AbeBooks at 25: the booksellers who joined in 1996

The website went live in 1996. The company's four founders - Keith and Cathy Waters, and Rick and Vivian Pura - envisioned an online business that connected buyers and sellers, and made finding and buying used and rare books much easier. They were true ecommerce pioneers and their business model has stood the test of time.

Back in 1996, Google, YouTube and Facebook did not exist. Neither did cellphones. The Internet was accessed by dial-up modems. It was a different world. Some people had started to imagine how the Web would affect shopping. Only a handful saw the potential of selling used and rare books online. was initially tested with local booksellers from Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, where the company was founded and is still headquartered today. Two of those sellers - Renaissance Books and Russell Books - are still selling on our website. On this page, we salute all the sellers who joined AbeBooks during 1996 and still remain part of the business today.

Thank you from everyone at AbeBooks to all the sellers and customers who have supported us since 1996.

Russell Books - Victoria, BC, Canada

Russell Books
Andrea and Jordan Minter at Russell Books

Russell Books began life in Montreal in 1961 before the business moved to Victoria in 1991. It’s a thriving family business, originally owned by Ron and Diana DePol, and managed today by their daughter Andrea Minter and her husband Jordan. In 2019, they moved across the street to a new location with two floors, escalators and a lot of books housed in 18,000 square feet of retail space. Active in the local community from school book fairs to charity events, Russell Books is a Victoria landmark, Canada’s largest independent bookstore, and loved by AbeBooks staff.

Renaissance Books - Victoria, BC, Canada
Renaissance Books was an eclectic bookshop in the heart of old town Victoria. Peter Gray now runs an online bookstore offering art and illustrated books, literature, modern first editions, poetry, books on books, First Nations, British Columbia history and children's books, and much more. We’ll always be grateful for Peter’s assistance in the early days.

Optical Insights, IOBA - Murrieta, California, USA
Linda Strike specialises in out-of-print titles in art, theatre, music, cooking, illustrated books and press books. “I sell used books on the Internet as a retirement hobby,” she explained. “I started this effort as a way of eliminating some of my children’s and illustrated books. That worked so well that I expanded into cookbooks and then women’s fashion and design. I then began buying the books from estate sales and cataloging whatever was there. I’ve had a lot of success with art, architecture, Southwestern Americana and poetry. I now have over 10,000 books catalogued and listed.”

The Avocado Pit - Staunton, Virginia, USA
A bookseller who also develops bookseller software, Andy Gutterman created BookTrakker software in 1996 and has been selling online since 1992. The Avocado Pit originally opened its doors in July 1997 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Today, the Avocado Pit used bookstore is found on the western edge of Staunton, Virginia, at 2621 West Beverley Street. Andy offers a wide range of topics in paperbacks, softcovers, and hardcovers with emphasis on genealogy, art, military, hunting, Virginiana, cookbooks and children's books, including juvenile series.

I'm in a rather unique position, as not only am I a bookseller but I'm also a software developer. My other claim to fame is I'm probably the world's #1 expert on how booksellers use software as I've been doing continuous support for booksellers using software since late 1991. I remember bookselling before the Internet, and wonder how it was even possible.
Andy Gutterman, The Avocado Pit

The Story Shop - Elwood, Indiana, USA
Located 40 miles north of Indianapolis, The Story Shop account is run by Patrick and Jenny Kalahar. Patrick opened his first bookstore when he was 18.

Ray Boas, Bookseller - Walpole, New Hampshire, USA
Established in 1980 when he sold via catalogs, Ray offers 13,000 books with a focus on non-fiction, especially the decorative arts and antique reference books. Ray, who spent 22 years in the US Navy, established his first shop in 1990 in Haddonfield, New Jersey. “I trace my interest in books back to age six, when my Grandfather introduced me to collecting United States Commemorative Stamps,” said Ray.

Michael R. Thompson Books, A.B.A.A - Kingsport, Los Angeles, California, USA
Michael gave up his open shop after more than 30 years. He caters for serious collectors and dealers. Michael founded the business in 1972 and in 1985 he was joined by established Californian seller Kathleen D. Thompson and Carol Sandberg. His office is located in Los Angeles on West Third Street, between the Beverly Center and Farmer's Market.

