AE Monthly

New Letter

Letters to the Editor

a December 19, 2004



7. Auction Records as helpers for pricing. An auction is a snapshot of particular value for a particular item at a particular moment, not the establishment of THE price for a like item. Auction records are only valuable in their descriptions so that one can establish the amount of equivalence between what was sold at Swann's and what you have in your hands. Even auction records culled from sales over many years and sales do not necessarily fix value for any item as its variance in condition or provenance alters value as does, as the auctioneers say, the "money in the room". Changes in collecting, specific author popularity peaks, fads and fantasies all come into play. When Salman Rushdie published "The Satanic Verses" and was condemned by the Ayatollah, the book spiked in value. Now it can be had for a fraction of that top price. Thus auction records from 1989-90 might suggest the value at $500. Not anymore.

8. The global marketplace. Again, I point out that when we created the 2nd edition in 2001, the global internet was only beginning. We did not "ignore" it as it is implied in the section about the internet being the World? Greatest Price Guide. We do not exclude any available internet bookselling venue as a potential source for information.

9. Half of our title says "Building a Book Collection" and about half the book is devoted to the beginner, getting the feet wet without standing one one's head and drowning to do it. Perhaps some of what we say is too obvious to the advanced seller, but then, isn't it good that we inform that beginner about the terminology, scope, methods, and realities of the book collecting dodge rather than let them wander into a bookshop blind, deaf and mute?

10. Internet fraud? Again, without particulars, there is no hope of improvement, which we always seek. If the reviewer means mispresentation of goods, failure to deliver, failure to refund, or any other like problem, these are covered in one's credit card, PayPal and bank literature as to what remedies are available. Some things need not be said within the scope of a book like ours. What we do not say we should say, you do not say.


Bill McBride


Editor's Note

In reviewing the three McBride books, bookseller Renee Magriel Roberts recommended two, the titles on identifying first editions and on points of issue, but did not find the one on book collecting sufficiently helpful. To quote the musical artist "Meatloaf," "two out of three ain't bad." The following link will take you to Ms. Roberts' original article, which includes a link at the end to the McBride site where these books may be purchased: McBride Books Website.


anya November 12, 2004

If you have information about this book " White House CookBook" can you let me know. I have one of them , it belongs to my mother and I cannot find any history on it. It was printed in 1907.
Thank you ,

Anya




Reponse:

If what you have is the Ziemann/Gillette cookbook, it was first published in 1887 by Fanny Gillette. Apparently Mrs. Gillette had no connection with the White House, but due to the book's success, she co-authored later editions with Hugo Ziemann. Ziemann was a respected chef and steward, apparently having worked for some of the finest hotels and as caterer to the exiled son of Napolean III. He also had served as steward to President Grover Cleveland. Mrs. Gillette lived to be 98, but no one lives forever, though books may, so the White House Cook Book has been continued by others. The most recent edition appeared in 1999, and included recipes from Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush. I don't know what the value of your edition of this book is, but probably low to mid double digits depending on condition.

AE


Marcus October 02, 2004

Ken Leach has lived and worked out of his home in Brattleborough,
Vermont, for the past 30 +++ years. I believe he began in N.H. but that
was long ago. Glad you are working on his catalogues as he has sold
interesting material for ages. He is now in poor health and no longer
very active -- but he is still at it!!

+o+o+o+o+o+o+o+o+o+o+o

Marcus A. McCorison

3601 Knightsbridge Close

Worcester, MA. 01609-1161

508-791-3668

mamcc@att.net


none October 01, 2004

Good morning everyone,

I enjoyed your article on Forum's virtual tour and just wanted to let you know that we have had a virtual tour of our shop for the last 2 1/2 years and we are only 300 miles form you. You might want to give it a try at www.heritagebookshop.com. Always enjoy your AE monthly.

