ILAB Newsletters - Everything you need to know (or not to know) about the rare book trade
ILAB Newsletter 59, July 2007
Introduction by President Michael Steinbach
Dear ILAB affiliates,
A few months have passed since the first 'mini-newsletter' has been distributed, and as promised, we from the ILAB Committee want to keep you informed about matters concerning our trade.
We have achieved some of the goals we had in mind: strengthening the visibility of ILAB to the outside world, having maintained an ILAB booth at the major fairs in San Francisco, New York, Paris and London, at most of which we had a computer installed where customers could search the inventory of those dealers present at the fair who maintained their inventory in the ILAB database. This service was very well received and helped a customer at the Paris fair to find a book for which he had been searching for many years – one more good reason to join the ILAB database.
Furthermore we had on hand the new ILAB Directory, Newsletter, Bookmarks, and Posters to give away to customers and colleagues. In Paris and London the ILAB booth was maintained by our Executive Secretary, N. Marsh. She provided a great deal of useful information to the public and to our colleagues.
As mentioned above the new Directory has been delivered, in a more handy size and with a corrected index, a real improvement. The copies have been sent to the national associations and you should have your copy already or soon in hand. At this occasion I want to remind you that each individual affiliate is responsible for his entry, you can adapt or change your entry personally at the ILAB website. Those entries are used for the Directory and it is in everyone’s own interest that they are correct and up to date. Also from the ILAB website you can now download posters, and bookmarks, for use in your shop, catalogues and book fairs.
As you know the Prize for Bibliography is an important Public Relations tool for ILAB and thus of importance for each affiliated dealer. To make it work well we still need additional sponsors for the prize, as well as suitable entries for the next prize, which will be awarded in 2010.
Also I want to remind you of the next ILAB Congress/Fair that will take place in Spain in the middle of September 2008. You will soon receive an informal program with an invitation. After the failure of last Congress we want to make this a successful event, so please plan to participate.
I hope this 'mini-newsletter' will provide you with useful information and I wish you all a relaxing summer.
With best regards,
The second ILAB Directory produced by Publications UK has been printed and has, for the most part, been distributed. The Directory, paid for entirely by advertising, has resulted in a substantial savings to ILAB, and by extension, to its member nations, which in the past were strongly encouraged to purchase copies for each of their members in order to alleviate the printing cost. In addition, Publications UK will continue to distribute copies to hotels, and other tourist destinations throughout Europe.
This latest edition of the Directory is slightly smaller and more portable than the previous edition, and the previously discussed idea of producing a smaller version for dealers was decided by an informal meeting of national presidents in Paris to be unnecessary. ILAB Executive Secretary Nevine Marchiset worked long and hard to correct the many errors in indexing and organization that plagued the previous edition.
While the Directory has received wide distribution, if you need additional copies please contact either your national organization, ILAB General Secretary Arnoud Gerits, or Tom Congalton in North America. The next edition will be ready for next ILAB Congress in Spain.
The ILAB Committee, and its Internet Chairman, Jean-Pierre Fouques continue to make progress on the website. The Committee has recently hired a part-time website content editor, Corey Bechelli, in order to make our site more “sticky” by providing rare book related articles, information, and other content of interest to book collectors. While in the past, the ILAB website content has been somewhat static, in the future it should be constantly updated and changed. Members are strongly encouraged to contribute articles, or to recommend articles by others that they feel might enhance the site. The Committee has expressed interest in developing the site as a greater resource for rare book collectors, or anyone with an interest or curiosity about rare books. The website content editor can be contacted at Corey@betweenthecovers.com.
The Rockingstone Google ad campaign has begun. Paid advertisements for ILAB.org appear in English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese when certain carefully chosen phrases are searched on Google, and we are experiencing considerable increases in site traffic, and hopefully in related sales. Statistics for the website reveal that of 145999 visitors to the site in December 2006, 117461 were generated through a Google search. In the first month of the campaign, in May 2007, we had 292872 visitors, 270936 of them generated through Google, or an increase in traffic of roughly double.
Some other improvements in the site, many of them instituted after a meeting between Rockingstone and the Committee in Vienna: the logos of the National Associations have been made into active links and some visual improvement was made to some of the logos, the existing picture highlights on the site were replaced with a constantly changing gallery, a link has been added on the front page on how to become an ILAB bookseller, as well as many small aesthetic changes have been made.
Rockingstone has made a special offer to all ILAB members to join the database. At the present moment we have 569 participants.
In Vienna, Jelle Samshuijzen of Rockingstone proposed the idea of having a workshop in Wageningen, in the Netherlands for the Internet persons of each National Association. possibly after the Presidents Meeting in Paris. As this issue goes to press a date for this meeting has not yet been determined.
Our members should understand ILAB.Org and its related national member sites are the only significant searchable book websites that do not charge a commission on sales. These sites provide an attractive alternative to the commission based sites, and we have also recently seen an increase in the number of members that list on the site. There is no better time to join than now. The existence of a bookseller operated search engine stands as a bastion preserving our access to the Internet, and in some measure help to insure our self-determination without the interference of outside commercial sites.
Please Note: Each ILAB affiliate is responsible for maintaining the correct information for their entry on ILAB website. The last issue of the Newsletter provided detailed instructions on changing or updating your information. Please review that issue or sign on to the members only section of the website and click on www.ilab.org/booksellers/bookselleredit.php.
ILAB Prize for Bibliography
New judges have been named for the 15th Prize for Bibliography. The new Chairman Mitsuo Nitta leads a good that includes General Secretary Arnoud Gerits, ILAB Treasurer Poul Poulsen, Professor David Adams from the University of Manchester, and M. Jean-Marc Chatelain, Conservator of 17th Century Books at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Bibliographies published between 2005 and 2008 can be submitted by sending one copy to General Secretary Arnoud Gerits in Amsterdam, until 31 December 2008. The Prize will be warded in 2010.
The Committee continues in their attempts to make the ILAB Bibliographical Prize self-sustaining by creating a fund that would cover expenses in perpetuity. While we are currently exploring some promising leads, and some significant gifs from members have already been received, we continue to encourage ILAB members to contribute to the fund. Contributions, or questions about contributing should be addressed to Arnoud Gerits.
Anyone who would like to donate can transfer the amount directly to the ILAB Prize for Bibliography account:
SYDBANK, H. C. Andersens Boulevard 37, 1553 DK-Copenhagen V, Denmark
Account number: 6739 2000633
IBAN-no: DK5467390002000633; BIC or SWIFT no.: SYBDK22
BOX: The Antiquarian Booksellers Association recently purchased from ILAB a large quantity of books submitted for the previous Prize for Bibliography. Through the generous intercession of the ABA and Mr. Treglown, the excellent ABA reference library in London, will soon accessible to all ILAB affiliates.
The Security Chairman, in the person of Paul Feain, continues to provide frequent reports of stolen and missing books. The summaries of the reports, and where deemed appropriate full reports, will now also be available in French.
ILAB On the Road
The Committee and assorted other volunteers, have recently begun a program to represent ILAB and its members at the various ILAB sponsored book fairs. At the recent San Francisco, New York, Paris, and Olympia (London) Book Fairs, ILAB posters, bookmarks, Newsletters, and Directories have been distributed to both the public and exhibitors. At all but the New York Fair (where all available space had been otherwise utilized), computer kiosks were provided to search the ILAB website, or the inventory of the exhibitors who listed books on the ILAB website.
Adrian Harrington and other members of the Publicity Committee have begun to use their $16,000 budget. The ILAB poster in English and French has been printed and distributed, at both book fairs and to the various affiliated nations that have requested it. Additionally, a German and English version has been prepared for display and distribution at the Stuttgart Book Fair in January, 2008.
The ILAB poster is currently available on the Members Only section of the website, www.ilab.org/booksellers/links/posters.php in English/French and French/English version for downloading on the ILAB website in various formats and sizes, including sizes convenient for use in catalogues. We continue to add variations of the poster, and have had translated and hope soon to have German and Chinese versions available for downloading, as well as Japanese and Russian versions that are nearing completion.
Native speakers willing to volunteer to translate the poster into other languages are urged to contact Tom Congalton (email@example.com).
Additionally, the attractive ILAB bookmarks can be downloaded at www.ilab.org/booksellers/links/bookmark.php.
New York (April 2007)
The 47th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair, was held this past April at Park Avenue Armory, with exactly 200 exhibitors in attendance, the largest New York fair to date, with approximately 40% of the represented exhibitors from abroad. The pink and white theme of the opening night gala preview to benefit the New York Public Library Special Collections afforded the amusing sight of booksellers sating themselves on large pink and white popcorn balls that had been meant strictly for display. Foot traffic was down slightly, and sales reports were mixed.
The Fair Committee had in some past years attempted to survey the exhibitors, but the only certain conclusion drawn from this exercise was that most dealers didn’t really want to report their sales. An anecdotal survey seems to have revealed that sales, while predictably uneven from dealer to dealer, were average for a New York fair.
Sunday saw a visit from the highly respected television commentator Andy Rooney, of the long-running US news program 60 Minutes, who filmed a segment for the show, which featured ABAA President David Lilburne. The result, anxiously awaited, saw the usually curmudgeonly Rooney, highly praising the show and its exhibitors. The full segment can be viewed online at:
Anxiety remains high about the future of the Armory, which, taken over from New York state by a charitable conservancy is eventually scheduled for restoration. At some point, the fair will probably need to be moved for at least one year while this work is undertaken. The uncertainty about the future direction of the Armory has made the cementing of dates for the show less certain than in the past when dates for the next year’s show were confirmed a year in advance, and at the time this Newsletter goes to press, dates were still unconfirmed, but a move to late March for the 2008 fair seems likely. The continued difficulty in securing venues at most book fairs that results in occasional conflicts with other ILAB sponsored shows remains one of ILABs continuing challenges.
Tom Congalton, New York Book Fair Committee
Paris (April 2007)
Over 150 ILAB booksellers were present for this new edition of the "Salon International du Livre Ancien", held this year in the magnificent "Grand Palais" building in the heart of Paris.
The weather was unseasonably hot and the beautiful glass and iron ceiling of the 1900's building did not help, otherwise the stand layout was elegant and comfortable, and attendance was very good, with over 18000 visitors registered over the four days.
With few exceptions, a large majority of exhibitors was pleased with the event, and sales statistics gathered at the fair show that the new location had a largely positive effect.
The next edition will take place at the same venue from 17th to 20th April. 2008 and hopefully the "Grand Palais" will become the permanent location for the Paris fair.
Jean-Pierre Fouques, SLAM Committee Member
Olympia (June 2007)
Jacqueline Wilson, having graciously accepted my invitation to be this year’s patron for Olympia left us with a bit of a problem. Our ever helpful President had sent me a newspaper cutting about a signing that the author had done in Bournemouth. Some 2000 children had attended and the signing took nearly ten hours! The idea of any sort of a repeat at Olympia was worrying to say the least. In the end it worked perfectly. About fifty, perfectly behaved children came and showed their enthusiasm for Britain’s most popular children’s writer. Yes, I have heard of J. K. Rowling, but Harry Potter’s just one title in seven parts not a whole raft of them. It was an absolute delight to see little huddles of wide-eyed children and their families discreetly stalking Jacqueline around the Fair. Who knows? This brief exposure to the wonderful world of rare books may mean that we have a few new collectors for the future. The talk in the trade is generally of an aging population of collectors and dealers. It was to try and address this that I was also happy to allow David Brass to bring along some vintage electric guitars to help display his copy of Primal Scream inscribed by John Lennon. I brought along a set of signed Banksy prints. They sold, as a result of the Fair, the day after we closed. Do we need to worry about the future of the rare book trade? Possibly, but if this year’s Olympia is anything to go by; the trade is still healthy.
