Adventures in buying and selling used books online: ABE, fvck bezos but Amazon secondhand, other suggestions, tales, advice, warnings and more

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(bcz budo jeru suggested in on the discogs thread: discogs marketplace?)

So I currently have abt 35 books up on ABE, to sell (details and link later in thread) — and a flat-full of books, many in boxes, to put up at some point (maybe not right now, *glumly handwaves a bad global situation currently unfoldly*).

So far I have sold just about enough to cover my subs (in fact as of this year this is no longer true): I estimated prices by comparing with like items offered by others. I know I shd tweak my overseas mail charges but have not yet done so. My biggest sale — a 1960 children’s book called JIM BUTTON AND LUKE THE ENGINE DRIVER — led to a v sweet email from the australian purchaser who had paid quite a lot for it (it’s rare) for their partner, who had loved it as a kid. So had I so this was a nice handover. The biggest problem for me will be the wrench of parting with books I have loved.

Anyway this thread is for our stories! Which other storefronts are good? What are your tales of horror as a purchaser? What do we want and what are we getting?

mark s, Saturday, 28 March 2020 10:17 (two months ago) link

there are aleeady some ancient threads on this topic but i felt a new one was justified*

Selling books online
Selling Books
selling used books: classic or frustrating dud?

*i.e. i'd written out the question already before i searched lol

mark s, Saturday, 28 March 2020 10:20 (two months ago) link


So my parents and their four parents were all readers and book-lovers, never collectors but ppl lucky enough to have enough room and not moving often to accumulate a LOT of books over the decades, most of which ended up filling shelves and boxes in the rambling tumbledown place in very non-urban shropshire that my mum and dad bought cheap in the early 70s, when cheap was still a thing. All six sent thru phases of buying the “book of the moment” when it came out, and then hanging onto to most of them, with surges of purchase in the 20s-30s and 50s-60s (I.e. when THEY were in their twenties and thirties).

Some are in much-read condition, others (lol presumably the boring ones) are as perfect as maybe given their age. Dad was a poet himself (mainly for himself) and had a lot of poetry — this begins to be represented here. His mother was fascinated by children’s books and kid lit, and gathered (or failed to throw out) a fair amount the years: she had four children herself and many grandchildren. Much of this will also go up in time. There’s a sprinkling of VERY old books (Shrewsbury is or was an antiquarian centre full of weird rubbish and occasional treasures — before his Parkinsons I think dad scoured the relevant shops, looking for stuff that intrigued him rather than moneyspinners) (he never in his life knew how to make money and tbh nor do I).

The oldest book in my flat is a collection of the poems of George Herbert, with an excellent title, from 1679: The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. It’s not up yet as I don’t really know how to price it sensibly — advice welcome! It’s not in great condition: at some point someone evidently left it leaning against or very close to a light bulb, which gradually charred a circular hole in the battered leather binding — and it’s also been “rebound” at another point by what appears to be sellotape made of suede.

After mum and dad died and the house was sold, I took a portion of all this — the books judged at speed as we closed up and emptied the house to be interesting or sellable — to my little London flat, which now groans with the stupid (very interesting) (but stupid) project, as I squeeze my way past towers of boxes like a clown. Up at ABE is a small portion so far (just 35 books), general breakdown of that portion as follows.

Poetry, HB & SB, some first edns, some anthologies, several R.S.Thomas (who I think my dad’s parents knew): 18
Kidlit misc: 2
Quality paperbacks gifted me by Martin Skidmore RIP (that I already owned): 1
Novels (1st edn misc): 7
Non-fiction (1st edn misc): 2
Quite old and possibly interesting: 3
Fancy facsimile first edn: 1

(OK lol I’m one shy but I can’t be bothered to recount, go look at the page )

mark s, Saturday, 28 March 2020 11:27 (two months ago) link

There’s a copy of the George Herbert book here:

Condition is *everything* with antiquarian books and your description of it doesn’t sound promising. May be worth taking it to a dedicated auctioneer who does specialist book sales rather than online. Though with those fees will be high.