Best till later,


Nat Des Marais

Heritage Book Shop, Inc

8540 Melrose Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90069

nd@heritagebookshop.com

(310) 659-3674

FAX: 659-4872


Joel K September 27, 2004

Based on your basic structure, I'm sending along a couple of links you might want to see. I had actually published an article on the book search engines on the web in the waning issues of Mercators World.

See:

1. www.theprimemeridian.com/collectorguide.htm. This will come out in print form in the winter issue of The Portolan (journal of the Washington Map Society), and will be updated online two or three times a year. The hard part will be keeping it brief.

2. www.theprimemeridian.com/webbooks.html. This has been available for some time, and although in format much different than your article on the book search engines, I think the ultimate conclusions re: ABE aren't that far off.


Regards. Joel Kovarsky

Joel Kovarsky for THE PRIME MERIDIAN

385 Thistle Trail, Danville, VA 24540 USA

Phone: 434/724-1106; Fax: 434/799-0218

email: tpm@theprimemeridian.com

Website: www.theprimemeridian.com/webbooks.html.

Member, International Antiquarian Mapsellers Association


. September 07, 2004

I read Michael Stillman's article with the interest of someone who sells books on the internet (through Tom Folio.com, the site of a co-op of independent booksellers) and one who buys nearly daily. I was not surprised that Mr. Stillman found the sites limited. They are indeed. The most useful book search in my experience is the mega-search Bookfinder. com. I looked up Stillman's test title and turned up 28 plus copies immediately. Froogle will be a powerful tool soon, but Bookfinder is the best book search now.

Samuel Hough

The Owl at the Bridge

25 Berwick Lane

Cranston, Rhode Island (USA) 02905-3708

401-467-7362

Our TomFolio site: http://www.tomfolio.com/shop/OwlBridge/default.asp

Our own website: http://www.owlbridge.com/


. August 04, 2004

You probably know by now that Bruce Evan McKinney has gotten himself into
some hot water with at least one ABAA member. One must be careful about
calling certain people "a liar." Some people take this very seriously.

My concerns, raised to Mr. McKinney in the past, is that the same dealers,
who are specialists in Americana, seem to be singled out, for their
catalogues, for biographies, etc. Did you do a report on Glenn Horowitz,
and the deal he did with the media giant in England, when he sold him a
collection of FDR letters for about $3 million, and then appraised them at
something like $8 to $12 million. This was covered by the NY Times, and
is being investigated by the Federal Government, including, I think, the
Attorney General, and maybe the SEC.

I know that the young woman who was writing for you had once worked for
Glenn Horowitz, so you may not wish to cover that.

You must broaden your approach to the book business, and try not to
compete with dealers, and be "fair and balanced," unlike the Fox News
Channel, if you are going to gain the confidence of the approximately 500 dealers in the ABAA. Also, it would be a good idea to not irritate the membership by soliciting members, and handing out surveys on or within a mile of the premises of one of the ABAA Fairs.

Sincerely,


Bruce J. Ramer



Response

Dear Mr. Ramer,

I enjoy the book business and understand there will sometimes be disputes and always two sides. We provide services to enable the field to obtain information quickly. We don’t sell books although many members do.

We are always looking at potential stories. Allegations however are only allegations although you may have already reached a verdict both about Mr. Horowitz and the Americana Exchange.



Our site is open to all persons who find it of value. For those who do not, maybe we will meet again in the future.

Bruce McKinney

AE


. August 04, 2004

It has been three years since I took the plunge into the somewhat dusty cheerfulness of dealing in used books. This intriguing world with its tantalizing discoveries and fascinating folks is one I would love to share with your readers. From the precious entries in a handwritten, original Civil War era canal diary discovered tucked away in my late father's library, to the local connection with abolitionist John Brown and two very rare, signed Zane Grey novels that have recently come into my possession, (and many stories in between) I believe I can involve readers who love books on a personal level. Please contact me if I've piqued your interest.


Lachlan McIntosh


Editor's Note

Lachlan McIntosh forgot to include a contact address. Please give us one. Thanks.


