Online demand boosts market for rarest books, expert says

Mon Jun 3, 2013 6:28am EDT
 
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By Nigel Stephenson

HAY-ON-WYE, Wales (Reuters) - Prices of the rarest books are rising as the Internet drives the trade off dusty shelves and into the digital age, a leading expert said this weekend.

Matthew Haley, head of the books, manuscripts and photographs department at auction house Bonhams in London, said the rise of online catalogues and aggregators of booksellers' stock meant more collectors were aware when a rare find came on the market.

"More people can find it and there is only one of them around," he told an audience at the Hay Festival, adding this was pushing prices of the rare and the one-off higher.

At the same time, demand was growing for what he termed "quirkiana" or books on specialist, niche topics.

"We see that the mid-rank is really the struggling area of the market, which in our terms would be books between 100 pounds and a thousand," Haley said.

Into this category he put books that, while rare, were not unique, and modern first editions as potential purchasers could scour the web for other examples more easily than in the past.

With prices rising at the top and bottom of the market but easing in the middle, the overall value of the market was holding at up to $600 million a year, he said.

Haley said the outlook for second-hand bookshops, which he said were closing "at a tremendous rate", was not good.   Continued...

 
A commuter reads on his Kindle e-reader as a subway train arrives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder