check back in 2036 for an update on how these changes play out.

 

 

Here is a link to the stories of the 64 pioneers.  

 

These are links to some of the specialties:

 

Lobby Cards

Posters

Maps

Prints from a French Fashion Journal

Photographs

Lithographs

 

Examples of "Collections":

 

Vintage Dust Jackets

Folio Society Books

Film Still Photographs

 

Examples of Updated Storefronts

 

Raptis Rare Books

Royal Books

Books Tell You Why


Posted On: 2016-07-01 10:21
User Name: PeterReynolds

My experience is that my sales at ABE have been higher in the past two years than previously, while sales at other sites (including Amazon) are generally lower. Whatever ABE is doing it should continue with, and be very cautious about making radical changes beyond keeping their site modern and easy to use on all kinds of devices.


Posted On: 2016-07-01 10:23
User Name: PeterReynolds

Incidentally I think I started selling on ABE in 1999 (working for a charity bookstore) and have been selling there under my own name since 2000.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <i>Der Sturm.</i> 1922. Sold October 2021 for € 13,000.
    Diophantus Alexandrinus, <i>Arithmeticorum libri sex.</i> 1670. Sold October 2021 for € 18,000.
    <i>Cozzani Ettore e altri, l’Eroica. Tutto il pubblicato.</i> Sold October 2021 for € 11,000.
    Newton Isaac, <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> 1714. Sold October 2021 for € 7,500.
    Manetti Saverio, <i>Storia naturale degli uccelli.</i> 1767-1776. Sold April 2021 for € 26,000.
  • <center><br>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases<br>Natural History<br>& Color Plate Books<br>December 9, 2021</b>
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. Carolina Parrot. Plate 26. Hand-colored aquatint and engraved plate from Audubon's <i>Birds of America.</i> $80,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Francisco Henrique Carls. [Album de Pernambuco e seus Arrabaldes]. Fifty-three chromolithographed plates of landscape, town views and more of the state of Pernambuco, northeast Brazil. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Captain Thomas Davies, after. Group of 5 engraved topographical scenes of North American waterfalls. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><br>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases<br>Natural History<br>& Color Plate Books<br>December 9, 2021</b>
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> William R. Morley. Morley's Map of New Mexico. Large lithographed pocket map with original hand-color in outline. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Frederick William Beechey, et al. <i>The Zoology of Captain Beechey's Voyage; Compiled from the Collections and Notes Made by Captain Beechey…</i> $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> ZUDA ROKASHI (Priest Hotan.) Nansenbushu Bankoku Shoka No Zu. Woodblock wall map of the world on 16 sheets joined. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b> Latin Book of Hours, Langres around 1490. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>T. Livius, <i>Römische Historien,</i> 1533. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>G. Mendel, <i>Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden,</i> 1865-66. Est: €30,000
    <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>A. Verard, Book of Hours, around 1488. Est: €30,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>A. Ortelius, <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum,</i> 1601. Est: €80,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br><i>Der Sturm,</i> 1910-1916. Est: €16,000
    <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b> <i>Cronica van der hilliger Stat Coellen,</i> 1499. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>M. Catesby, <i>Piscium serpentum insectorum,</i> 1777. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>W. Grohmann, <i>Das Werk Ernst Ludwig Kirchners,</i> 1926. Est: €20,000
    <b><center> Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on November 29th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>P. Borgo, <i>Aritmetica mercantile,</i> 1491. Est: €16,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b><br>D. Roberts, <i>Egypt and Nubia,</i> 1846-49. Est: €8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, Nov. 29:</b> <i>Estampes,</i> with the suite by P. Picasso, 1950. Est: €15,000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Zang Tumb Tuuum:<br>la révolution futuriste<br>Online Auction<br>30 November – 7 December</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 18:</b> The "Official Edition" of the United States Constitution and the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution, 1787. $15,000,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. I Paroliberi Futuristi. 1914-1915. 8 p. Unique corrected proofs, for an anthology that remained unpublished. €40,000 to €60,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Cangiullo, Francesco. Studenti in Lettere. Università. 1915. Seminal work, featured in 3 historical futurist exhibitions. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Cangiullo, Francesco. Chiaro di luna. Circa 1915. Collage and gouache on paper. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. Manicure. Faire les ongles à l'Italie. Circa 1915. A fantastic parody of an advertising poster. €20,000 to €30,000.
  • <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>December 9</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 47. Roosevelt, Theodore. Photograph inscribed to Morris J. Hirsch. May 7th 1918. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 178. Whitman, Walt. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York: [Printed for the author], 1955. First edition in the first issue binding. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 38. Mather, Cotton. <i>Magnalia Christi Americana; or, the Ecclesiastical History of New-England.</i> London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, 1702. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 55. Taylor, Zachary. Autograph letter signed as President-Elect. Baton Rouge: January 15, 1849. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 203. Picasso, Pablo. <i>Verve</i> Vol. V, Nos. 19-20. Paris: Editions Verve, 1948. Inscribed on the title page by Picasso. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>December 9</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 211. Domergue, Jean-Gabriel. L'Ete a Monte Carlo. Lithographed poster, Lucien Serre & Cie, Paris, circa 1937. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 105. Manuscript Illumination attr. to Neri da Rimini. Large excised initial "N" from a choirbook, extensively historiated. [Likely Rimini: first quarter of the 14th century]. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 40. McKenney, Thomas L. and Hall, James. <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs.</i> Philadelphia: Rice, Rutter & Co., 1870. $3,00
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 222. Searle, Ronald. [Pets--a dog, cats and a parrot-- surrounded by books, and inspecting a globe, perhaps planning global domination]. Original drawing, 17 3/8 x 13 1/2 inches. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 98. Faden, William; Scull, Nicholas and George Heap. A Plan of the City and Environs of Philadelphia, Survey'd by N. Scull and G. Heap. London: William Faden, 12 March 1777. $3,000 to $5,000.

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