Buying Rare Books Online

Buying Rare Books Online

Many assume that the internet has made it easier for collectors to find the books they want. Not so! It has made clear what is available in the marketplace, but the online marketplace is a quagmire! Online, one description might seem more appealing than another because the bibliographical description is similar, but the price is not. Collectors must wade carefully through numerous listings of the same book to make sure that what is being offered is the copy that they actually want. Then, they must determine if the dealer offering the book has the knowledge and expertise gained through handling MANY copies of a book to assess that book’s condition and edition.

These changes, to dealers and collectors alike, have blurred the lines that define a “dealer” and also what constitutes a “collectible” book. (Even the most basic definition of a “book” has been challenged with the widespread use of tablets.) When someone copies descriptions of books from an experienced dealer and then lists those books for sale on line, does that person qualify as a dealer? Is a former library copy of a book collectible if copies repeatedly sell for substantial sums of money even when a better copy is easily found? Should the 30th printing of a book that is technically still a first edition be described as a first edition? Should a legitimate dealer refuse to accept returns for any reason? We say an emphatic “NO” to all three questions.

The impersonal nature of online transactions means that a buyer can spend significant money on books that are not what they are not what they thought them to be, but this discrepancy may only come to light when the collector tries to sell his or her books later on. All of these issues are meant to remind the collectors of the 100 Important Children's Books List as a buying guide. Further, it is more important than ever to know your dealer.