Courting the Antiquarians November 15, 2008 – Tags: , , , , ,

In spite of all the doom and gloom surrounding the life and future of the book the book business still rakes in around $90 billion a year worldwide.

Two of the healthiest and fastest growing areas of the trade are online bookselling in general and the selling of used, out-of-print and antiquarian books in particular.

In a recent blog post from the Frankfurt Book Fair Edward Nawotka, book columnist for Bloomberg News and Southern Correspondent for Publishers Weekly, had this to say about the future of books:

“One immediate consequence of Obama’s victory was the boost in sales for newspapers. So now we have confirmation that print is not dead — at least as far as collectors are concerned.

This merely reinforces my belief that the long-term future of books lies in bifurcated markets: Half in cheap or reasonably priced e-books and the other half in high cost collectible volumes”

Though Nawotka is talking about e-books the same division exists between the general used book and the collectible book.

So it comes as no surprise that the CEO’s of both Alibris and Biblio, two of the leading online marketplaces for used, out-of-print and antiquarian books will be working the aisles this weekend at the Boston International Book Fair.

Amazon’s acquisition of AbeBooks is due to be completed by the end of the year and though we still await the changes that will surely ensue the other players in the field are not waiting.

Alibris has recently announced numerous new features targeting the antiquarian bookseller including:

– the launch of the redesigned Rare and Collectibles section of their site
– a $60 cap on commission
– the ability of sellers to build storefronts
– a new Inventory Demand feature that allows sellers to access Alibris’s sales history and pricing database.

They have also undertaken a campaign on the front end to promote the rare and collectible book to the neophyte.

This aggressive pursuit is noteworthy but they will have their hands full trying to succeed; of the major players in the marketplace they have the least savvy audience when it comes to the collectible book.

It is also a bit ironic that they are now billing themselves as “the premier independently owned and operated online global marketplace.” They didn’t always plan on being independently owned and operated; they attempted to go public in 2004 but pulled the plug on their IPO at the last minute.

One big question remains. If the bifurcated landscape mentioned by Nowatka is indeed the future of the book world than will it be possible for these online marketplaces to cater to both segments?

None of the existing marketplaces have yet succeeded in serving both.

Previously on Book Patrol:
Alibris Announces “Alibris Inventory Demand”
AbeAzon. Amazon’s Acquisition of AbeBooks : The Day After
Amazon’s Acquisition of AbeBooks: A Response From Brian Elliott, CEO of Alibris
Amazon’s Acquisition of AbeBooks: Brendan Sherar, CEO of, Weighs In

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