The decision to go from four days down to three wasn’t taken lightly. The thinking was partly driven by a full analysis of last year’s figures. Closing on a Saturday allowed our out of town and overseas exhibitors to get home in time for the start of the week. However, there were enough exhibitors raising a concern during the Fair for us to decide to run a quick poll. The results were decisively in favour of three days, and in favour of them being Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I think all will agree with me when I say that the move to a three-day Fair made for a more dynamic one. There appeared to be no quiet patches and there was a constant energy that gave a healthy pace to the event. This “feel good” factor was reflected in the many emails of congratulations received, as well positive comments on the returns sheets. It was particularly gratifying to get positive feedback from our Continental exhibitors.
Analyzing the various figures for a Fair to previous ones is always going to be problematical but I’ll give it a go anyway. The figures show that we took £61,000 less than last year, could this be the true Sunday take from last year? They showed the average take down by £2219, nearly 10% and they showed the attendance down by 206. So was the fair less successful than last year? I don’t think so. The average daily take in 2006 was £797,452. In 2007 it was £1,042,906, an increase of over 30%. The average spent per visitor in 2006 was £970. In 2007 it was £1,015. Bearing in mind that we have been refining our methods of counting people through the door, the true average take is probably much higher. This is the first year that we can be confident that visitor numbers are unique and exclude all re entries. The gate figures show 206 fewer visitors. Given the above, I don’t think this is significant or necessarily true.
In all of this analysis I have left out the Bauman Rare Books and the Heritage Book Shop, neither who exhibited this year. Every year firms come and go as exhibitors at Olympia. These two giants are different, however. While I have heard several analyses of their buying and selling at fairs, they all agree on one thing: it is significant. Natalie Bauman assures me that they will be back next. Heritage is another story, and they will not be back next year. They have strongly supported the show from its very beginning and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for that.
And finally our success is largely founded on the efforts of our volunteers and our office staff. Marianne Harwood, who took over for the excellent Philippa, deserves a special thank you.
Adrian Harrington, Olympia Chair 2007
San Francisco (February 2007)
A total of 247 antiquarian booksellers from 27 American states and 11 foreign countries exhibited at the 40th California International Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco on February 16-18, 2007. Sponsored by the Northern California Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, this great event has become the largest antiquarian book fair in the world. It draws thousands of book collectors and professional booksellers from around the globe during the three-day exhibit. Very active buying and selling was reported in nearly all areas of antiquarian bookselling, and many exhibitors reported their best-ever San Francisco fair.
Included during the fair was an important special exhibit from the San Francisco Public Library's Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering, plus several workshops and lectures on book collecting, the art of calligraphy, and book signings by noted author Nicholas Basbanes. As a good harbinger of the future of antiquarian bookselling, a special seminar for beginning collectors entitled Book Collecting 101 was totally packed with avid attendees. The very experienced management team of Winslow and Associates oversaw the operation of the event in the seamless and professional manner for which they have become well known.
Michael Hackenberg, Chair, San Francisco Book Fair Committee
ILAB Committee Meeting
The ILAB Committee was warmly hosted at their meeting in Vienna by the Austrian National Association (Verband der Antiquare Öesterreichs) on March 1st and 2nd. Former Committee-member Dieter Tausch, and Verband President Norbert Donhofer did everything in their power to make the meetings productive and convivial. Mr. Tausch provided tours of the artistic and culinary splendors of Vienna for spouses and family of the Committee-members. After the Committee’s two long days of meetings, many Verband members joined the Committee and their families at a traditional Viennese Heurigen. There the strolling minstrals encouraged each diner to sing, proving pretty much conclusively that the Committee members, with the possible exception of Executive Secretary Nevine Marchiset, are unlikely to be deserting the rare book trade for a musical career at any time in the near future.
The next Committee Meeting will be hosted by the SLAM in Paris on September 26th, immediately preceding the ILAB President’s Meeting.
ILAB Congress 2008
The 2008 ILAB Congress and Book Fair, hosted by the Spanish association Asociación Ibéria de Librerias Anticuarias (AILA), are scheduled to take place between September 14th and 20th. Mark your calendars! An invitation to participate is due in the early Fall, with what looks like some very interesting activities planned. The locations of both the Congress, which was originally slated for Palma de Majorca, and the Book Fair, planned for Barcelona, had to be switched to Madrid.
Kay Craddock AM, Antiquarian Bookseller
It is with the greatest pleasure we announce to all her ILAB friends that Kay Craddock has been awarded Membership of The Order of Australia (AM) for her outstanding achievements both nationally in Australia and internationally. Those of us who love her know what a fitting and well deserved honour she has achieved.
Kay began her career as a second-hand bookseller in Melbourne over 40 years ago. Her father died within a few months of opening the business and it was then that Kay and her mother Muriel became life long business partners. Initially flirting with both books and antiques, Kay and Muriel became more focussed on the books and were soon recognised as leaders in the rare, fine and antiquarian book trade in Australia. Working hard at her own business, Kay soon established a reputation for integrity and a discerning eye. With great energy Kay promoted the Australian antiquarian and rare book trade nationally, and was one of several responsible for elevating the reputation of Australian bookselling internationally.
Kay has served on important library committees and is a member of many professional associations, including The Antiquarian Booksellers Association (International) and the Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers where Kay became the first woman president in 1987. Ten years later she was elected to the ILAB Committee and became its first woman President in 2000. Her ILAB Presidency was a busy time. Apart from her official duties she promoted the preservation of the printed word internationally, she formalized ILAB’s corporate memory and wrote procedural manuals. Kay also introduced a much acclaimed workshop program for ILAB national presidents at their international meetings, contributing significantly to their preparation and presentation.
Apart from her leadership in the antiquarian and rare book world Kay has also taken a leadership role in association with the City of Melbourne where she has made a significant contribution to the promotion of small business. A recent initiative has been the introduction of the Annual Lord Mayor’s Small Business Proprietor Commendations which recognize longevity of Melbourne small business owners.
It is, therefore, no surprise that Kay received a well deserved AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in Australia for “For service to the antiquarian book trade, to professional associations and promotion of the industry in Australia and internationally, and to small business through contributions to the advancement of the City of Melbourne.”
The Order of Australia confers the highest recognition for outstanding achievement and service and the Member of the Order of Australia is awarded for service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group.
Kay Craddock with the Lord Mayor of Melbourne John So and the Lady Mayoress Wendy Deng at Kay’s Christmas party in 2006.
Letter from Michael Steinbach to Kay Craddock
Mrs. Kay Craddock
Antiquarian Bookseller Pty Ltd.
The Assembly Hall Building, 156
It is with pride that we have learned that you have been awarded the Member of the Order of Australia. The whole committee joins me in congratulating you for being awarded this honor that you most certainly deserve.
It is very important for ILAB to have somebody like you among us. Your enthusiasm and dedication for our trade was, and remains outstanding. What your contributions have been to the Australian antiquarian book trade, I can only imagine, but I know what you have done on an international level, and the enormous amount of energy that you devoted to your work during your term on the committee and as President of ILAB. I hope you will stay as close to our trade as you have been until now, and that you will continue to share your experience and knowledge with so many of our colleagues.
With my personal best wishes and those of the committee I remain yours,
The Questionnaire surveying the current state of the rare book trade that accompanied the last issue of the Newsletter has received an excellent response from the US, UK, and Japan. Additionally, our compilors have had the benefit of reviewing the figures of a similar survey recently compiled by the French affiliate SLAM.
However, we have received very few responses from most of our other European affiliates. We urge you to either submit your original questionnaire form, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a replacement. Without a wider response to the questionnaire, the results will have only limited use in our attempts to understand and plan for the future of the rare book trade. We would be very grateful for your cooperation.
The New Abebooks Rating System: A Commentary
Immediately after the launch of the new AbeBooks.com Rating system I had a long email exchange with a leading member of the German AbeBooks staff, Dr. Udo Goellmann. I pointed out that the new rating system is totally insufficient for book buyers, as well as for booksellers. The system suggests to buyers that the rating from one to five stars is a commentary on the quality of the bookseller. However, only the so-called "fulfillment rating" is used, which is strictly determined by the numerical relationship between books that have been ordered and the books that have been delivered, without reflecting any other circumstances.
