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2008-09, 359, Booksellers’ catalogues, Journalism / Publishing, Notes and Queries

Notes&Queries- buying books online

Notes & Queries

Peter Moore comments on Frank Carleton’s article in the 358th Issue:

Hello Brian Taylor,

I have just read the latest issue of Biblionews I received (June 2008, 358th Issue) and would like to comment on the article by Frank Carleton, specifically his references to searching one of his books on Abebooks.  His experience is, I am sure, common and annoys genuine booksellers as much as it does genuine collectors. Although booksellers who use Abe or, as in my case, www.bookfinder.com <http://www.bookfinder.com> for searching, take the results with a large “pinch of salt”, I do, as a bookseller, have serious misgivings over the effect which such searches must have on potential new book collectors.

Searching for virtually any reasonably common title will result in dozens of copies being listed. The prices asked, as Frank has found, may range from a few dollars up to several hundred dollars or more for copies which are frequently ill described, often ex-library and offered by “booksellers” of whom one has never heard, many with curious trading names, and often “hiding” behind listing sites such as Amazon.

I have just checked the “owner” of the top price which Frank quotes, the bookseller in Hertfordshire UK, and can report that he appears to operate from a private address, is not in the current trade directory, either under the trading name, or his own name.

When discussing this situation with customers I always suggest that they consider purchasing only from members of recognised trade associations, ANZAAB, ABA, ILAB, PBFA etc., when they can be reasonably certain that not only is the book correctly described but that it has probably been collated, and that the price is likely to be fair. Also that, should there be any problem, the trade associations have Codes of Conduct. This is not to suggest that there are not good booksellers who do not belong to a trade association, but the majority do.

Frank refers to another element of this: the proliferation of Ex-Library books being offered on the internet. There has been a great increase in such listings in the last year or two, largely because so many institutions are divesting themselves of “real” books. I have acquired some myself because some of these books are very seldom to be found on the open market, but many of the listers, whether booksellers or not, are not discriminating and list everything that comes into their hands regardless of condition, completeness etc.

The “mega-sites” seem totally unconcerned by all this, seeking only quantity of listing rather than any pretence of quality. But the sites operated by the trade associations themselves (e.g. ILAB, Booksatpbfa) and indeed www.booksandcollectibles.com <http://www.booksandcollectibles.com> in Australia, thankfully have not succumbed to the “pile ‘em high sell ‘em cheap” approach.

Best wishes, Peter Moore

Bookseller, Cambridge, UK.

[Peter Moore Bookseller (PBFA. BCSA)

Unit 12 The Old Maltings, 135 Ditton Walk, Cambridge, CB58PY, UK

Tel: 01223-411177

E: aus-pacbooks@lineone.net <mailto:aus-pacbooks@lineone.net>www.aus-pacbooks.co.uk <http://www.aus-pacbooks.co.uk>www.pbfa.org <http://www.pbfa.org>www.booksatpbfa.com <http://www.booksatpbfa.com>www.booksandcollectibles.com.au <http://www.booksandcollectibles.com.au>www.abebooks.com <http://www.abebooks.com>]



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