Tavistock Books, ABAA - Alameda, California, USA
Established in 1989, this is an open shop. Tavistock, owned by Vic Zoschak, specialises in first editions, fine rare books and bibliographic material, with a special focus on Charles Dickens.

Zubal Books - Cleveland, Ohio, USA

The Zubal bookselling family – from left to right: Thomas, John, Marilyn & Michael

Established by John T. Zubal, Zubal Books has been providing libraries, researchers, collectors, and avid readers with books since 1961. John and his wife Marilyn had four children – Vicky, Michael, Jean, and Tom – and they have all worked in the business from an early age with Michael, Jean and Tom still on board today. The company was quick to adopt computing technology in the 1980s and swiftly moved online in the early 1990s, and joined AbeBooks on December 7, 1996.

Our facility consists of a half dozen congruent buildings that total around 400,000 square feet, including a repurposed Hostess Twinkie bakery. Some of the pipes still contain the stuff that when whipped makes the Twinkie filling. The oldest structure on the premises was built in the 1890s and the most recent in 1984.
Michael Zubal, Zubal Books

Asia Bookroom ANZAAB /ILAB - Macquarie, ACT, Australia
This bookshop specializes in new, out-of-print and antiquarian books of Asian interest. Sally Burdon runs the business which was originally started by her mother, Barbara. As well as the retail shop, there is also a busy mail order business sending parcels across the world. Asia Bookroom is currently in its fifth location. In 2018, Sally became the president of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

AAABOOKS (Authors & Artists) - Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA
Authors & Artists started as an open store in Boulder, Colorado, before switching to the Web and moving to Oklahoma. Their specialties are sci-fi, mystery, signed books, iconic 20th century books, and earth sciences.

Bookselling stays interesting because no one can ever learn everything about all books. You can learn a lot over time about what you specialize in, which tends to be the nicest copies you can find of books either you like yourself or customers like.
Shirley Bryant, Authors & Artists

Windows Booksellers - Eugene, Oregon, USA

Windows Booksellers.jpg
The team at Windows Booksellers

More than 60,000 used and out-of-print volumes in Christian theology, Judaica, Biblical studies, church history, archaeology, classics, and western philosophy. Their original Eugene bookstore, which opened in 1987, now serves as the primary mail-order fulfillment center and warehouse. There is a sister Windows bookshop in Portland at the corner of N. Houghton St. and N. Wall Ave.

Carpe Diem Fine Books, ABAA - Monterey, California, USA
Proprietors James Bryant and Mary Hill offer out-of-print, signed and unusual books with an emphasis on the history and literature of California and the West. Their book gallery opened in 2006 and is located in a 1930s stone building just steps from the Robert Louis Stevenson House in historic Old Monterey.

Riverrun Bookshop - Ardsley, New York, USA
Riverrun was founded in 1978 by Frank Scioscia, a former sales executive for Harper’s Books. His son-in-law Christopher P. Stephens took over in 1993. Tom Lecky purchased the business in 2016. Tom was previously head of the printed books & manuscripts department at Christie’s auction house in New York. Tom catalogued the publisher’s copy of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica that sold at Christie’s in 2016 for a world record ($3.7 million) for a scientific book. He also appraises books on the PBS Antiques Roadshow.

Argosy Book Store, ABAA, ILAB - New York, NY, USA

Argosy Book Store
The Argosy Book Store is a founder member of the ABAA.

Founded in 1925, Argosy is now in its third generation of family ownership. It has an enormous stock of antiquarian and out-of-print items filling a six-floor building in midtown Manhattan and a large warehouse in Brooklyn. They were founding a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. If you watched Netflix’s Pretend It’s a City with Fran Lebowitz, then you will have spotted the Argosy Book Store.