. August 04, 2004

Hello. We've discussed these website ranking articles on the discussion boards at Abebooks.com, and someone mentioned an important caveat: these rankings would be much more useful if they tracked book BUYER hits. The relative strength of Abebooks.com, for example, is perhaps skewed, as book sellers routinely use Abebooks' advanced search feature in looking up books that they intend to list, rather than buy. So, many of the hits, perhaps even the majority of them, as Abebooks announces that its sellers are listing 50,000 new books a day, are not coming from the most important demographic, the book buyers. I believe that this would be important to mention in a followup as it pertains to all book websites, albeit to
different levels. Thanks.

--Greg Delzer

Defunct Books


ShawnB July 31, 2004

Saturday 31 July 2004

Re: Your column on: The NYHS and Gilder-Lehrman

Dear Mr. Stillman:

Your column gets at the complex reasons donors give. I personally think it will be fine for the G-L collection to the housed at the NYHS because collections are increasingly becoming electronic. We will see, if we have not already seen (and I simply haven't noticed), that online exhibitions will begin to include displays from multiple locations, all in a single show. The story of Jefferson and the Lewis and Clarke exhibition can potentially include material on electronic (loan?) from the Smithsonian, the University of Virginia, the University of Nebraska, various private collectors and of course the New York Historical Society. The curator will electronically review all material for potential inclusion, select and sequence the presentation and write the accompanying text - all the while the materials sit safely under glass and under lock and key. The curator may in fact be someone who never travels but is hardly ever home.

This is the way exhibits are going to be and the NYHS should take the lead to curate these national shows and in that way turn their supposed weakness into a substantial strength. That will secure for themselves the G-L collection and provide leadership in the museum field to extend the reach of historical collections into the farthest classroom.

The NYHS is only operating under a disadvantage if they think they are. It's clear however they are not.

Sincerely yours,

Shawn Grey



Writer's Response

Very interesting points. The nature of what is in the NYHS collection, or that of any other institution, remains important so long as the display, even if online, is only from its own materials. However, once you move to online displays using material from other institutions, then what is in the collection of any one institution is irrelevant. The NYHS could end up putting on the world's finest displays of European history despite having nothing pertaining to that subject in its collection. In fact, it wouldn't have to have a collection at all. In this situation, you could simply store all of your historical material, or one copy of documents of which there are many, in a common place like the Smithsonian, and anyone, institution, corporation, or private individual, could put on an exhibition. What role a repository like the NYHS would play in that world is not clear to me, but it sounds very different from any they have played in the past.

Fortunately for now, there are a lot of older people like me who still feel a certain awe in seeing if not touching the actual object, so there remains a place for the live as well as the online exhibition. As to whether the next generation, raised in a virtual world on a computer screen, will feel the same is not so clear.


Michael Stillman






. July 06, 2004

I understand the approach taken in your recent article, but find it a bit short-sighted. While some people want to rate everything in site (public opinion polls, Nielsen ratings, etc.), and perhaps make many decisions according to these computer generated lists, I suspect there are more discerning collectors and casual enthusiasts out there. I rather doubt that Google rankings alone are a reasonable arbiter of success. I won't quibble with the phenomenon of Ebay, or that more people may use one or another search site, but I suspect many discerning collectors or interested amateurs have different perspectives. The questions of material quality and focus, dealer experience, and other issues may influence many buyers not just browsing for the cheapest copy of a relatively common book. Perhaps you would not argue the point. I just think that your article is a bit short sighted with regards to advising both collectors and dealers, especially those who may elect not to run their lives by these rankings. Still, that isn't to say uselful information may not be gleaned, just that the singularity of the approach seems heavy handed and a bit intellectually narrow. I am not attempting to underestimate the need for some degree of digital sophistication in dealing with web issues, particularly if one wishes to attract younger clientel so heavily tied to this digital world. I am a bit curious about your statement: internet users are very unforgiving. One might push you on the validity and validation of that point, but I'm sure there are enough conflicting assertions to go around.

