Thursday, August 7, 2008

Amazon eats the bookselling world

Nearly all of us here at Ibooknet also list our books on Abe (Advanced Book Exchange). This is one of the largest bookselling sites, and is regarded by most of us as a necessary evil. It is hard to maintain your independence as a bookseller these days: whether we like it or not, most of us rely on Amazon, Abe or both for some of our income.

Some of us have our own websites: many of which are run by a firm called Chrislands. Abe recently bought Chrislands. And now Abe have been bought by Amazon. So, as well as Amazon trying to corner the POD (print on demand) market, they will now have a very large slice indeed of the secondhand book market.

Is this a good thing? It depends, I suppose. At best, Amazon will leave Abe alone. Abe, I presume, have a big enough income stream to make them of interest to Amazon. I tend to sell my better books via Abe, not Amazon, so I wonder if the market for the more esoteric book, described in more detail than Amazon currently allows, is the market Amazon is aiming for. If it is, in some ways this is not such a bad thing. If Amazon removes from Abe the megalisters, who list hundreds of thousands of titles they do not actually have but print on demand, and remove the megasellers who use a generic description for every single book they sell: "Good Book!" for example, which when used for every single book you possess displays a remarkable lack of critical acuity if nothing else; and leave the sellers who describe books they actually own, then Abe would return to its beginnings as a good site for the bookseller and buyer.

Abe's email to its booksellers told us:

We expect this change to allow AbeBooks to expand its offerings and introduce new features and services to enhance the book buying and selling experience.

which frankly could mean anything. If Abe is going to sell new books in the same way that Amazon does will that increase Amazon/Abe's market share of the new book market overall? Or just confuse the market?

Here at Ibooknet we have plenty of opinions:

James, of The Glass Key, said:

"Always look on the bright side....

Being a Monty Python fan I might think two depressing factors in a bookseller's life had now become one so the hydra has one less head. I think the world looks clearer."

Graeme, of Magpie Books said:
"I just keep back to thinking about bibliofind who amazon bought years and
years ago:

type into a browser
and you'll see what I mean. "

Chris, of Diaskari Books said:

"Bezos is smart. Can't see that he would simply want to collapse Abe into Amazon - they are slightly different buyer markets with different buying practices and that is presumably what it wants to acquire - some form of synergy not just putting a competitor out of business only.

Maybe work to bring the Abe and the Marketplace buyer and seller community together. [Marketplace is Amazon's mechanism for allowing private individuals and booksellers to sell via its site.] Perhaps even bring some discipline into marketplace which is riddled with bibliographic nonsense - all of Amazon's making.

Don't know - proof of pudding etc but I wouldn't necessarily assume it's going to be all bad for us short term (although end result inevitably will be about reduction of choice in selling venues but possibly also more power to the alternative sites). "

So, we wait to see. In the meantime, we're working on making the Ibooknet site better, and are always open to suggestions for what you think we can do better.


Heather said...

I can't say I am happy with this latest take over development, even htough it isnt totally unexpected.I dont like monopolies! They are bound to leave ABE and amazon as seperate entities in appearance (thus getting more fees out of booksellers - we have to pay seperate fees for each site), but small independents like ibooknet need to fight their corner as much as possible. Heather, Peakirk Books

Juxtabook said...

As Heather says, most bookdealers (booksellers?) have been expecting this for some time, but it is none the less exasperating for that. My website is a Chrislands one, and I am not happy that Amazon now own Abe who own Chrislands. So much for my attempts to preserve my independence; it all makes ibooknet so much more important now.

Mike Sims said...

Perhaps Amazon can turn around what has become a somewhat schizophrenic entity, the Advanced Book Exchange.

There are many searchable sites listing books owned by multiple booksellers around the world but ABE was one of the first to have a system of recording buyer-wants and then matching them with stock added at a later date. This meant that they could almost guarantee a satisfying little flurry of orders for their customers, the listing booksellers, whenever new stock was added and the recorded wants then matched.

From what appeared to be a perfectly satisfactory business arrangment ABE gradually began to change, seemingly looking for ways of increasing their income. They also changed their outlook, more and more, regarding the book-buying public as THEIR customers and the booksellers as stock suppliers. Their income, however, still came from the booksellers and not directly from the bookbuying public.

ABE changed further and further from the original business model alienating many of their bookseller customers as they interposed themselves between sellers and buyers. The booksellers, of course, had the option of leaving ABE but many stayed because by this time ABE's market prominence was significant.

This market prominence has obviously come to the notice of Amazon and we can only hope that Amazon will take greater care of their bookselling customers.

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