This seems only to be a strategic trick on the part of AbeBooks to motivate booksellers to offer their books exclusively through the AbeBooks database. In my opinion all other paths of successful rare book marketing: offering books on other databases (for example our own ILAB database), printed catalogues, exhibition at book fairs, selling books in a store, and direct offers to clients are likely to result in a lower "fulfillment rate", assuming, as is likely that most booksellers are unable to make daily or even more frequent updates of their data to AbeBooks.
The result is that the most active and professional antiquarian booksellers in our community are likely to receive a bad AbeBooks "rating". A rating of two or three stars for an ILAB bookseller is unthinkable, an irresponsible and misleading reflection upon our members that undermines the true protections to book buyers that are afforded by our Code of Ethics. For me it is absolutely disgusting that a bookseller, who pays high fees for the service of a commercial database like AbeBooks is getting bad school grades from them like an elementary schoolchild.
However, my critical remarks, addressed to Dr. Goellmann, were all dismissed. I decided to cancel my business relationship with AbeBooks. In addition, my AbeBooks seller-account was shut down immediately after I emphasized that I would publish my opinion as a commentary in the newsletter of the German Association, as well as in the ILAB Newsletter.
Activities in China
This year will be held the first truly international antiquarian bookfair in China, in Hong Kong.
The bookfair is being organized as a private venture by Paul Feain of Cornstalk Bookshop in Sydney, Australia, a member of the ILAB Committee; Mitsuo Nitta of Yushodo in Tokyo, a longtime ILAB Committee member, and ILAB Member of Honour; and Christopher Li of Swindons Books in Hong Kong.
Christopher Li is a long time friend of Mitsuo Nitta’s and while not an antiquarian bookseller, is vitally interested in the development of the book trade in China, his book store in Hong Kong started by his grandfather in the 1920s.
More than 50 antiquarian booksellers from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, USA, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, France, Canada, and Sweden, will be exhibiting at the Pacific Conference Centre. While booksellers from mainland China, Taiwan, India, the Philippines, and Thailand were invited to exhibit, none will do so, but many have expressed interest in attending the fair as visitors, at least for the first fair.
The organizers hope that this will be an annual event, and eventually move to, or inspire similar ventures in other Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Canton.
Fang-Ling Jong is handling the public relations for the event and she has already generated a great deal of interest in the area, and there seems to be guaranteed a great deal of print media coverage in newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, as well as television coverage in Hong Kong. At this stage of the planning optimism prevails!
The ILAB Committee has continued to show interest in the book trade in Asia, and the organizers of the fair hope that a new antiquarian booksellers association will be formed in the region, either directly or indirectly as a result of this venture. Ultimately such an organization might will seek affiliation with ILAB, or perhaps spawn independent national associations that would do so.
Tentatively the proposed association would be called the Asia Pacific Antiquarian Booksellers Association. It is hoped that booksellers from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines will join this association, in order to promote the book trade in those countries, and codify the ethics and ideals that ILAB has tried to instill in the world antiquarian book trade.
Stock Exclusivity: An Opinion
Many ILAB dealers were alarmed and upset recently when ABE instituted a rating system which, although it rates the seller’s past ability to fulfill orders through the ABE system, could easily be misconstrued by ABE shoppers as a rating of the quality of that bookseller’s stock or expertise. This development accentuates the fact that ABE, like Alibris, Amazon, Biblio, Barnes & Noble, and all other third-party multi-dealer sites, are independent companies that can and frequently do make business decisions which are not necessarily in the best interests of participating ILAB dealers. The brouhaha following the ABE rating system also brought into sharp relief the importance of www.ILAB.org, and its affiliate national sites such as www.ABAA.org, as havens on the Internet where ILAB members can, collectively, exercise complete control over their presence on the world wide web.
