Usually antique, rare books can be extremely difficult to track down. Enormously collectible, they'll often be found in small, specialist bookshops - which can be almost as difficult to locate.

In recent years, however, online auction sites, such as eBay, and sites providing classified adverts and listings for rare books - have made finding those first editions, signed copies and rare collectibles much easier.

A site that acts as an online marketplace - specifically dedicated to new, second hand and rare books - Abe Books is great for those who collect books from a specific era such as the Edwardian era. It's also great for those who simply want to read a book or text that isn't in print in anymore.

The search boxes featured on the site allow users to search for books by title, author, keyword or an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Abe Books then produces relevant results from a network of thousands of professional booksellers and stores - located around the world.

Abe Books also allows users to search for their favoured booksellers using a bookseller search. This feature is particularly useful for those that know of a specific seller that deals with, or has a good knowledge of, books from a certain period or of a specific style - such as Cosway bindings or shape books.

Just two of the types of rare, antique books heavily featured on the Abe Books site, Cosway bindings and shape books are highly coveted by collectors.

Shape books are cut into a shape - designed to reflect a specific figure or object. So rather than being produced in a standard rectangular shape, the shape books available are fashioned to look like - for example - an artist's paint palette or a character, such as Little Red Riding Hood.

The most collectible shape books were produced in the Victorian era and were designed to stimulate the imaginations of young children. Although generally scarce, a significant number of these books can be purchased through Abe Books.

Books featuring Cosway binding are also offered on the site, although the quantities available are very limited. Named after acclaimed miniaturist portrait painter Richard Cosway, these books are bound in traditional leather covers and decorated with miniature paintings - set into the cover.

Although Cosway wasn't the one responsible for inventing this strikingly elegant style of binding - he died in 1821, before the style was introduced - the name has stuck.

Making perfect gifts for a loved one, Cosway bindings can hold significant financial and sentimental value.

As well as rare editions of past classics, more contemporary works can also be found and purchased on the Abe Books website.

Whilst these books can be tracked down on others sites such as eBay, Abe Books allows users to buy the books featured on its site outright, rather than having to go through a process of submitting a bid. This is great for those looking to avoid the frustration of missing out on a book that's key to their collection.

The internet has made it easier for book collectors to find rare and out-of-print works. Abe Books is a particularly good resource for finding shape books and other hard-to-find volumes.