Regards. Joel Kovarsky for THE PRIME MERIDIAN

www.theprimemeridian.com


. July 01, 2004

I found the statistics from the new search which you mentioned more than slightly  suspicious and unreliable. It is hard to believe that the
defunct site Bibliofind.com which now only feeds into Amazon's zshops, is ranked at #20.  Contrast this to Alexa's rankings - which has Bibliofind ranked over 2 million (2,745,395 the day I looked) - a ranking which seems much more accurate than #20!

Even the respective positions of Abebooks.com and Alibris are reversed on Alexa with ABE being noticeably higher ranked than Alibris (3811 vs 5602).

Chris Volk



Editor’s Response

I think your points about the reliability of Web Search are well-taken, but that the same can be said of the Alexa results too. Each is based on a very small sample, and while this may be acceptable under circumstances that assure the samples are representative, Web Search and Alexa base their results on people who use their toolbars, which may or may not be representative.

Alexa results might appear to be a bit more tainted for use in the book field. Alexa is owned by Amazon, and they caution that their results may be skewed by having more Amazon users than is typical of the net. However, looking at their results, there’s no obvious signs of distortion. In either case, both of these sites warn of things that will distort results, among them the fact that they gather results only from the Internet Explorer browser (meaning AOL search results are ignored), and Windows software (meaning Apple users are ignored).

Another significant factor is the make-up of their audience. For example, anyone downloading one of these toolbars is likely to be more web-savvy than the average websurfer. Such people may prefer different types of sites to the average visitor. Alexa cautions to be particularly careful when rankings get below 100,000, as the number of visitors to these sites vis a vis the number of people using their toolbar may make it hard to accurately reflect results. I think these rankings should carry the same caution you see in the sports betting lines in the newspaper: “these predictions should be used for entertainment purposes only.” They can provide a useful, general view of what’s happening, but don’t bet your lifesavings on them.

Sites showing up in the first few thousand are clearly very highly visited. Those with rankings within the first few hundred thousand are more viewed than those of over 500,000 or a million. A ranking in the hundreds of thousands is a very good performance for a niche site (for example, a bookseller’s website), though not for a large portal like Yahoo. These services can provide a useful guide for those evaluating websites, but should not be taken too literally when it comes to their rankings.


cyb June 09, 2004

All you "Book People" out to say Goliaht, to bookavenue.com. The fees are quite fair. I have my inventory listed there-what I have been able to get done so far-and am pleased with my web page there. I will continue to list the rest of my inventory there. My web page is http://www.bookavenue.com/hosted/crew1234. You will also find my phone number and address if you are looking for certain books. I have quite a variety too numerous to list. So long, Cecilia Toccoa, Georgia 706:776-1060


wklimon May 01, 2004

Michael Stillman should note the following discussion from *The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare*, ed. M. Dobson & S. Wells (Oxford, 2001), s.v. "Shakespeare as a surname": "Over 80 spellings of the name are recorded by E.K. Chambers (*William Shakespeare*, 1930), including 'Shaxpere' in the marriage license and 'Shaxberd' in the Revels account. Shakespeare uses variant forms in his surviving signatures, but the now standard spelling predominates, sometimes hyphenated, in printed documents including the dedications to the poems and the Folio. 'Shakespear', popular in the 18th century, was used by [George Bernard] Shaw; another spelling reformer, F.J. Furnivall, preferred 'Shakspear'."

Best regards,

William M. Klimon


none April 02, 2004

"....And then there’s the behemoth from the North." The monster from the North is singular i.e Microsoft. Therefore you should use Behemah, the singular. Best wishes.


Editor's note: This pertains to the article "Abe increases rates; Alibris is going public; what's next for the book sites?" in the April issue of AE Monthly.