Dan Worsley, Saturday, 28 March 2020 11:51 (two months ago) link

mine isn't a first edn even: i did take it along with some other things to an antiquarian dealer in longacre abt three years ago, but (knowing i wd be none the wiser if he'd spotted some kind of dusty but pristine fortune nestling in the box) his offer seemed small to me, so i thought i'd try my luck online. i like doing the careful descriptions of degradation (poems and ejaculations, pre-loved), and i always include photos of non-ordinary damage like this, and am happy to send more if requested. i doubt it's worth MUCH but someone might want a nice old copy for the same reason my dad did: if i price it too high and no one seems to be biting i can always bring it down.

mark s, Saturday, 28 March 2020 12:35 (two months ago) link

Fuck ABE forever. I won’t even give them clicks anymore. They’re fine when things go well but if you ever have any issues with a seller there’s no recourse at all. Not even a rating system (the most basic of Web 2.0 safety nets). I’d rather give the $ to Bezos, frankly.

The little engine that choogled (hardcore dilettante), Saturday, 28 March 2020 18:56 (two months ago) link

ABE is a subsidiary of amazon !

budo jeru, Saturday, 28 March 2020 19:41 (two months ago) link

this is partly why i wanted a thread like this: it matters where you spend your money, so folks who regularly buy used books should have some idea of the options available to them.

and beyond ethical considerations, i thought it would be useful to share recommendations re: vendors, who specializes in what, the shopping/browsing experience (pictures ? why can’t anybody be clear if this will come with a dust jacket or not !!??), customer service etc.

i’ll post a list shortly.

budo jeru, Saturday, 28 March 2020 19:58 (two months ago) link

I didn’t know Amazon had bought ABE. So it’s not even like they have an excuse for running their place like the Soup Nazi owns it.

The little engine that choogled (hardcore dilettante), Sunday, 29 March 2020 02:11 (one month ago) link

What's the protocol with continuing to buy 2nd hand books? Are people holding off until everything has settled down?

Also, why but WHY does ABE insist on 'sign on' when the rest of the known universe is happy with 'sign in' or 'log on'?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 9 April 2020 09:18 (one month ago) link

I just bought a second-hand book. It was shipped almost immediately.

o. nate, Thursday, 9 April 2020 18:34 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

here are the results of the limited research i did three weeks ago and forgot to post here:

better than amazon:
better world books

OK but not great

budo jeru, Thursday, 23 April 2020 23:40 (one month ago) link

also, here's an ADVENTURE for you:

a few weeks ago i was looking to acquire xenakis's "formalized music" -- used copies of the '71 hardcover were ranging from $ 30-40.

yesterday i went back to my ABE books e-shopping cart (yes, i'm a hypocrite) to find the copy i'd stashed away had sold. okay, no worries. except ... there are now no longer ANY copies, anywhere on the internet, for under EIGHTY FUCKING DOLLARS. and the '92 paperback reprinting starts at $ 60 ?? what the FUCK happened ?

budo jeru, Thursday, 23 April 2020 23:47 (one month ago) link

Bookselling in 2020.

— Stephen Sparks (@rs_sparks) April 28, 2020

calzino, Tuesday, 28 April 2020 10:14 (one month ago) link

AbeBooks' list of most expensive sales in January, February and March 2020 features some eye-catching items and covers subjects such as surrealism, American politics, forestry, and spying. However, the ninth item on our list is truly special - the biggest, heaviest book that has ever sold on AbeBooks.

The National Union Catalog (NUC), Pre-1956 Imprints by Library of Congress and the National Union Catalog Subcommittee of the Resources Committee of the Resources and Technical Services Division, American Library Association, £7,190

The largest book ever published. We are talking largest in terms of volumes - 754 heavy folio volumes bound in green cloth with gilt lettered spines - and weight, which is three tons. This is a reference book containing a list of books published before 1959 that were cataloged by the Library of Congress and other American libraries. Editors started compiling this book in 1909. This is the first and only edition. It contains around 530,000 pages and lists approximately 12 million titles. The Bible section alone contains 63,000 entries. The Shakespeare and Plato sections are also epic. The NUC displays each entry with a reproduction of the Library of Congress' library card as well information gleaned from the original editions by librarians and additional notes added over the decades. An epic feat to produce and publish in 1968, this massive book is a tribute to American librarians, and perhaps the ultimate book about books. It was also an epic feat to ship this bad boy to its new owner. The NUC was transported to the buyer on palettes by a truck specially hired for the job.

Microbes oft teem (wins), Thursday, 30 April 2020 15:35 (four weeks ago) link


johnny crunch, Thursday, 30 April 2020 17:07 (four weeks ago) link

where to cop

silby, Thursday, 30 April 2020 17:11 (four weeks ago) link

Bookselling in 2020.
— Stephen Sparks (@rs_sparks) April 28, 2020

― calzino, Tuesday, April 28, 2020 3:14 AM (two days ago)

Funny story, a week or 2 ago I ordered 3 books from his store, real-time inventory indicated all were in stock.

