May 2010 | Ian J. Kahn

An alternative list of the Top 20 Sites for Book Collectors:

Bookride recently posted a list of the "Top 20 Sites for Book Collectors". On the plus side, the post made me think about the Top 20 sites for book collectors...on the not-so plus side, I really didn't think much of the list. It is certainly a list of 20 sites that book collectors should be aware of...but I just can't begin to think of it as the "Top 20". I thought I would offer an alternative. Additions, alternative, derisive comments are welcome. Loosely grouped, but in no particular order:
  1. The Private Library: All others in this list are little more than footnotes to this first-and every other site listed is included in TPL's link lists. Truly, if you are a bibliophile, this is one of the sites you *must* bookmark. Personally, I find his blog interesting and engaging, but even if it is not for you the archive of research sites, biblio-blogs, online resources, etc is *far and away* the greatest compilation of such material available. Expect to lose several hours poking about on your first foray in and around the site.
  2. ABAA: The home of the Antiquarian Bookseller's Association of America. Interesting and useful articles and resources. ABAA has partnered with to make members holding searchable though the site...such listing have the best signal to noise ratio. Also included information regarding major fairs in the US.
  3. ILAB: The home of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Like the ABAA site, only international. Great content and frequently updated. You can search members books here too (this includes US ABAA members and ILAB member worldwide)...again, extremely good signal to noise ratio. Also includes major fair information world-wide.
  4. IOBA: The home of the Independent Online Booksellers Association. A trade group for non-publically traded online booksellers. There is some useful information at the site and the ability to search members' books. While membership does note carry the weight that ABAA/ILAB membership does, they do have a code of ethics and standards...a first step that is certainly not found in all venues (looking at you, ebay).
  5. Library of Congress: I can not overstate how important the LC and its site can be. It is a *tremendous* research resource that is greatly underutilized by most. Name your book, topic, genre, and/or area of interest and it is there.
  6. Bodleian Library: Like the LC, simply a tremendous research and exploration sight.
  7. LibraryThing: A social networking site for bibliophiles. You can list your collection(s) and find those who share interests easily... Great forums, passionate book lovers.
  8. Hyraxia: Though not the easiest name to roll off one's tongue, a great site for the collector and/or book lover. Strong posts and resources. An interesting and evolving bibliophilic site.
  9. Facebook: FB has emerged recently as an interesting place for the bookishly inclined. Searching "Pages" for the author, genre, book, character, etc. will generally find you more similarly afflicted/interested people than you could possibly want. In recent months a remarkable number of good to great book sellers have also emerged at FB and can be great fun to chat with and/or watch from afar.
  10. Twitter: Like FB, Twitter is a bit of a surprise to be included. However, there are a *lot* of interesting bookish people active on Twitter (librarians, archivists, collectors, readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, etc.). Use one or more of the filtering services to get an idea (e.g. go to and search for booksellers, books, librarians, or whatever else might resonate.) Alternatively, find a twitterer you like and see if they have a "biblio" list...a nice shortcut to find interesting people.
  11. This is my first stop when I am looking for a book. Privately held and run by a great and passionate groups, the quality of the sellers/books seems to be better than some of the larger aggregators. UI is clean and efficient. Bonus in that they partnered with the ABAA in creating the ABAA vendor site. They do good works, too (opening libraries in S. America). Forums can be interesting and useful to the emerging book collector...pick and choose carefully.
  12. The biggest of the large aggregators, if doesn't serve me what I need, this is my second stop. There is no question they have a deeper pool of dealers with the noted caveat that the term "dealer" is somewhat looser. Expect a low signal to noise ratio on common-uncommon material...
  13. A smaller aggregator that is a "bookseller co-op". They have a knowledgeable pool of sellers and a fair bit of interesting and useful reference materials.
  14. I went back and forth including Amazon, as I really do not think of them much in terms of a great site "for book collectors"...that said, they are a great site for people who want to buy books. Period. There is no doubt that they have a stunning selection of new material and an increasingly deep offering of "used and rare". They have made noise of late that they are creating a venue for "rare and collectible" material (N.B. they own and that may well evolve into something interesting. However, their passion to commoditize everything runs *directly* in conflict with good/serious/honest fine book standards and practices. It is increasingly difficult to properly describe "unique" copies, you can not provide scholarly links in descriptions, and they have made it difficult to communicate directly with the book sellers. They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but they move a lot of books...
  15. An aggregator of aggregators. You can search on BF to search all the major selling venues at once. N.B. A number of other sites do this as well, though this has always seemed to have the cleanest/least offensive UI.
  16. Private Libraries Association: An association comprised of collectors, based in the UK, but with chapters worldwide. Recommended.
  17. The Grolier Club: The largest bibliophilic club in the US. Great exhibits and resources. Do *not* miss an opportunity to stop by the house when you are next in NYC. [N.B. Most states/large cities have bibliophilic clubs (e.g. Maine's Baxter Society). Find one near you and is great fun to get together with the similarly afflicted.]
  18. Rare Book School: RBS has some good material online but, most importantly, GO THERE. I can not tell you how important/useful/interesting classes at RBS can be. Scholarships are available. You learn good things and get to spend time with collectors, dealers, and librarians.
  19. Americana Exchange: A very strong collection of resources and a finger on the pulse of the book auction scene.
  20. Fine Books and Collections Magazine: Far and away the best journal for the book scene currently in print. They do quarterly paper editions, but the site is frequently updated and is data rich for any lover of books. Subscribe to the print edition, frequent the site, read the email newsletter, follow the blog. The other *must bookmark*.
So there you are. 20 of the best websites for book collectors. Obviously, there are many other good sites. There are many great library sites (British Library, Folger's, Lilly, etc). There are also other retail/aggregator sites (addall, alibris, choosebooks,, etc)...even (sorry, just can't link). [N.B. the signal to noise level at some of these can be extremely low...tons of crap/POD copies cluttering search strings to outright fraud/forgery. ebay is the extreme can finds some great things if you've the time and patience...and you can find a tremendous amount of fraudulent/stolen material. The key when buying "well" is dealing with a bookdealer you can trust...if you do not know them personally, trade group membership is a good starting bar. Buyer, as always, beware.]

I did not include biblio-blogs, of which there are myriad. These tend to be personal choices/interests...most keep interesting blogrolls so you can explore as you see fit. Some of my favorites include: Frognall Dibdin's Shelves, FoggyGates, Sarah's Books, Biblioblography, BookPatrol, BookTryst, Fine Books Blog, and Philobiblos...and of course, Lux Mentis, Lux Orbis. Feel free to add other's below. Teach me something I do not know...that is a deep well...