Rick April 01, 2004

Michael Stillman gives us a nice and probably accurate picture of online bookselling today. And, indeed a good big man generally beats a good little man. There are a group of us, however, ready to play David in this convention of Goliaths. We think we've got a pretty good stone to fling, AB Bookman's Weekly, (Click Here),
We are all book people, and that is, in itself, an advantage, and while we aren't rah, rah enough to predict victory, we will be a factor, count on it.


drhbooks December 08, 2003

I found the article on book prices very interesting and only a little alarming. I think that it is about a year behind the curve actually. It lacks an important qualifier, or perhaps this wasn't stated clearly enough in the article. If you are buying the cheapest copy, make sure you really are buying the copy you want. Many times the cheapest copy is a reprint that is misdescribed as a first, or a rebound copy with no notice of rebinding, or a copy that someone inexperienced regards as 'good for it's age'.....I have heard from many book collector's who bought the cheapest copy and then were stuck with the problem of returning an inferior copy. Two expressions come to mind... 'buy cheap/ buy twice' and 'the cheapest man pays the most'. As we enter the age where everyone is a bookseller the ability to recognize what you are selling is not without value.


David Holloway

Virginia


Susan Alon December 03, 2003

I've never been a bookseller, but I have been in other businesses and seen what happens in changing times. re. previous email I have an open shop in a small town, with 4,500 priced, I hope wisely, titles.  If I feel a book is worth what I ask, just because there are several other copies for less, my book comes with my experience, and if Stillman doesn't understand what that means as an antiquarian, that is why he is writing these kind kind of articles.  Let's discuss..


Susan Alon MA, MFA, MLS


Miriam Green Antiquarian

Clinton CONN


Writer's Response


Susan,


I think you somewhat misunderstand my point. I am in no way disparaging the contributions made by knowledgable booksellers nor questioning their value. I am simply making an observation on what are clearly changing times, what I believe the future will bring, and how that prediction, if it comes to pass, will affect booksellers. And while I admit that I am not nor have ever been a bookseller, and do not begin to possess the knowledge of antiquarian books that you have, I do have one credential that I believe makes my opinions at least worthy of consideration by those in the trade. I am a consumer.


My point is not that your skills aren't important and valuable. It is simply this: I have seen knowledge and experience brushed aside for lower prices time and again over the course of my life. It started with the helpful neighborhood grocer/butcher who was replaced by the supermarket. Then there was the local appliance shop where they could tell you all about the latest gadgets. We now buy them at Wal Mart where the help, if you can find them, know next to nothing. In the new book field, we have already seen the neighborhood shops replaced first by chain bookstores, then megastores like B&N and Borders, and finally Amazon.com. And while I truly appreciated the man at the service station who made sure my oil wasn't low, my tires properly inflated, and took care of the work, I still find myself pumping gas at a convenience store to save a nickel. We consumers, or at least most of us, have a nasty habit of going for the lowest price, even as we whine and moan about the lack of service. We like service, but we just aren't willing to pay for it. This is why it is my belief, and this is only my belief, that most successful booksellers in the future will have to first be able to compete on price. Only if their prices are competitive will they then be able to capture business based on level of service or other factors.

As I noted in my comment to Lee Kirk's letter, this only applies to titles for which at least several copies are being offered for sale. If you hold the only copy of an item currently for sale, competition won't control your price. You will, with the challenge then being to find someone who wants your book enough to pay your price.


c December 02, 2003

As I digested this writer's article (ed. note "The Price Is Wrong") becoming more apalled at each sentence
UNTIL I came to the crux,
I am not a bookseller but I have been in other businesses...
It is good thing, he would make an incompetent bookman.
This article should become a forum for why his analysis is flawed. Times
are a changing and we will sink like a stone.
The book business still remains unique among retail trades, as does
antiques and other objects of virtue.


Lee Kirk December 02, 2003

Mike Stillman's article,  is interesting, but it contains one fallacy in
its argument on supply and demand. Comparing "scarce" books to loaves of bread simply does not work. The supply of scarce books (I'm not talking about modern shlock run off in hundreds of thousands of copies) is finite. Loaves of bread are easily and infinitely reproducible. Although the market may be glutted with moderately-scarce books right now - a phenomenon brought on by the ease of selling on the Internet - the supply is diminishing even as the population is increasing. And, although the demand has always been and will always be limited to a small segment of that population, the segment itself grows along with the general population. In other words, static number of copies available coupled with current increased marketing means the supply is diminishing even as the demand is increasing. It will take some time, but these books will once again become scarce and "worth" more as demand outstrips the supply.


