Vialibri now searching Getman’s Virtual Book Fairs

Attentive users may have noticed that we recently added another new source for items to be included when searching for books and ephemera on viaLibri.   We were already searching 160 different sources, and are always looking for more, so in January we again added to the count and began including books and ephemera from Getman’s Virtual Book Fairs –  the oldest, largest and best known virtual book fair platform.  

I’m confident that our customers will be pleased to find these books now included in their results when they search for them manually. 

This will be especially good news if you are among the many viaLibri users who let the Libribot automate searching for the items listed on their want lists. 

As we all know, when a virtual book fair opens its imaginary doors there is always a virtual rush to find and claim all the choicest items first.  That can be difficult if you have a variety of interests and wants, all of which need to be searched for separately, one after the other. With a Getman virtual fair, however, viaLibri  can do the searching for you and then email you a notification when matches have been found.  The Libribot does all the work for you before the doors open.

This will also be good news for the exhibitors. viaLibri has over 160,000 active wants.  All of them will be matched against the items in each new Getman’s Virtual Book Fair and then continue to be included in active viaLibri searches until the fair is closed on Sunday.

The next opportunity for all this to happen will be the Greenwich Village Virtual Antiquarian Book and Ephemera Fair, open to everyone on Saturday February 24th at 12 noon ET.  A paid charity preview will also take place on Friday at 12 noon.

Our thoughts on Virtual Book Fairs

It has not gone unnoticed that this summer has marked three full years since the first virtual book fairs suddenly arrived on the bookselling scene and attempted to fill the vacuum created by COVID 19. At that time there was widespread concern within the book trade that the resulting universal closure of book fairs would bring in its wake the end of bookselling as we knew it. Much panic and moaning inevitably ensued.

In retrospect we can see that the COVID-related anxieties of June 2020 proved to be a bit inflated, at least with regard to antiquarian booksellers. There is, of course, no published statistical data on the subject. Looking at our own data, along with the anecdotal information we were receiving from others, tells me that the first year or two of lockdown was, in fact, profitable for many and manageable for most.

This pleasant surprise was due, I think, to the fact that while nearly everyone we knew had little or no trouble imagining the likely disastrous outcomes that would result from cancelling the fairs, few had yet anticipated the many good things that would occur when all the complications and constraints of physical book fairs were removed and alternative events arrived to take their place. It did not take them long to do so.

In the beginning the tactile and olfactory pleasures of handling old books were regularly cited as an essential feature of bibliophily. These are, of course, fine things and no one denies them, but the opportunities for appreciating them is restricted to those lucky collectors who are fortunate enough to find themselves regularly within travel distance of the locations where traditional book fairs regularly take place.

For booksellers who regularly exhibit at book fairs, geography also places constraints. To sell books you must travel. For the smaller fairs there is loading and unloading; packing and unpacking; petrol and, as often as not, a rented place to sleep. For the large international fairs convenient hotels are expensive while the merchandise will usually need to be shipped globally at an ever mounting cost.

In other words, physical book fairs are expensive, not to mention a lot of work. But in spite of it all, they were almost always popular, and even profitable – bearing in mind, of course, that many exhibitors are there mostly because of the opportunities to buy rather than sell.

Before COVID, all of this was taken for granted. Once the closures and quarantines had begun many collectors and dealers cautiously turned their attention to the internet where they soon began to notice that there were definite benefits to hunting for books online.

Librarians and archivists were especially responsive to the benefits of virtual fairs. They rarely have the time or budget for the kind of travel that regularly attending live book fairs requires. None of these restraints apply when the book fair is taking place right on your desk, or wherever it is that your other professional obligations may require you to be.

Of course, this applies to collectors as well. They have their own set of frustrations. Among these is the awareness that, while the retail customers are patiently waiting outside for the doors to open, the exhibitors inside have already been busy buying and trading for hours, if not days. I don’t fault them for this. The time required to unpack and prepare one’s booth makes it unavoidable. But it does give the insiders a tactical advantage over those who must wait patiently for the doors to open before they can begin.

There is much else that can be said on this topic. Shortly after the first wave of virtual book fairs went online in June of 2020 I published a blog post on this subject (https://blog.vialibri.net/did-you-go-virtual/). I was curious to hear from our users whether or not they were happy with this sudden innovation and so solicited their opinions about what had just taken place. I was also curious to hear what suggestions they might have to offer regarding what they would like to see when next era of virtuality has arrived.

I think that this time has now definitely come. I don’t have an official count showing how many virtual fairs are currently taking place, but what statistics I do see all show that attendance at individual digital fairs is significantly larger than at comparable live events. This is certainly the case in the U.S. and I expect that the trend will continue in other places as well.

We now have more than three years of experience with virtual fairs built on a variety of digital platforms.I cannot help being curious to know what an updated survey would tell us about how our users now feel about the current state of digital bookselling and the future direction they would like to see it take.

