Search Engines for Rare Books: Discovering an Antique Books Value

This is Part 2 of a look at some book search engines.

Part 1: The rare book search engine test

While there is no absolute method to determine an antique books value, search engines make the process easier. But what do we know about the business behind book-locating services? If you’ve ever used their services, you know that they all show current pricing for a manuscript from a particular set of sellers. Yawn, that’s sort of the definition. And you can deduce from that using the service allows sellers to determine a pricing spectrum for their book. Or if you’re a buyer, you can find a lowest price for the specific manuscript from different sellers. Okay, now splash some water in your face and rub those eyes, because this is a glimpse into some more interesting facts about the antique book search engines (and/or for rare books):

Established 14 years ago.

Acquired by August 2008.

Particularly popular in Sacramento and London, though 52% of its traffic comes from the United States. The second most frequent nationality of visitors is Australians. is based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, but operates in other global locations as well. Most books listed are used books and many are rare or out- of-print. However, Abebooks was acquired by Amazon in 2008 and not surprisingly, an increasing number of their titles are new.

AbeBooks allows users to search the listings of a wide range of independent bookstores. The positive side of this service means that the smaller independent sellers can compete directly with the superstores. Of the sellers who use Abebooks, some members offer their books exclusively online, but others operate brick and mortar stores as well.

“Booksellers pay a monthly subscription to list their books with, ranging from 25 to 300 USD, depending on how many books they list. In addition, sellers pay a percentage fee for each book sold via the websites.”

While by far the most popular site for determining antique book values, critics of claim that they do not monitor their sellers and leave consumers prone to fraud.


antique book search
Geneva Bible photo source: Liam Quinn/From Old Books

Established 64 years ago.

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers includes 20 National

Associations of rare books sellers in 30 countries, and nearly 2000 leading booksellers throughout the world. The League maintains a code of ethics and an unparalleled degree of elitism.

Established 12 years ago.

This site include is immensely popular among childless woman with college degrees over the age of 45. Visitors to are distinguished as very loyal patrons who spend a significant amount of time on the site.

AddALL is also most notably a free service, which was constructed by book buyers for book buyers and appears to capitalize on its grassroots appeal. As AddALL is an independent and impartial web site, not owned by any bookstore, their objectivity inspires consistent patronage among their book buyer demographic; however, it is also likely that most of its patrons are librarians developing collections with low cost books, because it’s actual collection of rare books fails to impress serious collectors.

Established 13 years ago.

Certainly more popular than, draws a large number of visitors without inspiring the deep patronage experienced by A name like “” alone probably accounts for the greater percentage of its online traffic. searches over 150 million books for sale—new, used, rare, out- of-print, and even textbooks and it claims to draw from every major catalog online.

antique books value
(Morris, Picturesque Views/ Quinn -

Unfortunately, when a title such as “The Old Man and the Sea” + “First Edition” is searched, the results produced only 1 of the 270 items found with the same search from the other catalog, which in this example was Despite the limited number of copies, the search does produce results from a wide range of other catalogs, though it is not clear what use this may be to book collectors. was begun by a 19-year-old UC Berkeley undergraduate named Anirvan Chatterjee.

“Whether you collect rare books or buy cheap paperbacks to read on the train, we think you will appreciate our breadth, precision, and unbiased results.”

Critics of this search engine say that the independent verses corporate issue is primarily a marketing ploy that masks weak service. In many ways,

attempts to bridge the gap between the righteously independent search engine like and the faceless corporate search engine

Established in 2000 as a price comparison engine which then became and was the fastest “metasearch” site for books for several years… is worth mentioning. Its visitor statistics are very similar to, but with twice the popularity skewed toward a Caucasian demographic according to Alexa. Rare book collectors might want to note that the keyword “textbook” features prominently in their keyword list, too, though they do conduct rare book auctions.

“Booksellers list their inventories on which in turn offers the books on its retail website, a separate library services site, and business to business partners such as Barnes & Noble, Borders Books, Books-A-Million, and Chapters Indigo. It offers more than 70 million books from a network of over 10,000 booksellers in 65 countries.”

An interview of by Michael Tokeman.

While this is only a brief overview of some of the more well know search engines for determining antique book values, there are many more. Please feel free to comment if you have experience with these or any other antique books search engines… either positive or negative.

By Carrie Bailey

images from Liam Quinn/ From Old Books

9 thoughts on “Search Engines for Rare Books: Discovering an Antique Books Value”

  1. That’s an interesting article. My husbands tries to locate books by his ancestors (Edmund Caldwell and the famous Mary tourtell, creator of Rupert Bear) I have heard of Abe books but your article concisely reviews them! Excellent helpful article. *wipes eyes with towelette*

  2. also conveniently lists all their individual participating stores by location. Browse books by location Once you’ve selected a location, you also have the option of searching JUST sellers in that location and it can be as specific as your individual town, so if you absolutely need it today and will drive cross town to fetch the book, this is awesome.

  3. I tend to use – its options (exclude POD, etc.) are more in line with what I’m looking for than addall. Haven’t really used most of the other aggregator sites, and no real interest in using non-aggregator sites. (Different purpose: I’m usually looking for work, to get a fmv estimate or to see if the odd condition of our copy is common (“boards warped as usual”), not for myself, to buy.) I had fun the other day, though, running a comparative search across a few to see who claimed to have the first/first Harry Potter (Bloomsbury, 1997, etc.) – far more people claim to have it than copies exist!

  4. My Dad recently passed. We are having a great time searching thru his tiny treasures. I have a small solid stone book maybe 1/2 inch wide by and inch tall. It has a defined binding, back and front pages. Where the pages are located is smooth and concave. The back page has what is best described as a raised bland tombstone on it. The front page has a name in cursive with the first name La or Lg with two or three other letters after it. The last name is either Terry or Ferry with the date of 1876. Any hints of ideas what this might be?

Comments are closed.