There has been numerous questions asked about rare books, why are they rare and what has the internet done to change it if at all. The following is a brief explanation.
Before 1995 or so, most book collectors would go into a local store and purchase books to add to their collection. They would also receive book catalogues from dealers that specialized in their interest.
Dealers would work with one another and find the right books their customers wanted. Around 1995 an invention called the internet took off. No longer did customers have to wait for a catalogue they could visit websites and order the books they wanted.
Then something started to happen that both the customer and the dealer noticed. A lot of books previously thought rare, wasn’t quite so rare. Dozens of copies of particular titles started showing up and the values of these books dropped. They actually dropped significantly.
This in turn left a lot of book sellers with inventory that had loss significant value.
For a while it seemed the rare book dealer was done for until the last 5 years a problem started becoming real apparent. Most of the rare books listed on various venues didn’t exist or were not the edition the seller claimed.
Though some of this sadly was done on purpose I believe most it came from ignorant book dealers who really knew nothing about rare books.
This can be easily seen in most descriptions that tell you more about the company/seller than the actually book.
For those who collect modern first editions the state of the dust jacket i.e. is it price clipped the issue points etc. are never mentioned unless by an reputable dealer.
For those who collect antiquarian books points of not only publication and edition, but is the book properly paginated, does it have the correct maps etc?
The smart and educated buyer will do great on the online market. Always ask questions and build a relationship from your book dealer.
So back to the original point are there still rare books? I believe there are and I truly believe that in the last fifteen years or so a lot were bought up and if this trend continues it won’t be long before a lot of them are going to disappear for another generation.