But some ILAB members also complain, quite vocally, that their sales through our associations’ websites are not strong enough. There is no single, simple solution to increasing sales through www.ILAB.org. One problem facing our organizations is that multi-dealer sites such as ABE or Alibris will always have more dealers, and consequently more books to offer, than www.ILAB.org. The quality will not necessarily be better, but the quantity will always be greater. Consequently, the Internet itself is “training” book buyers to shop at locations where they think they are most likely to find what they are looking for, and those locations are alternatives to ILAB and its affiliate websites. This is particularly true if the majority of Internet-selling ILAB dealers also list their inventory on other multi-dealer sites. A book collector may reason that, even if they prefer to shop from ILAB dealers, most of the time they will find ILAB dealers’ books, as well as the inventory of non-ILAB dealers, on other multi-dealer sites.
Very few dealers who sell books through third-party websites such as ABE, Alibris, Amazon, etc. would be willing to give up those sales entirely. And with good reason -- some of our members achieve a large percentage of their sales through these sites, and would suffer significant financial losses if they participated in a complete moratorium on all non-ILAB sites. But there is a step that all Internet-selling ILAB members should consider which would help to make www.ILAB.org a necessary web destination for book buyers without the risk of substantial loss of sales -- stock exclusivity.
Stock exclusivity (also sometimes called preferential uploads) suggests that if ILAB dealers were to list their new acquisitions EXCLUSIVELY on www.ILAB.org (and its national affiliate sites, and their own websites) for a limited period of time, such as a month, PRIOR to those acquisitions being made available elsewhere on-line, customers for those books would willingly go to www.ILAB.org first and as an alternative to other book websites. The more desirable and rare the inventory of ILAB members, the more potent the effect of having those desirable and rare items available first and for a time exclusively on www.ILAB.org. While it can be difficult to communicate and advertise the real values ILAB members offer collectors with the expertise and ethical standards their membership in ILAB guarantees, it will be much easier for ILAB and its affiliates to communicate and advertise to collectors the fact that in order to get the opportunity to buy the best books they will have to visit www.ILAB.org.
One advantage to stock exclusivity for ILAB members is that, unlike a complete moratorium on third-party websites which would risk loss of sales, delayed uploads of new inventory is unlikely to have a significant or noticeable negative effect on dealers sales. If buyers for those items do not visit www.ILAB.org and purchase them within the first month, the items then get listed everywhere else on the Internet the dealer wishes. Therefore, the risk to the dealer is minimal -- if for example there is only one Internet “customer” for a particular item and that customer is not aware of ILAB but is aware of other multi-dealer sites, that customer will in theory see the item and make the purchase a month later than he otherwise would have.
Logistically, what are the hurdles to making stock exclusivity on ILAB a reality? Dealers must be able to easily manipulate their book data so that information about new acquisitions is sent to Rockingstone, but not to ABE, Alibris, Amazon, etc. This involves programming to time-stamp new database entries and compare the current date to the time-stamp -- if less than a month has gone by the data only goes to Rockingstone. If more than a month has gone by then the data goes to all the seller’s partners. This is a slight oversimplification, but the complete programming is not particularly complicated. We at Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc., for example, began listing our new stock exclusively at www.ILAB.org, www.ABAA.org, and our own website at the end of June at a cost of only three programming hours. Other booksellers with in-house software, who are already accustomed to making changes to their program periodically, can join us in stock exclusivity immediately if they wish to do so. Dealers who use bookselling database software from vendors can participate if those vendors add the required programming. The developers of BookHound, BookTrakker, and BookRouter are all working on this feature, and dealers who use these programs and would like to participate in stock exclusivity should voice their desire to see this new feature implemented in the programming sooner rather than later.
I urge ILAB members who would like to strengthen the importance of www.ILAB.org in the realm of Internet antiquarian bookselling, so that the decisions of third-party vendors such as ABE are less important to their individual businesses, to implement stock exclusivity in their own businesses. If enough ILAB members volunteer to participate, ILAB will be able to advertise the exclusivity of its website inventory and book collectors will be forced to pay attention.
Dan Gregory, Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc.
Corrections and apologies
The editor would like to apologize to Adrian Harrington, who provided, but was not credited with the photographs used in the previous issue.