Book Valuation Gets a Place at the Table
AE Current Value converts old prices into today's values
By Bruce McKinney
I've seen the future and can report it's exciting. Well, this isn't exactly Martin Luther King saying "I've seen the promised land" but it is part of the future of book valuation nevertheless and it is easy, fast and thought provoking. This month we introduce automated current pricing in the AED. For those who have wondered how or why a 1923 auction record is relevant to book valuation today I have only one word to say, HELLO.
For every book that makes the front page of the New York Times as "the long lost copy of ...." that is thought to be worth millions there are in fact millions of books that are interesting but whose values are much harder to understand. For all the books that don't make it to the front page of the Times there is now AE's Adjusted Current Valuation.
Wright Howes, the Chicago bookman, successfully created a flexible grading system 51 years ago and applied it to 10,520 titles in the Americana field in his book collector's guide: Howes' USiana. The beauty of his system was that his valuations were relative and so remained useful even as valuations changed. His book could not account for change in relative valuation but such changes became meaningful only over decades.
This month, in the AED, it now becomes possible to search for specific titles and editions and to select records that simply by selecting GET CURRENT ESTIMATE, immediately adjust all selected priced records to current value, and then average them for a composite current valuation, a generally better indicator of value than any single record. Then, if any records seem inappropriately high or low we provide links to each underlying record and the option to delete such records from the group. You can then recalculate composite value a second time.
This is not going to tell you what your book is precisely worth but it is going to give you a reasonable idea of its value. About 80% of all books will fall within 15% of the median prices. For books at both extremes the estimates will be less accurate but nevertheless helpful. Most people want to know if their book is valuable. This will tell you that.
Book Valuation Gets a Place at the Table
Old books, like old money, need to be translated into today's values
Today there are numerous ways to know what the asking prices of books are and as Mike Stillman has correctly pointed out these are the prices of all the books that have not sold. What we show you are almost a million records of books, manuscripts and ephemera that have sold and we adjust the prices to current value. Now, for the first time, you can obtain a reasonably good idea of what your book is worth using a systematic process that identifies appropriate records, adjusts them to current value and averages them to provide you with a single valuation. Stray and inconsistent records are easily checked and eliminated if inappropriate.
Ultimately a seller may not agree to sell at the historically derived value but there is simply no reason not to know what the market history is. If you don't want to know it before you buy you will in any event learn all about it when you decide to sell. It's called reality. You may well have to pay more to buy material than these projected valuations suggest but you will also feel empowered to buy when the offers are well below what history suggests the real value is. Most booksellers want to sell their books. Some become argumentative if you discuss price but most will listen to an offer. If, in a reasonable amount of time, they believe they'll sell their book for their price they aren't going to discuss any concessions. If not, they will prefer to negotiate rather than lose the chance to sell their book to a knowledgeable buyer. This software helps both buyers and sellers to find the middle ground.
The development of this project has been undertaken by Mike Stillman, evaluated by Jenny McKinney who has already proposed a second version we'll begin work on this summer and implemented by Wei-cheng Chu, our software engineer. It is an important step in the evolution of bookselling on the net.
If you would like to sign up for a week or a month to give this software a work out click here and we'll take you to the sign-up page. A one week sign up is $7.95, a month $14.75, a year $141.60. For years the book business has been all about "asking prices." This is a step toward building the "bid side."