AE Bibliographic Database Passes 1.5 Million Records
Some recent AED records on early "Lewis and Clark" editions.
By Michael Stillman
The beginning of the new year marked a milestone here at the Americana Exchange. The crown jewel of our services, the Americana Exchange Bibliographic Database ("AED" for short), passed the 1.5 million record threshold. We are impressed by this achievement, as when the AE opened its doors in 2002, the database consisted of just 190,000 records. Of course a few readers, maybe even more than a few readers, may still be wondering "just what is the AE Database anyway?" We are glad you asked (even if you didn't). Hopefully, those of you who do not subscribe to the AED will read this article to see what it is, as someday you too may want to subscribe. There's nothing to lose by learning about it. That way, even if you choose not to subscribe, it will still be an educated decision.
Here, quickly then, is what it was and what it is today. The Americana Exchange Bibliographic Database was intended to be what the name suggests, a database of Americana bibliographies. It started with some of the most important of those, such as Sabin, Evans, Howes' USiana, and most of the very hard to find issues of the American Imprints Inventory. These are still in the AED, but the remaining 1,310,000 records cover a far more vast territory of collecting. We quickly outgrew the moniker "Americana," but once you choose a name, you are more or less stuck with it. Feel free to just call us "AE." That seems to work for "KFC" since they realized having "Fried" as a middle name wasn't such a good idea anymore.
What the AED is today is a collection of 1,500,000 records pertaining to books, manuscripts and ephemera. Some are from traditional bibliographies, but the great majority are now priced records, from auctions and classic booksellers' catalogues. "Priced" is the operative word here, because while standard bibliographies provide important information, the critical piece of data for many collectors and sellers is value. This is necessary data to buy and sell intelligently, yet it can be the most difficult piece of the puzzle to find.
Okay, I can hear some of you saying you can get your values from Abe. If it is a cheap, common title, you are probably right. If there are ten copies available on Abe for $1 each, you can readily estimate its value, confident that you are not off by more than a dollar. However, when it comes to collectible material, Abe pricing can be galaxies removed from reality, presuming the item is even offered on Abe. Often, the prices seen on Abe reflect what a book cannot be sold for, rather than what it can. That's why listings can stay there for an eternity. Anyone who relies on Abe pricing to price their own books for sale needs to be prepared to own them for a very long time. Anyone who relies on Abe pricing alone to purchase a valuable book is out of their mind.
At the heart of today's AED are auction records. The auction is the only true open market, the one place where the market determines a book's value. As anyone with a knowledge of elementary economics can attest, this is a book's monetary value, not some invented, possibly dreamland price pulled from thin air. If you want to know for what price a book is likely to sell in a reasonable amount of time, or what a rational price is to pay for one, there is no better guide than the auction. Sure you may be able to sell for more, you may be willing to pay more, but get too far out of line from the open market price and you are asking for heartbreak.
AE Bibliographic Database Passes 1.5 Million Records
Item detail from one “Lewis and Clark” record.
The AE has been adding auction records from around the globe to the AED since 2002, but 2 1/2 years ago, we began covering virtually every notable book auction worldwide, over 100 auction houses in total. All of their book sales have been entered into the database, be they Americana or anything else. There is no picking and choosing of records to enter. Over 200,000 were entered from 2006 alone. And there is no waiting for year's end to see new prices. Most auction records are entered within days of the auction taking place. This is an always-current resource. What's more, these are not scanned, facsimile records, amenable only to keyword searches. Items such as author, title, description, and year of publication are parsed into separate fields, making it actually possible to find what you seek, rather than being presented with a needle that is still in its haystack.
Along with current auction results, more of which are added practically everyday, the AE contains records for many historical auctions. Among these are auctions of many important collections. These not only provide pricing, but some of the most thorough and quotable descriptions ever written. There is a wealth of bibliographic material within the auction records. Complete descriptions from the auctions are entered into the AED, not abridged descriptions designed to save space, but lacking the full detail.
Now you may find the pricing on older records somewhat "dated." Obviously a 1935 auction price is not indicative of current value, but we've come up with an answer. The AED includes a current price estimator, which converts those old prices into current dollars based on average book appreciation. It may not be as perfect as a recent auction price, not all books appreciating equally, but it does provide a good start, particularly when combined with prices over multiple years.
Along with the auction and bibliographic records you will also find hundreds of thousands of records from classic bookseller catalogues. You can see a momentarily complete (but constantly growing) list of what is in the AED here: click here to see.
So there it is -- a quick primer on the AED. Can the AED help you? Of course it can. Unlike some of our services, such as the search engine for new auction listings, this one does have a price. It isn't very much. Access costs $14.75 per month, or $141.60 for a year. You can give it a test run for a week for $7.95. Compare this to other sources for auction records or bibliographies and it is beyond a bargain; it's a steal. For another $100 per year, you can gain access to a suite of additional services, including the amazing MatchMaker book locator and the right to post books in the search engine friendly, commission-free Books For Sale. We need to charge a little as gathering and posting all of this data doesn't come free to us either, but we believe the AED is one of the greatest deals you will find in the book world. You can sign up here:
Click here to sign up.. And thank you for listening!