Rare Book MonthlyNew Letter
Letters to the Editor
DBuck September 01, 2011
Less than 48 hours after the AP story announcing the discovery of the manuscript, an alleged "autobiography" that proved William T. Phillips was Butch Cassidy, the discoverers recanted everything. Phillips was not Cassidy & the manuscript was a fantasy. The Phillips story had been known and ridiculed for years, by the way. Details here,
bkwoman August 05, 2011
To Paul Lister who commented on my article about Shakespeare and Company, thanks for the information. I should have given more information about Sylvia. I was talking about Whitman's tenure and not about when it was Le mistral. Thanks for clearing that up. Karen
. August 01, 2011
re: Sales Tax
I love how the bookseller with books in the tens of thousands of dollars wants to
increase taxes; especially since he lives in California, where most taxes go to pay
off union pensions. Mr. Stillman obviously does not know what it is like to wonder
whether next month's rent can be paid or if there will be enough food to eat. It is
irrelevant whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. He is a bureaucrat and one that
wishes Big Brother to tax both our souls and our patience. Nor does he seem to
understand that most of the sales through California affiliates come from out of
state and are not subject to tax. Would that he would read his $19,500 copy of the
Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County to realize that his arguments are weighted with
the buckshot of dispassion, with little regard for the common man, who is just
trying to get a jump on tomorrow's bills.
1. Yes I do know what it is like to be short of money.
2. I have not taken a position on the issue of sales tax on internet items shipped from out of state. This article reflected a bit more of the ABA position that these should be taxed as last month's article reflected more of the Amazon position that they should not.
3. These out of state sales are already subject to tax in California - a use tax. Few people pay this tax as they are supposed to, but it is on the books.
4. The issue here is fairness, not whether government taxes too much or too little, or spends too much or too little. The unfairness faced by local merchants who have to collect a sales tax while out of state internet merchants do not, could also be solved by eliminating the sales tax entirely. Californians would have to do with reduced services, or revenue could be raised another way, perhaps though taxes that do not hit people like the letter writer who evidently has limited income. However, the concern expressed for losing this de facto sales tax exemption for out of state sales reinforces the the ABA and local storefront owners objection - that the sales tax advantage for out of staters in driving sales away from local merchants. For Californians, that would mean fewer jobs.
. July 01, 2011
Ref: Article: Google Books Hearing Postponed
The statement in paragraph two, "It was, rather, a case of it being virtually impossible to locate copyright holders of long out of print books, many of whom are long dead, and the inheritors of these rights unknown and even harder to find" isn't exactly correct. My reference book was published in 1991 and I owned the copyright.
One day while using Google Online Books, I decided to see if my book would be mentioned. Not only was it mentioned but I was able to download up to 50 pages. I then closed the site and went back and was able to download another 50 pages and I was able to continue to do so until I had downloaded the entire 942 pages all for free. The book was selling for $235 at the time. The book is still in print after 19.5 years and now cost $295. My Royalty is 12%.
Back to Google. I wrote Google about this problem with no response. I wrote my publisher and finally the pages were removed. I did not give them permission to put it on their site.
My book was not what they called "long out of print" for it was still in print and fell under the copyright laws. I believe I am still alive and still living in my same home now for 27 years. Google NEVER attempted to locate me. All they needed to do was to put my name "William J. Chamberlin" into their web browser and they would have easily found me.
Now I am having problems with Amazon.com. Naturally they do sell my book. Early this year, I found that they are also selling a Kindle version for over $200. They did not request permission from me to do so. I have not rec'd any royalties from any sales. I wrote them asking them who gave permission to make a Kindle format copy to sell. Their response was to give me the name and address for their lawyer.
So now, we have another company abusing authors.
I don't know what to do about this. Maybe someone who has experience this call help me.
William J. Chamberlin
Giordano June 04, 2011
Odd to read Karen Wright's article on 'Booking it in Europe' where she talks of the Shakespeare and Company bookshop having been started in 1951 by George Whitman.
It was, in fact, opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, born in Baltimore,who had arrived in France in 1902 as a fifteen-year-old girl. In the coming months and years, through the shop's doors came, amongst other literary greats, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitgerald and Ernest Hemingway, all of whom regarded it almost as a home from home.
It was Sylvia Beach, of course, who published Joyce's 'Ulysses' in 1922 and sold it from the shop. I don't think Whitman ever could have matched that and, as far as I know, he simply traded on the fame of the original name.
There is a fascinating book by Noel Riley Fitch called 'Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: a history of literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties' (first published by Norton, 1983). Well worth reading.
. April 04, 2011
I just read your piece about the New York constitution. Sadly this is one of the by-products of a marketplace with no responsibility such as eBay. A dealer or even reputable auction house would never have offered such a thing, and would be vilified if they did.
