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Bookseller Acquires 'Bookman' Assets
Ginger Curwen -- 5/15/00

May 6 marked the end of an era in the antiquarian book world, as the assets of AB Bookman Publications Inc., the publisher of AB Bookman's Weekly, were sold in a New Jersey Superior Court for about $30,000 to Bookmans, an Arizona retailer.

AB Bookman's Weekly ceased publication at the end of 1999 after a 52-year run as the most influential magazine in the out-of-print trade. Its pages of paid listings of "Books for Sale" and "Books Wanted" were read by dealers and collectors alike. At its peak, in 1991, AB Bookman's circulation stood at 8,200, but in the last few years, the growing popularity of Internet sites such as Advanced Book Exchange, Bibliofind and Alibris, which list millions of used books for sale, destroyed the magazine's edge. "The Internet proved the demise of the magazine," said Jake Chernofsky, the magazine's longtime owner, publisher and editor.

The buyer of the assets, Bookmans, sells used books, video, music and software in five stores, typically 15,000- 25,000 square feet in size. According to Bob Schlesinger, the company's founder and CEO, the magazine's trademark is the key asset; the retailer has plans to expand regionally and nationally and wanted clear title on its own trademark. Schlesinger added that he is likely to sell the intellectual property from the magazine's archives for possible republication.

According to lawyer Richard Shapiro of Middlebrooks & Shapiro, P.C., who handled the transaction on behalf of the creditors of AB Bookman Publications, the $30,000 will be used to satisfy, at least partially, the 3,000-4,000 outstanding claims of subscribers seeking the balance of their magazine subscriptions.

AB Bookman's Weekly was started in 1948 by Publishers Weekly, which covered the out-of-print trade through a regular column by bookseller Sol Malkin but wanted to expand into classified listings of books for sale and books wanted. Malkin became the editor of the new magazine, Antiquarian Bookman, and acquired it from PW a few years later. The name changed to AB Bookman's Weekly in 1967. In 1972, Malkin sold the magazine to journalist Jake Chernofsky, who brought the magazine to more regular publication, 48 times a year. In the late 1990s, faced with strong competition from the Internet, AB Bookman's subscriptions dwindled, the magazine moved to smaller quarters and Chernofsky reduced staff. Even the introduction of a Web-based subscription didn't stem the tide, and by the end of 1999, Chernofsky, just turned 72, made a decision to stop publication and retire.

A related venture, the Out of Print and Antiquarian Book Market Seminar, which started in 1979 and was held every summer, was a personal project of Chernofsky and his wife, Ellen, to promote training and professionalism in the antiquarian trade. Its curriculum ranges from the art of bibliography to the science of inventory management and packing books. The seminar has been taken over by four longtime faculty members, antiquarian booksellers Michael Ginsberg, Edwin Glaser, Lois Harvey and Jennifer Larson, and will be held August 6-11 at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo. For more information, call (719) 473-6634.

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