The New AE - Coming to a Computer Near You
Search and Sign-in on every page
By Bruce McKinney
In a few days we'll release the next generation of the site you are on today. It is a complex undertaking, the integration of many services that reflect our sense of what an up-to-date web-site for books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera logically combines. At its heart it is our commitment to a unified market where knowledge is concentrated and buyers and sellers efficiently find each other. To accomplish this we employ triangulated searches. It is what we think the world of rare books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera will rely on. It is efficient and seeks to set the table for purchases and bids by reducing uncertainty. It does not set prices but does provide current estimates and within the month probability of reappearance calculations. During the downturn we have seen no lessening of interest, only rising uncertainty as to fair market value. This approach is our best effort at restoring confidence and increasing efficiency for a field that deserves broad support and has been the victim of balkanization for years.
The most significant changes in the new AE focus on 'integrated search.' The AED, our largest database, Books for Sale and lots in upcoming auctions are now simultaneously searched. In the database you choose, as the results appear, you also see the number of results in the other databases. New York finds 350,879 records in 3 seconds in the AED. It also finds 223,302 results in Books for Sale and 139 in upcoming auctions in the same 3 seconds. Every search brings up parallel results.
The site itself has been to the doctor. For the community at large there is AE Monthly which sports a new look. For those who sell books there is Books for Sale which becomes more effective in the triangulated search environment. For those who seek material as it emerges on the net there is Matchmaker. Because many people periodically use some or all of these services they are combined. Members, from free to premium, have access to what they need. Subscription prices remain the same: research $185, Octavo $340, Folio $525. Visitors may try out the site for 10 or 30 days for $15 or $22.50. As well the list of free services continues to increase.
The changes we introduce this month represent our strongest effort to date to capture the lightning bug at sunset. The entire field is a moving target; need, requirement, technology, capability and expectation a witches brew of possibilities. This is not the book business of a generation ago, it's not even the book business of a year ago. In truth the book business of twenty years ago had more in common with bookselling a hundred years ago than it does with book selling today. The field changes, the rate of change increases. The deus ex machina is the micro processor that makes it possible to organize complex information instantly. There has always been interest in book history, hence the many books, pricing guides, bibliographies, and catalogued collections that together, for generations, created the patchwork quilt of information and references that supported research and collecting across the printed universe. Increasingly though these resources are merged. In the AED we are approaching 300 sources and soon enough 3 million records with each search in some sense an up-to-the minute custom bibliography reflecting most of what is known and a selection of what's currently available. We have come that far.
The New AE - Coming to a Computer Near You
Every search: 3 results
Experience and personal judgment will still be determining but the collector, institution and dealer lucky enough to have great material is going to have more choices and an easier time to establish value and find the person on the other side of a potential transaction because of the triangulated database approach. The book business has become a group of mammoths that have functioned along the continuum of from fair to fabulous but both current collectors increasingly and new collectors generally will expect all books, as spectacular and interesting as they are, to make economic sense while instilling rapture. It's simply that kind of world. I love you but may I also inspect your teeth.
The approach we take is to offer 2.8 million full text auction records in the presence and context of on average 10,000 items up for consideration at auction and 1 to 2 million mostly collectible items in books for sale. A search of any one database brings up the results of the same search in the other databases. A search of the AED unearths copies in Books for Sale. A copy in Books for Sale triggers matches both in upcoming auctions and the AED. Never mind signing in. We'll tell how many results we have simply because you ask. In tests with beta testers there are two kinds of searches; the very large and the very small. A search for London finds 530,682 records in the AED, 115,883 in Books for Sale, 237 at auction while Hill's Profitable Instruction finds, in the blink of an eye, 1 copy at auction, none in BFS and 4 records in the AED. A search for maps finds 317,770 records in the AED, 30,289 in Books for Sale, 44 in upcoming auctions. Medicine finds 4 records in upcoming auctions, 12,198 records in Books for Sale and 64,669 in the AED. Proust finds 2 records in upcoming auctions, 254 in Books for Sale, 5,505 in the AED; valentine 3 in upcoming auctions, 872 in Books for Sale, 3,440 in the AED. In other words almost every search provides substantial results. If you misspell your search term we'll even offer alternatives. Toward the end of the month we'll add tracking. That is, if you see an item or items of interest we'll provide a "click to follow." If in an upcoming sale you'll have the option to be emailed the result. Alternatively you can select "continue to follow" and we'll then notify you if/when future copies are posted either to auction or to Books for Sale.
To facilitate identification we'll begin to add a number in a circle (-9-) next to titles in the AED that are followed. Then if that item is posted at auction or to Books for Sale we'll notify each tracking account as well as the auction or dealer posting - that (-9-) notices were sent. We will not disclose the identity of those tracking but of course if they show up on your electronic doorstep at 9:00 am on the morning matches are released you'll know why. We are determined to make the market efficient.
In time we hope to match buyers every day with the material they want. It's a free service.
Overall the updates are a chance for the market to coalesce around an information based approach to collecting. In time, under the gathering penumbra of ever more expressions of interest, we hope to encourage a new generation of collectors to interact with the history of books, auctions in the present, and dealers' listings on demand - all to encourage collecting. The field will prosper as the methodologies transform.
For the entire field this is an important moment. We expect to release within the week. As we release we'll send out an announcement.