The Pros and Cons of Using Abbreviations


Jean McKenna

Jean McKenna

Standard abbreviations have always been used by booksellers to describe out-of-print books. The question is, do we continue using the same standard abbreviations on the internet?

The internet has certainly changed the way we do business, and as the internet drives prices to unrealistic highs in some cases, and reaches the general public, it may be useful to have a reference one can turn to to minimize the risk of
error. In addition to raising prices, some prices are now lower due to easy access to more common titles. In the not-so-old days, having only one copy available in the state of Massachusetts would have been thought to be quite
scarce – now it’s possible to have 20-30 copies of the same title available at your fingertips due to the internet.

I often use old catalogs when trying to reference a book, and generally the compiler included a list of abbreviations used in describing books listed. This made a handy reference for the reader of the catalog. Today when abbreviations are used on the net the reader may have no idea what that particular dealer means, and many times ends up skipping over that entry, and finding one they understand. Above all, if abbreviations are to be used we must be consistent throughout the field. I’m used to most of the abbreviations, so it is usually not a problem for me, but with a more inexperienced seller/collector/librarian, “civilian”, this would not always be the case.

The “newbie” booksellers, and general public, “civilians”, would have a hard time understanding some of these terms, i.e., g-vg, cwo, ppd, ret., sase. One gentleman wrote to me a long time ago, after seeing one of my ads in AB
using these abbreviations, and wanted to know if we had a secret code used only by booksellers. I believe he was serious, and couldn’t figure out my abbreviations. Space meant money in those days as you paid by the line, and I would try to keep terms, etc., short. Today, with the internet, space is not really a problem, so abbreviations are not so necessary. They simply save us time which is also very important.

As the trade changes, due mostly to the internet, these abbreviations have come under closer scrutiny, and not everyone agrees that they are still viable. Also, there is disagreement as to their interpretation. In the past I would imagine that everyone who received a dealer’s catalogue, or had access to AB, was either a bookseller, collector, or librarian, and would have been familiar with the terms – not so now. Everyone has access to the computer, and not everyone is familier with booksellers’ terms or abbreviations, so we have to adapt our descriptions accordingly.

I find that I am not using very many abbreviations when adding books to database as I am afraid there will be some misunderstanding as to their meaning, and besides, most of the descriptions are spelled out for us, and a flick of
the finger will enter “very good” “fine”, etc., so it becomes unnecessary to abbreviate.

I have compiled a list of abbreviations which has not yet appeared on the IOBA education page, and which may not ever appear. It was written to be used as a guide, if needed, to explain abbreviations used in the trade. The question is, should we continue using these abbreviations, or has the business changed so much that they are no longer necessary? In the end, I guess I am just a traditionalist, and like to hang on to the old ways. What do you think?

There are those who say the internet will destroy the antiquarian book trade; I believe this will not happen. Let it be our job to promote the trade, educate the public, and ensure the future of our business.

COMMONLY USED BOOKSELLER ABBREVIATIONS:

ABA ……American Bookseller’s Association. Also: Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (the British equivalent of the ABAA)

ABAA ….. Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.

A.E.G……All Edges Gilt.

ALS ……. Autographed Letter Signed.

ARC……Advance Reading Copy

BCE……Book Club Edition.

BDS……Boards

BOMC……Book-of-the-Month Club.

C…….. Small c before date meaning circa; around/about referring to date

CP or ……. Copyright.

CWO……Check or cash with order.

DEC……. Decorated.

DJ……Dust jacket.

DS…… Document signed.

DW……..Dustwrapper (same as dust jacket, or book jacket)

ED…….Edition or Editor.

EP……..Endpaper

EX. LIB……Ex. Library copy.

EX. LIBRIS…From the library of, referring to previous owner.
Often found on bookplates.

F………Fine

FFEP……Front free endpaper.

FL……. . .Flyleaf.

FRONTIS… ….Frontispiece.

G……. ..Good.

HC……..Hardcover

IL. ILLUS…..Illustrated.

IOBA…… …Independent Online Booksellers Association.

LITHO……..Lithograph.

LTD. ED……..Limited Edition.

N.D (or n-d)……..No Date.

N.P (or n-pl)……..No Place

O or OOP……….Out-of-Print.

PP…… …Pages. p. (and then the number) for page ../pp. For pages –
to–

PPB…….Paperback

PPD…….Postpaid.

PR………Printing

PSEUD. ……Pseudonym.

PUB…….Published/publisher.

RFEP…….Rear free endpaper.

RET………Returnable.

SLC……….Slipcase

SGD…….Signed.

SP……..Spelling.

T.E.G. …….Top Edge Gilt.

TLS………Typed letter signed.

TP……..Title Page.

VG……..Very Good.

VOL., VOLS…..Volume/Volumes.

W.A.F…….With All Faults.

W/O…….Without.

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website