Hammonds Antiques & Books - St Louis, Missouri, USA

Hammond's Books
Hammond's started life as an Art Deco store

An open bookstore on Cherokee Street in St. Louis that’s been around for more than 40 years. Their inventory includes books, posters, costume jewelry, paper dolls, as well as a huge collection of over 200,000 vintage paper articles from the 1850s to the 1960s. The store was opened in 1980 by Jovanka Hammond as a vintage Art Deco shop. “I started collecting Art Deco in the 1950s,” said Jovanka. “It appealed to me and I recognized the items wherever I went, eventually amassing a huge collection which served as the store’s inventory. We imported Art Deco from France until it was no longer possible and then, my brother and partner, Knez, who was working in the book business, convinced me that as we were both readers and booklovers we should have a bookstore.” The building was built in 1896 and, during prohibition, the owners built a room under the backyard with access through a tunnel in the basement where they brewed beer and distilled whiskey. “You can still see the wear on the basement stairs where hundreds travelled below to have a drink,” added Jovanka.

J. Hood, Bookseller ABAA/ILAB - Baldwin City, Kansas City, USA
John and Gloria Hood offer scholarly books in all subjects. They ran a shop in Lawrence, Kansas, for many years before adding a 'book building' near to their home, which contains around 40,000 books.

Deja Vu Books - Poplar Grove, Illinois, USA
Deja Vu Books stocks children's out-of-print and collectible books with many horse and dog titles.

Robinson Street Books, IOBA - Binghamton, New York, USA
This Internet-only seller offers used and rare books as well as manuscripts, autographs, and photographs.

We started in a small building in Brooklyn in the basement near the boiler. Had about 2,000 books cataloged, and another 20,000 in storage. We were already selling through another marketplace and our own website, as well as snail mail catalogs. Once we saw the Internet, we determined to purchase 1 million books. We bought, bought, bought until we ran out of room.
Rhett Moran, Robinson Street Books

CMG Books and Art - Toronto, Canada
CMG specialise in books on the arts of Africa, Oceania and the indigenous peoples of the Americas, including Precolumbians and the Inuits. They also carry a large selection of books on textiles, Asian art, and folk and decorative art.

Aardvark Books ABAA, ILAB & IOBA - Eugene, Oregon, USA
Ezra Tishman worked as a mailman, truck driver, university professor, professional editor, commercial fisherman in Alaska, and farmhand before going into books.

TBCL The Book Collector's Library - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
TBCL specialises in first editions and you will find books from the likes of Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group among their inventory.

Sutton Books - Norwich, Vermont, USA
An inventory of more than 35,000 books, most of them scholarly works in various academic disciplines.

From our small beginnings in a renovated garage in 1996, we grown into a purpose-built 'Book Barn,' and we are just having as much fun as when we started.
Susan White, Sutton Books

Town's End Books, ABAA - Deep River, Connecticut, USA
John D. Townsend is a book dealer that specialises in collectible first editions.

I work out of my home and I am open by appointment so I don't have a brick and mortar store, nor a warehouse....just my office, second floor of my barn and a small outbuilding make up the spaces containing my books. I see that I joined AbeBooks on November 15, 1996.
John D. Townsend, Town's End Books

Windy Hill Books - Penn Laird, Virginia, USA

Windy Hill Books
Windy Hill's chapel

A seller that offers out-of-print and collectable children's books, housed in this chapel.

Windy Hill was established in 1993 as a catalog sales-only business. We have always specialized in children's books, with an emphasis on modern children's literature and picture books. I do remember in 1996 when I had any question, I would call and talk directly with Rick Pura, one of the founders of AbeBooks.
Dana Richardson, Windy Hill Books

Lincbook - Foster, Rhode Island, USA
This business was established in 1931 in Providence on Rhode Island as the Lincoln Book Shoppe by Samuel Lincoln Ephraim (1903-1968), who amassed over 200,000 out-of-print and rare books, pamphlets and ephemera. Samuel's son, Harold Ephraim and his wife, Linda, have run the business since 1980.

Book House in Dinkytown IOBA - Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Established in 1976, the BookHouse is located adjacent to the University of Minnesota in the neighbourhood known to Bob Dylan as the "University of Dinkytown." An old-fashioned bookstore that also offers vinyl.