He only sent 1 book and cancelled the other 2, but sent a quasi-friendly email explanation.

One of the cancelations was a signed copy of a book that he shows he still has plenty of non-signed editions available, and he didn't even bother to offer that to me...

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 30 April 2020 17:26 (four weeks ago) link

Too busy tweeting I guess?

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 30 April 2020 17:27 (four weeks ago) link

three weeks pass...

1 item in your Cart has changed price.

Items in your Shopping Cart will always reflect the most recent price displayed on their product detail pages.

All Gates Open: The Story of CAN has increased from $37.60 to $57.71

budo jeru, Sunday, 24 May 2020 13:41 (four days ago) link

fuck you

budo jeru, Sunday, 24 May 2020 13:42 (four days ago) link

i put it in my cart two days ago because i'm trying to figure out how to burn a gift card i received for my birthday. went to check out and sure enough

budo jeru, Sunday, 24 May 2020 13:42 (four days ago) link

i guess it's not a used book

budo jeru, Sunday, 24 May 2020 13:55 (four days ago) link

General impression: buying online, whether from abe or amazon, has gotten much more expensive the past two or three years. There are four or five books I'm holding off on right now because I can't find them cheaper than $50 on either site by the time you add postage and exchange. Seems like I was always able to find something for no more than $20 just a few years ago, no matter how relatively new it was. Not sure if the pandemic will push prices higher or lower--instinct says higher if used stores are further endangered.

clemenza, Sunday, 24 May 2020 14:21 (four days ago) link

back to used:

a frustrating thing is the impossibility to get any specifics about book conditions pretty much across the board at all the secondhand online spots. it's obvious that the GOOD / VERY GOOD designations are purposefully vague and sellers generally can't be bothered to make a note of the imperfections of any specific example of a book for sale. disheartening to send an inquiry and basically always get the same stock response i.e. "i'm at a computer, the books are in a warehouse, my system is showing that this book is in GOOD condition, thanks from The Little Enchanted Treehouse Bookstore in Ann Arbor!" okay so you don't even know if it has the dust jacket, thanks so much. obviously the result of a business model perpetuated by the people you can sometimes spot at estate sales with nothing but a barcode scanner. scum.

can't wait for real bookstores to be open (and for me to feel safe going to them, which will inevitably be later).

also when i do get around to selling off some of my own books i'm going to emphatically do my part to correct this contemptible state of affairs, mark s being a guiding light in this regard

budo jeru, Sunday, 24 May 2020 14:27 (four days ago) link

(My post holds true for used books online too--more expensive every year, and yeah, condition is a bit of a dice roll. Most of what I've ordered has been okay, but I've received supposedly VG books that had pages torn or the binding barely functional.)

clemenza, Sunday, 24 May 2020 16:52 (four days ago) link

yall know any biographies or w/e abt the rare book selling trade? i recently read the michael vinson 'bluffing texas style' abt a texan rare book dealer turned forger/arsonist etc, it was ok but isnt quite what i wanted

johnny crunch, Sunday, 24 May 2020 20:06 (four days ago) link

nothing comes to mind at the moment, although i have a memoir around somewhere by a rare book collector. think it was published in the '70s. i'll post here if i can dig it up.

you might be interested in "dark back of time" by javier marías, which is about a lot of things but antiquarian bookshops / rare (sometimes but not always fake) book searching + collecting plays a major role and it's a very swell read imo.

budo jeru, Sunday, 24 May 2020 22:14 (four days ago) link

thx both sound interesting

johnny crunch, Monday, 25 May 2020 15:15 (three days ago) link

My husband ordered me a copy of Hitchcock's Films Revisited by Robin Wood for my birthday from Amazon Marketplace about six weeks ago now and got a message on his account last week that it "may be lost." First time I've ever had bad experiences with any of these things (I usually go with ABE myself, but Marketplace has never been a problem for me before). Wondering how much longer I should give it before I declare it "definitely lost."

A White, White Gay (cryptosicko), Monday, 25 May 2020 17:24 (three days ago) link

A Pound of Paper by John Baxter is pretty good but UK-focussed, iirc

fetter, Monday, 25 May 2020 17:28 (three days ago) link

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