Monday, March 14, 2011

The Naval Chronicle, complete in 40 volumes. An immaculate set. More information at the end of the bloviation.

So there I was, sitting at the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair trying to stay awake long enough to collate my splendid set of The Naval Chronicle, when a woman named Karin Bergasel came up and introduced herself. She’d been a student at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar the year before I’d taught there. In fact, she said, she’d written an article about it for an Internet bookseller’s newsletter called Bookthink.

We got to talking and I learned that she was a bookseller too, having been forced to figure out how to make a living when a tragedy thrust her into the role of breadwinner for her family. Bookselling is not the trade I’d take up if I were forced to make a living, so I was impressed to learn that she was actually making a go of it.

Her path was a little different, though. In fact her whole world was different than mine.

She is strictly an Internet bookseller. Sells all her books on Amazon. Doesn’t have a store or an office. Doesn’t do shows. Doesn’t even have many books at home, because she uses Amazon’s fulfillment service, FBA, at about the same cost Advanced Book Exchange (another big online book database) charges me to sell books that I have to store on my own dime.

Karin is also the head of IOBA, the Independent Online Booksellers Association. This is an association whose mission is to educate booksellers about the ethics and standards of the trade, and to provide bibliographic information, networking, and a sales venue for Internet booksellers. You join IOBA and you get the benefit of their mentoring and other resources. In return, you agree to abide by their Code of Ethics which presents a succinct summary of how honest booksellers should ply their trade.

Karin told me that Ken Karmiole had told her to look me up and educate me about IOBA. Karmiole is the dean of our trade, and a very successful bookseller. It seemed surprising at first that this purveyor of six-figure tomes should have an interest in an organization whose members sell used text books and other volumes in the two and three figure price range. But then the light went on.

My wise old friend Karmiole didn’t get where he is by taking the short view. He grasped immediately that IOBA and ancillary resources like Bookthink are training grounds for booksellers of the future. In the old days, book stores performed that function. Now that the influence of book stores is diminishing, we need IOBA more than ever. The more educated booksellers become, the better they’ll be at representing their product and their trade. The better they and their products look, the more their customers – the end buyers of the product – will trust them. The more trust there is, the more comfortable they'll be transacting business over the Internet.

This is vitally important for all of us, at the high end or the low end. Every time I hear someone ask if I provide a “Certificate of Authenticity,” or balk at proving credit card info, I cringe. There’s another potential customer some bookseller has failed to educate. To be able to provide this education, the bookseller must be educated as well.

Touching on this point Karin later wrote in an email to me, “Our mission is to ensure that the traditions and standards of the trade are maintained in the virtual world of today’s online booksellers. Joining IOBA is often a first step for dealers who are working up to ABAA, and so we especially like to have established ABAA members, like you, join us... I'm also of course writing to say that I hope you will look into joining IOBA, the Independent Online Booksellers Association.”

Think I’ll do that right now. If IOBA is good enough for Karmiole, it’s good enough for me.

While I’m signing up you can read about The Naval Chronicle.

THE NAVAL CHRONICLE, VOL I - VOL XL. Lon. 1799-1818. b/w engraved portraits, views, vignettes and maps, some folding. Various paginations, about 20,000 pp. in total. The Naval Chronicle is THE source for contemporary reports of the affairs of the Royal Navy during the period from the Napoleonic Wars to the War of 1812. It was published in London twice a year between 1799 and 1818. First-person accounts were contributed by officers as illustrious as Nelson, and biographies of fascinating characters like Cochrane were a staple. In addition the thousands of pages of this journal contain a wealth of historical nuggets and recondite facts. Typical issues featured lists of vessels captured and wrecked, promotions, accounts of battles, biographical sketches, articles on technological advances, and tidbits of naval gossip, as well as copper engraved portraits of officers, views of foreign ports, and charts of harbors and battles. It was a major source for Patrick O’Brian in writing his Aubrey-Maturin series. This is a complete set, handsomely and solidly bound in half mottled calf over marbled boards with gilt spine decoration and spine labels. Plates and maps in this set correspond to the lists of plates bound in each volume. Specifically, there are 416 copper engraved portraits and views, 88 maps and charts (eight folding), and over 60 wood engraved vignettes after drawings by artists such as Pocock. Plates and text are clean and fresh, Forty volumes, complete. $15000

Next week - A report from the Annual Ephemera Society show in Greenwich, CT - where paper is king!

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