The Fine Books Company / ABAA / 1979 - Rochester, Michigan, USA

David Aronovitz
David Aronovitz of the Fine Books Company

David Aronovitz of The Fine Books Company has travelled far and wide in search of books. He has been selling collectible books since 1979 and now offers more than 40,000 items.

We have sold items on the internet from $10 to $116,000 and have a diverse customer base. We first heard about AbeBooks from John and Katie Miller of the Phantom Bookshop in Ventura, California with the proviso from John saying "If you join up, you will sell books!" And of course he was right! We have travelled to and purchased and sold books on every continent (save Antarctica as there are no bookstores located there that we know of).
David Aronovitz, Fine Books Company

Burton Lysecki Books, ABAC/ILAB - Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
June 2021 saw Burton Lysecki celebrate 50 years in bookselling. He started by buying a small paperback book exchange for $1,000. “Couldn’t have been more than a couple of thousand paperbacks, some tired old hardcover books, and oh yeah, several thousand collectors’ comics,” said Burton. “I think this was the first store in Winnipeg to deal in collectors’ comics. From a tiny hole-in-the-wall to more than 3,000 square feet with more than 100,000 carefully selected books, we have become one of the jewels in Winnipeg’s cultural scene. It’s been an interesting 50 years.”

Truman Price & Suzanne Price - Monmouth, Oregon, USA
The Prices began selling to institutions, and via book fairs, and print catalogs. They offer a large selection of children's books as well as books on folk music, botany and Western Americana.

Kenneth Starosciak, Bookseller - San Francisco, California, USA
Kenneth offers a wide variety of art related titles covering America arts, the decorative arts, antiques, photography, and textiles.

Xerxes Fine and Rare Books and Documents - Glen Head, New York, USA
Xerxes Books is a family owned and operated business, selling fine books, and printed media.

Inno Dubelaar Books - Toronto, Canada
This sellers specialises in First Nations subjects, Canadiana, and Canadian, American and British modern firsts.

Pat Cramer, Bookseller - Lewisville, Texas, USA
Pat specialises in horror, suspense, mystery and modern fiction.

Tintagel - New York, USA
Used and rare books including numerous East Coast-themed books.

Wrigley-Cross Books - Troutdale, Oregon, USA
Paul Wrigley and Debbie Cross ran a bookstore from 1990 to 2005. Located in the Columbia River Gorge, they specialise in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery.

Ann Wendell, Bookseller - Oroville, California, USA
Six thousand used and rare books.

Royoung Bookseller ABAA - Ardsley, New York, USA
A selection of in general antiquarian, book arts, architecture, literature, travel and natural history.

Pilgrim's Rare Books - Kingsport, Tennessee, USA
Approximately 3,000 used and rare books, with a focus on religion and children's books, which can be seen at the P&J Antique Mall.

Paper Moon Books - Portland, Oregon, USA
Andrea Drinard has had a bookstore in Portland since 1976 and has been at the present location (4712 SE Belmont) for more than 20 years. Paper Moon carries general stock, scholarly books, and collectable children's books.

Gulls Nest Books - Portland, Oregon, USA
Gulls Nest Books has been selling books to college libraries for more than 15 years.

Aion Bookshop - Boulder, Colorado, USA
A small open used bookshop run by Jim and Deborah Broaddus.

Silicon Valley Fine Books - Sunnyvale, California, USA
As expected, this seller offers technical books and books on the local area.

David H. Gerber Books - Austin, Texas, USA
David offers a wide variety of subjects and titles in rare, scarce, out-of-print, and used books.

Ashworth Books - Sidney, New York, USA
A full service online bookstore specialising in quality books on all subjects.

Brainbooks - Gainesville, Florida, USA
An online bookstore specialising in neurology, neuroscience, and psychology books.

Pacific Rim Used Books - Anacortes, Washington, USA
Located in a corner of the Pacific Northwest, Glen Des Jardins has run this online business since 1995.

Peninsula Books - Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Peninsula has been providing fine and rare books to collectors, institutions and the book trade since 1975.

Ventura Pacific Out of Print Books - Ventura, California, USA
Nine thousand used and rare books.

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