My purchase of the other 1777 New York constitution illustrates the randomness of auctions. They are not only what happens that place and day, but that moment. Despite the transparency the Internet has made possible, this is still a very imperfect world; there are literally millions of books, each with their own small community of interest. Potential buyers may miss the sale, or have just spent a lot of money on something else, or have shifted their interests. If anything, the whole story illustrates how professionals can add value by vetting material, describing it correctly, and being willing to hold it until the right buyer comes along.
HOPEFULL? March 01, 2011
BEEN WITH YOU A DOZEN YEARS..SUBSCRIBER UNTIL RETIREMENT..SO..whats happened to your pages?
I click on READ MORE..and get an empty line asking for comment..on what? You've not let me read it!
We are looking at it some more. This has not happened to many people, so it appears perhaps some combination of operating system and/or browser may be causing a problem. If others are having this problem please let us know - Editor.
bookfever February 01, 2011
I enjoyed Susan Halas's article on bookselling, although I have a tendency to agree with Bruce that auction records can constitute a "reality check" in terms of valuing books.
Shortly after reading this article, I was researching a juvenile series I came across this blog (on the seriesbooks.com website) and just had to laugh
"Some people feel that it is their duty to tell every seller of a first printing copy of Nancy Drew #1 The Secret of the Old Clock that the book is valued at $1,000—regardless of the condition of the book up for sale. . . .
I seem to recall that a 1930A-1 Old Clock without a jacket sold in the summer of 2008 for around $1,000, but that was to the woman who was spending around $30,000 per month on series books that summer. She worked for a bank and had stolen $300,000 from her bank's vault. She later went to federal prison. That sale does not count because that buyer tended to pay around 10 times the actual value of books during that buying frenzy. People bid against her just to drive the prices up, and I know of at least one instance in which a seller shilled an auction in order to make her pay an extreme amount."
So I guess the bottom line is that no matter which you check out - current listed prices or auction records - you still need to use your expertise to determine the price you want to place on a book (or pay for it.)
. November 23, 2010
Michael Stillman re Library Privatization
I don't know when you published it, but I just saw the above re the Santa Clarita Library lawsuits. One of the best explanations of the issues and suits I've seen.
. November 01, 2010
re: Santa Clarita Library
I understand that several libraries of the Ventura County System --where I live--are also joining or considering joining LSSI. It does seem clearly to be an issue of pensions and union negotiated salaries. With so much bad press about pensions in California (I am a retired librarian and soon to be retired bookseller) in the news this year, it is no wonder that this has again raised it's ugly head.
Thanks for making this issue more widely available to the booksellers of the nation.
. November 01, 2010
re: Better World Books
I read with interest your article on Better World Books, an
organization which holds itself forth as some sort of "humanitarian" and
"green" organization. The author of this article implied that if we as
book dealers were as smart as they, we could also be successful. Most
book dealers, myself included, think it is unethical to put up big green
boxes that say "donate books, do good" when indeed you are a for profit
corporation. This is the worst form of greenwashing. If they were
capable of shame, I would say "shame on them". Your article only helped
to legitimize this fraud.
Mark Holmen - Bookmark
Editor's Note: The writer carefully noted that partners receive only a "portion of revenues generated by donated books," and the donations produce "a decent amount of revenue for the corporation." This is a for-profit business that does some good deeds on the side and we were certainly not attempting to hide that fact.
. October 01, 2010
Your excellent newsletter
Fascinating. The only email re the trade I pay attention to.
. September 03, 2010
re: Dealer Catalogue Listings
I think this unbelievably ambitious project will do much to add meat
to the bones of your data-base. I do not sell 'great books' but I do
sell some 'good' books and I am frequently unable to find them in your
DB even as comprehensive as you are.
It seems that most of these are earlier works that may not have come to
auction in the last 50-100 years. Some are victims of the search
With that said, I have a hard time imagining surviving without your resources.
Your listings of Sabin et al. has been of an immeasurable help to me.
Maggs type descriptions are extremely useful to any antiquarian dealer.
. September 01, 2010
Thoughts on Adding Dealer Catalogues to the AED
I am a long-time collector of Western Americana with emphasis on
Californiana, with a particular concentration on the Gold Rush Period.
As a Research Member of the Americana Exchange, I am a very frequent
user of your database which I find to be a truly wonderful resource
for the advanced collector. Although I have a large collection
of my own of several hundred Americana catalogues dating back to the
19th century, no single collector or dealer could ever amass what you
have made so readily accessible.
As far as the letters "A" and "B" are concerned, in my areas of
interest I would encourage you to consider more of the 1915-1930
auction catalogues of the American Art Association /Anderson
Galleries, which are a wonderful resource on rare Western Americana.
Also, additional catalogues from Alta California Books would be a fine
Further along in the alphabet, additional catalogues of Holmes Book
Company (Oakland), Talisman Press (Georgetown), John Howell Books (San
Francisco), and Dawson's Book Shop (Los Angeles) would also be great
Among the major dealers further east, if the firms are willing to
permit their inclusion the marvelous catalogues of William Reese
Company (New Haven) and Michael Heaston (Austin) would be truly
wonderful additions. As I don't recall having seen any of their
catalogs referenced in the database, I suspect they may be unwilling
to permit their inclusion. If that is the case, I hope this will some
William J. Coffill (Sonora, CA)
. September 01, 2010
Thoughts on Adding Dealer Catalogues to the AED
Dawsons Book Shop of Los Angeles.... Book catalogs since 1905. Best
collection of Californiana & Western Americana.
Catalogs are available.
prints August 02, 2010
RE: Too Good to Be True
Although you didn't mention it, I would state the obvious, that the Ebay seller appears to actually have committed an insurance fraud against the US Postal Service. Obviously knowing that the piece was a reproduction, what better way to guarantee they get their selling price of $275 other than by packing the piece to ensure breakage during transit? You get your purchase price back from Ebay because the item was a fake, AND the seller gets to keep the $275 insurance claim paid by the Post Office because the piece was damaged in transit. A great way to "launder" reproductions by the unscrupulous seller and to leave the USPS holding the bag...
Mike August 01, 2010
Dear Mr. McKinney,
Your article about the book consigned to Jeff Thomas illustrates one of the problems that can arise when books are consigned.
A more frequent problem, in the antique trade--but also the book trade, is the permanent loss of consigned items in a dealer bankruptcy IF the very exact procedures of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) are not followed.
Consigned books may also be permanently lost, or spend years in limbo, should the IRS seize a dealer's business.
It would be helpful, for both dealers and collectors, if the exact requirements of the UCC--as they pertain to consigned items--were discussed in a future article.
. August 01, 2010
Dear Mr. McKinney:
I read with great interest your "Too Good to be True" column on your experience with acquiring a refund from Ebay on a purchase you found -not- to be a Currier & Ives lithograph.
For your information, Currier & Ives actually sold chromist-made reproductions, -not- lithographs. This link to my monograph documents that fact: click here.
Any questions or comments, please contact me.
artist, creator of original lithographs, scholar & author
P.O. Box 686
Fernandina Beach, Florida 32035
. August 01, 2010
Nice job. As always I look forward to receiving your AE monthly.
John M. Martello
wellesley5 July 03, 2010
Bruce McKinney's article on Bolerium is the most literate/literary description of a bookshop that I have ever read. The entire website is a source of invaluable information and is a "must read" on the first of every month.
Friend July 01, 2010
Jeff Weber makes very critical points about Amazon [see letter below]. The current issue, while interesting, is unenforceable and impractical. Amazon isn't going to waste energy trying to police the millions of individuals listing items for sale on its site and others. However, the points raised by Mr. Weber have a greater financial impact overall on the Amazon retailers. The postage rates are unreasonable. Yet some Amazon retailers make their profit on the postage since a paperback can generally be sent for about $1.00. The putative "price" merely covers the listing fee. Yet here is the dilemma - Amazon's internet prominence outperforms all the others by miles. Consumers start and generally finish at Amazon - not AbeBooks, Biblio or [fill in the blank]. It's about on-line traffic and the other sites - despite being specialized - just don't drive the market. And moribund ebay essentially turned the wrong way (under Meg Whitman) and allowed Amazon to dominate the space. So forget the mirage of the European contretemps and find a way to get the good folks at Amazon to solve the very real concerns expressed by Mr. Weber.
. July 01, 2010
AE monthly on Amazon pricing
Dear Mr. Stillman:
Your article was of considerable interest. I suspect that the
instances where Amazon may actually look for evidence of unbalanced retailing are
few. Instead they may be simply using verbiage to make people think this is their
policy - and it is a good policy to have representing their company. But in practice
it would be impossible for them to actually watch the prices of every book from
every bookseller in all the web-sites dealer's use.
But the issues for me are even deeper: Amazon does not act in any way to protect
either the consumer or the bookseller - thus falling well short of the usual
business practices that all dealers know are necessary - primarily guaranteeing your
product. Amazon does not. For example: in the US Amazon refuses to collect sales tax
which is due for every book shipped within the state you operate in. For me this is
California. Therefore Amazon leaves every bookseller exposed to the wrath of the IRS
and auditors in the issue of tax collection. In addition their standard rate
shipping policy is ridiculous: they offer $3.99 for shipping anything, be it a
paperback or a $10,000 book or a 50 volume set. There are no exceptions. No dealer
will comply to this stringent system, but they must work within it because that is
all that is offered. I am constantly interacting with the Amazon client asking for
more shipping, especially for international orders. Amazon's reimbursement of $12.49
for overseas shipping is even under what the global rate envelope charges are at
$12.80. To add: there is never any room for insurance. In fact this angers some
customers who feel that the set shipping rates of Amazon are what is entirely fair
on their part. However the reverse is true: the shipping rates must be allowed to
vary in accordance with the appropriate charges and insurance for any type of order.