But I must confess that I am motivated here by more than mere curiosity. If, as I believe, online virtual events will be an increasingly crucial part of antiquarian bookselling in the future then this is something that viaLibri will want to participate in. And we have plans to do just that. As you may guess, this is an important motive behind soliciting input from our users today.

If you are like us and have your own ideas about what the next transformation of internet bookselling should look like then please share your thoughts with us here.

The early history of Online Bibliographical Tools and Marketplaces.

Anyone with an interest in the role of antiquarian bookselling  in relation to the broader study of  rare  books, bibliography, and early printing will want to read an article recently  published by Fabrizio Govi in the Italian scholarly journal TECA entitled “Online Bibliographical Tools for the Antiquarian Book Trade.  Their History, Use and Impact.”

A well established and highly respected Italian bookseller from Modena, Govi  explores his subject broadly from both economical  and historical perspectives.  As the origins of online antiquarian bookselling slip further into memory the latter of these has become increasingly of interest, at least to me.

Sharing that interest, Govi began his research by identifying 17 different international websites that have focused primarily on the used and rare book market. He then attempted to contact  all of them to request information about how they started and what information they might offer about the online book market as it exists today.  Only three of these chose to respond.  Nevertheless, Govi was able to dig through a variety of primary and secondary sources to  compile a significant amount of interesting data on the origins of the antiquarian market and how it became what it is today. He tells me that what he has just published is only a preliminary study.  I’m encouraged that there  could be even more to come.

You will find the article here:

https://teca.unibo.it/article/view/14345/14505

ViaLibri Redesign Goes Live

We are finally ready to launch our newly redesigned website. It’s time to celebrate at last.

We hope you will like our new look and feel, but appearance is probably among the least important changes we have made. Alasdair has added many useful and unique features that I’m sure will make your book hunting both easier and more productive. Among them we hope you will be pleased to discover the following:

  • Our site is now mobile friendly and easy to navigate across the full range of devices from smart phones to desktops.
  • We have added a sidebar to the left-hand column of the search results page that lets you examine and filter the data received in your search results. This provides a distribution breakdown for location; sources; first editions; signed, and dust jacketed copies; PODs; ISBNs and illustrated items. Use these to create refined and targeted results when initial results are too numerous to read to the end.
  • Searches can be limited to books shipped from specific countries only. Multiple countries can be selected, but if only a limited number of satisfactory results are returned from your home country you can try looking elsewhere guided by the totals shown in the sidebar .
  • Our popular library search tool has been updated to allow users to mark their most frequently used catalogues and automatically group them at the top of the list.
  • Browsers can limit their searches to illustrated items only.
  • Timed online book auctions are now also being included in searches.  At present this is limited to eBay and Catawiki, but we expect to be adding other auctions in the future. Libribot will start searching those auctions soon.
  • We can now block from all your search results any booksellers you may wish to exclude. Clicking on the round “stop” symbol next to the dealer’s name is all you need to do.  We are also often able to recognise when one bookseller is listing the same books using different names.  In that case we will consolidate the multiple listings under a single name, and if you choose to exclude one of those sellers then we will exclude them all.
  • On our home page we now have a simple search form (author, title, keyword) as well as our usual advanced form that includes over 20+ filtering options.
  • We now have a flexible selection tool that simplifies several bulk operations including Libribot and clipboard management, special list creation, social media sharing, search result pruning and social media sharing.

This is only a partial list of the new features and improvements that are being introduced today.  If you want to explore even further how to make the most of viaLibri we suggest that you try reading the lengthy search help pages that have also been updated to accompany our redesign.  You will find them here:

https://www.vialibri.net/content/search-help

And more exciting things are on the way. In the future we plan to continue adding new features as they are developed rather than waiting to group them together in a single major update, as we are doing today.  Going forward, we plan to always have some new feature or upgrade in the works.  The “beta” badge you see next to our logo reflects that. We will probably remove the badge before too long, but the condition it refers to should be perpetual. And for the substance of that future content we hope that the valuable suggestions and feedback we have always received from our users in the past will also be perpetual.  The newly redesigned website you see today has come from there.

A new look for viaLibri

For at least a couple of years now we have been hard at work building a new and improved version of viaLibri. That task is now nearly done.

A section of the home page can be seen above. All that remains is a bit more “beta testing” as we track down any elusive bugs and gather still more helpful feedback from our valued customers, colleagues and friends.

So, if you are at all curious to see what the new incarnation of viaLibri looks like then please visit our beta site and have a look for yourself.

https://beta.vialibri.net

Finishing touches are still being worked on, so please forgive any faults you discover. If you do notice anything buggy we hope you will alert us to it.

You will find a contact link among the other features now gathered at the bottom of each page.

Likewise, if you find that there are new features whose behaviour you believe could be improved then we will be happy to hear from you about them. There may not be time enough to include them in the current release, but the next to-do list list has already been started.

You don’t need to do anything special when you arrive, but if you want to try out all our new features we recommend that you start by logging in to your existing account. Your clipboard, Libribot matches, want lists, and other personalised data and settings will still be available as they are now. For the immediate future you will be free to switch back and forth between the old and the new. Nothing will be lost. But once you have become comfortable with our changes we hope you won’t want to stay in the past any longer than necessary. But don’t worry. The final transition will be finished very soon.