Regards,

Lee Kirk

The Prints & The Paper



Writer's Response


Lee Kirk makes a very good point that prices are likely to rebound as either the number of collectors increases or more copies of individual titles are effectively removed from the market, such as by being placed in institutional collections. My point about lowered prices applies only to those cases where there are numerous copies available. In this case, I believe the visibility of those copies on the internet will drive prices down. But, this does not apply where copies are truly scarce. The internet is not going to make a copy of the Declaration of Independence any cheaper.


Ultimately, as copies become very scarce, the internet may enable booksellers to charge more for the very rare titles, and for the same reason. Just as it is now making copies for sale more visible today, it is also making buyers more visible. In other words, the bookseller with a very rare book in the past had only his own audience to sell it to. The internet now allows that dealer to offer that book to many more potential customers, which may allow for a higher price. At the moment, I think the balance favors the buyer in that books are being posted for sale at a more rapid rate than are people joining the field of collecting, but as supply decreases and the number of collectors increases, the balance will shift the other way.


Metamora May 03, 2003

Dear Abby,

While your piece on the New York Book Fair was fine in itself, it wasn't analysis. Gathering a few impressions and getting a couple of numbers doesn't do the job. Analysis suggests investigation into a subject, with data (not impressions) from several applicable sources.
Your title suggested that a study of internet marketing and commerce was going to be compared directly to current retail experience in the book fair environment. That was not what you offered. As a matter of fact, virtually no information on the current state in internet selling was given.
Keep up the good work of reporting, just be very careful about your titles and headlines.

Gail Ginther


wklimon May 02, 2003

Hello:

I am writing to point out to Mr. McKinney that January 1st is the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord on the old Roman Catholic and Anglican liturgical calendars. That is undoubtedly the intended reference in his 1833 Poughkeepsie Almanac.

*The Oxford Companion to the Year*, ed. B. Blackburn and L. Holford-Stevens
(Oxford U. Pr. 1999) is a most useful reference for anyone dealing with old
almanacs, diaries, and date books. OCY contains several articles on different calendar systems, but the heart of the book is a day-by-day breakdown of the Western calendar tradition, with listings of holy days, saints' days, and holidays for each day of the year--along with other interesting facts and traditions for each day.

Keep up the good work, I love the site. When I get my house refinished and my books out of storage and my collection organized, I will be back as a subscriber.

Best regards.

William M. Klimon

william.m.klimon.c87@alumni.upenn.edu


T. Johnson April 15, 2003

Dear Abby (seems like I've heard that salutation somewhere before),


At your invitation I read the article by Bruce McKinney in AE Monthly on book descriptions and offer this related question: who owns a book description created by a rare books cataloger employed by a research library (public or private)? Our general practice, it seems, is to spend vast amounts of money for an automated and integrated library system that allows highly trained and experienced catalogers to place original information (some of it possibly derived from dealers descriptions) onto a publicly accessible web site catalog for the use of students, staff, faculty, and the general public. If you use our online catalog, MNCAT, you find the following notice at the bottom of the screen: © 2002 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
Please let us know if you have any comments or suggestions. Funded in part by the State of Minnesota as a component of MnLINK.
MNCAT® and LUMINA® registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Does this mean that our catalog is under copyright protection and that we will pursue those who infringe our rights? Will we be subject to the "check-box agreement" proposed by Mr. McKinney and need to provide credit within the body of our own bibliographic records? Should we be equally concerned with dealers who might cut and paste from our own freely available catalogs as they build their descriptions? Or do we do what we do (be it acquisition or cataloging) as an expression of the public good and our commitment to an informed citizenry, often with the help of private collectors and valued dealers? If Mr. McKinney wishes to give credit where credit is due, then it seems as if original catalogers, curators and even taxpayers merit a bit more praise and attention. That is where the true value, and the true good, is found.