Amazon will also not back up and pay for an item that a customer does not receive.
Who is liable for a loss? You can be sure it is not Amazon. They are the middleman
collecting a percentage - they are not interested in paying for lost merchandise.
So, let the buyer beware - but in this case all buyers on Amazon are not aware. If
they knew that some books were sold on Amazon at a loss to the retailer, would these
same clients understand the abuse the dealer is undertaking from Amazon? Probably
not for now. The Amazon commission is partly a sliding scale - I do not know the
specific of it, but if a book is cheap enough, say $1 to list, their discount is
MORE than $1. Thus they actually force the dealer to sell items at less than $0.00
to get an item out the door.
I have not addressed specifically the issues of price fixing, but Amazon seems to do
nothing in the US that I know about that enforces their policy. And at the same
time, based on the tax collecting issue, Amazon seems to be strong enough to stand
up to the federal government and not become a tax collector. I believe (though I can
not prove it), that California raised its sales tax last year from 8.5% to 9.75% to
make up for the difference in internet sales that they can not regulate. Thus Amazon
is not the only one to blame - but they are a key contributor.
I invite your interaction.
IslandSF June 04, 2010
Stillman asks: "Will newsmen be replaced with bloggers, long on opinion, short on facts?"
Ironic, because that is just what he does.
It is easy to consume a meal that is short of nutrients if you are unfamiliar with a truly nutritious repast; thus many can become used to a constant diet of 'blogging' and take it for real information.
It is easy to have someone else interpret the facts for you, but talented analysts usually get jobs for real publications and don't just write for free for their own companies or websites. Perhaps that is why the Wall Street Journal increased its readership and why tens of thousands of "blogs" are left moldering, to clutter up the internet.
. June 01, 2010
That was an utterly fantastic piece about the Los Angeles book "dealer" case. Thanks
so much for bringing it to our attention.
. June 01, 2010
re: eBay sniping
I have been working with eBay as either a seller or bidder for many years, since 1998 in fact. I have seen their system go through great growth and the sad decline that is presently underway as they make policies and pricing changes to drive away the individual sellers which tend to have the most interesting items on average.
After losing some unique items which were important to us because we overslept the auction close, we decided to stop revolving our life activities to when we could be next to the computer and bid on an auction. The eBay policy of a fixed close time changes the successful strategies for bidding. It makes no difference who is the highest a day, an hour, or a minute before the close. Only the high bidder at the end counts. Hence sniping becomes the tool of choice for people who want to win more auctions and generally pay less for each item won.
I would not, however, use a local program. This would require that your computer be synchronized with the eBay clocks (not merely Apple system time) and that there be a fast connection and an awake computer at all times when you'd be placing an automated bid. For this we found that web site services were a better choice. We initially used AuctionStealer.com but left them when we lost a couple auctions due to service outages.
We now use eSnipe.com and have for many years with satisfaction. There is a fee for using these services based on how much you use it. With eSnipe you buy points for a fairly nominal sum.
There is a tool which can be installed on Firefox so that any eBay auction item page has an eSnipe window to log in and bid.
Of course these systems need to have your eBay user and password so don't use the same ones on eBay that you use for other important things like PayPal, your bank, email, etc.
I also have the eBay app on my iPhone to check in on auctions during the day but not to bid.
Keep in mind that eBay has bid increments so it is necessary to place a bid high enough to exceed this. Hence, if an auction starts at 19.99 and you bid 20.10, unless your bid is the first, you won't have a chance because the increment above 19.99 is higher than 11 cents.
The eSnipe default is 6 seconds before the auction. Although tempted, I have not felt compelled to reduce this to 5 or 4 seconds. The shorter the time, the more chance that the bid may fail.
In general, it's not so much an issue of who bid closest to the close but rather who has placed the highest top bid who wins. It just seems like the former situation when you are starting out.
Don't place a bid with an even amount ending in .00 or .50. Use something odd, especially between .50 and .99, to give yourself a minimal edge in bidding.
The eBay system, with all of its problems, still yields many items which are findable nowhere else. A great number of the prizes in my collection come from there. I make extensive use of the 100 saved searches they give each account though that is a topic for another day should you be interested.
James D. Keeline
San Diego, CA