AE Monthly

Articles - January - 2007 Issue

Comparing The Book Finding Sites

Bkfinder

BookFinder lists editions, with individual copies seen by clicking the link.


By Michael Stillman

And you thought there was a proliferation of bookselling websites! There is certainly no shortage of places where a bookseller can go to sell his wares online. It is extensive, perhaps excessive. There are the big name sites, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, eBay and Half.com. There are the big names in pre-owned books (a term borrowed from used car dealers), Abebooks, Alibris, Biblio and Choosebooks/ZVAB. There are European and English sites, such as Antiqbook and Antikbuch24, Bibliophile.net, ibooknet, Livre-rare-book, and Maremagnum. There is the Australian Books and Collectibles, and the Canadian Chapters Indigo. There are the not-as-well-known sites such as Elephant Books, Abooksearch, and A1. Then you have the member sites, such as ILAB, ABAA, IOBA, and Tom Folio. Froogle belongs somewhere in here, though I'm not sure how to classify it. Of course there is even AE's own Books For Sale. There are lots of choices, though sometimes too many choices can lead to confusion.

You might think the solution to the complexity is to have a search engine that searches listings from all of these different sites. There is such a site. In fact, there are way too many of these sites. And while none searches all of the listing sites, there are some that search a great many. The multi-site search engine is a preferred method of search today for many book buyers. However, just when it looked like this might be a less confusing way to find books, we now see a proliferation of these multi-site search engines. You almost need another place to search all of them. Do we really need so many?

We went out and did some search engine searching. Here are some of the mega-search book-finding sites we found. It is in no way guaranteed to be complete. There are undoubtedly more. However, only a few are really useful to the book collector. The majority seem to find new and recent used books, but rarely find the antiquarian or rare books collectors seek. We found only five that are useful for the rare book collector. Many others are fine for those who want books to read.

There appears to be a big three in the listing site search engines, BookFinder, AddAll and FetchBook. It is hard to know for certain how much traffic each site has, but the common wisdom that these are the largest is backed by Alexa's useful though imperfect traffic numbers.

BookFinder is likely the most used of the meta searchers, searching 64 sites, including all of the majors - four versions of Abebooks, five of Amazon, Alibris, Barnes and Noble, Half, Biblio, Choosebooks, plus many smaller sites, non-U.S. sites, the member sites ILAB, IOBA and Tom Folio, and some individual stores. They offer an advanced search with most fields except date. They show estimated shipping costs. Searches are not always speedy, but are thorough. Unlike most sites, they find the older and rare material. BookFinder was recently purchased by Abebooks, but is independently run and scrupulously holds to its objectivity. They show titles of different editions of a book after a search, which are then clicked for individual listings. In other words, listings are shown in a manner reminiscent of Alibris rather than Abe. Link: www.bookfinder.com

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