Tim Johnson Curator, Special Collections & Rare Books
University of Minnesota Libraries


swy6125u April 09, 2003

sarina wyant wrote:


Dear Ms. Tallmer:


I read the article "Book Descriptions:The Key to Reselling," by Bruce McKinney with great interest. The issue concerning the use of book descriptions as I see it is who owns the intellectual property, the "book
description." The logical and legal answer is the creator of the description or in the case of employees of the dealer firm, the firm itself.

When a person purchases something the person does not own the "ad" generated by the company to sell that item. A book is bought as such: a book. The written descriptions used to establish provenance, hence value, are not inherently part of that book as originally created and should not be implied as being part of the sale of a volume. Rules about citing descriptions to be used in resale should be standardized in the book trade but the transfer of ownership of the intellectual property should not be universally imposed upon sellers. That would not be fair. If the value of the book is enhanced by the seller's description and the new owner uses that description to make a profit selling the book then the creator of the description should receive a royalty resulting from the new sale. To protect the buyer's and seller's interests potential resale, an agreement between the individual seller and buyer, a legally binding contract in the sales agreement establishing use and transfer of ownership of the book descriptions is necessary but should
not be mandatory. The adage buyer (and seller) beware should apply.


Sincerely,

Prof. Sarina Wyant

Assistant Archivist and Special Collections
Librarian

University of Rhode Island Library


LoupGarouB April 09, 2003

Ms. Tallmer,

I've been in the book business since 1977 and have seen how technology has created new issues such as the ownership of book descriptions by the saturating nature of online communication. What is legal vs. what is common practice, however, are two different things. I am not a lawyer, but it seems that even if copyright protection is granted to the creator of the book descriptions, there is nothing in the way of damages incurred should the buyer down the line re-use the description to re-sell the book. (So the re-seller might be acting illegally, but is not likely to be sued.) And we are talking "book," as in a distinct copy, as opposed to a bookseller's description of a title of which s/he has many copies to sell, which puts the buyer of one or more copies in the position of being able to compete. (That's a different and arguable side, especially where booksellers are also publishers, in which case I would vote on the side of copyright protection where damages could be measured.) Or when book descriptions are appropriated by people with competing copies to sell. Or when a reseller marks up the price and creates a drop-ship situation without the original seller's knowledge, another issue altogether.

Those individual copies of collectible books that deserve provenance and enjoy historical importance have traditionally carried with them the descriptions bestowed by previous owners and sellers, as noted in your article. I believe the use of these descriptions should follow the book as it changes hands, although legally the seller should expressly acknowledge authorship and relinquish the copyright. I do not agree with McKinney's idea that credit be given to the creator of these descriptions, although legally this might be the laudable solution. (Should this creator's name have significance that will enhance the value or resalability of an item, a later marketer will broadcast the association loud and clear.) But that this becomes a standard or the lack of its practice a tarnish seems to me too much of a burden, and in some cases subject to abuse by those with similar copies.

What must be noted is that there are now more books on the market than ever before, but the number of individual volumes that deserve olde world attention to detail are drowned by an increasing percentage of proffered dross. Few volumes merit the work, and those that do will remain within that small circle of book collecting elite where tradition and high standards continue to dictate business practices, technology be damned.

I suspect that few of the online booksellers these days have ever handled books important enough to carry provenance. Their pique is raised when someone borrows their overview of the plot or theme, or a tidbit about the author inserted in a 200-word description of a mass-market book listed on ABE or Alibris, in order to sell another copy of the same book. This is a different issue altogether.

Interesting topic. Thank you for the opportunity to voice
an opinion.


Antoinette Graham

Loup Garou Books

P.O. Box 266

Micanopy, Florida 32667

U.S.A.

http://LoupGarouBooks.com

Selling fine books since 1977


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