COVID-19 And The Rare Book Trade – ILAB Webinar

The ILAB has organised a ZOOM webinar for members of the worldwide book trade to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on their business now and in the future

Lead by a panel of 7 prominent international booksellers,  the event is scheduled for 2pm London time on Thursday April 9 and will be open to everyone via the internet conferencing platform “Zoom.”

Details about the program and how to participate will be found here:

https://ilab.org/articles/rare-book-trade-invited-ilab-webinar

 

Women and Work


The Grolier Club recently hosted an important bibliographic exhibition entitled “Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection.” The collection focuses on early and rare books demonstrating the under-appreciated activities of working women in all areas and periods. Baskin gave a fascinating talk on her collection which can be viewed using the link above. It is well worth the time.

While the exhibition was taking place Baskin also lead several walking tours of 170 selected books from her collection that were on display. Those tours have now ended, but we can thank the Grolier club for also recording a video of one of them and making it available to all of us via Vimeo.

We can also highly recommend the illustrated catalogue that was published to accompany the exhibition, which had been held previously at its home in the David M. Rubenstein Library at Duke University. You can buy it here:

 

Heathrow Rare Book Theft: 15 Arrests Announced

After more than two years, it appears that the astonishing Heathrow warehouse rare book theft may finally be solved.  According to press releases from Europol and Eurojust, 15 criminals from a major Roumanian crime syndicate were arrested yesterday.  Details are posted here:

Eurojust Press Release.

Europol Press Release.

Great news, although the authorities have not yet said anything about recovery.

When Libribot Finds Too Many Books

Are you getting more Libribot matches than you really want?

This is not a problem we expected, but we have, in fact, recently received a handful of emails with requests from users who were unhappy because they were getting too many matches. The source of their discontent: eBay.

This is not, of course, the majority view. Since we started including eBay in our searches last summer we have received many appreciative emails from regular users thanking us for this expansion.  I was, frankly, surprised at how enthusiastic the response was. The number of clicks, and purchases, has, as a result, significantly increased.

While the addition of eBay was applied generally, it is the Libribot matches that have, in particular, increased. While most of our Libribot users have been happy with this, two or three have written to complain about getting too may matches and that eBay was the primary source of their surfeit.  These particular users told us they hardly ever find what they are looking for on eBay and wanted to know if there was some way to eliminate all the eBay items from their Libribot search results.  When they wrote to us about this our answer, unfortunately, was “no.”

But we hate having “no” for an answer (Al especially).   So we (mostly Al) pushed this forward on the to-do list. We have now added another  new feature that provides check boxes for all the sites that Libribot can search. If you don’t want books from a given site (or sites) all you have to do is go to your Account Details page and uncheck its box.  It will look like this:

Unchecking the box for an individual site will tell Libribot to ignore that site when it is searching for books on your want list.  It will not, however, have any effect on the conventional searches you make using the home page form.  The way that works has not been changed.

You also need to be aware that this Libribot site exclusion will apply to all your wants.  If you only want to exclude a site from searching some of your more fertile wants, but still want to leave that site active in searches for other rarer items, then you need to do something else.

You may already be familiar with the exclusion filters that prevent matches on books that include specified keywords.  The same filters will also work with the names of bookselling sites.  For example, if you want to exclude eBay matches from your searches then all you need to do is put [ebay] into the keywords field of the Libribot search form.  This will exclude everything that has the word “ebay” anywhere in the description, including the name of the site where the item is for sale. You will have to do this individually for each of the permanent wants you have saved to your Wants Manager. If you have a large number of wants then this could take a long time.  However, if you are like most users with multiple wants you probably find that it is only a small portion of those wants that produced a large volume of unwanted results.  If you set up an exclusion for just those wants you will probably find that your results become quite manageable and you can leave the rarer items unchanged.

However, if you are certain you never want to see any books that are for sale on eBay then you can simply put [ebay] into the “Keyword Filters” box on your Account Details page.  This will prevent eBay matches being made not only by Libribot, but by all the one-off searches you may make manually from the home page.

Of course, these techniques are not limited to eBay.  You can use them to create an exclusion filter for most of the sites we search.  Most, but not all.  For example, using [bibliophile] as a keyword exclusion will filter out all the books from the bookselling site with that name, but it will also exclude all the books where the word “bibliophile” appears as part of the title or description. This might filter out items you actually want.  There are several sites where some caution may be necessary.

We think this new feature will be helpful for many of you.  More are in the pipeline.  If you have any suggestions for other additions please let us know.

Who Owned This? – THE MOVIE

Provenance Meets Big Data – Do they have a future together? by Jim Hinck from The Grolier Club on Vimeo.

If you regret having missed last month’s “Who Owned This?” symposium  at the Grolier Club you can now see the video version that has just been published to Vimeo.

A link to my own contribution is shown above while the full program can be accessed here: