EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 152 - October 09, 2005 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 8

The Bookologist Report: Amazon Policy Shakes Up Online-Bookselling Industry

By Edith Reynolds

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The Bookologist Report is a summary of Edith Reynolds' posts to The Bookologist Blog ( Edith is Editor of The Bookologist.

September 21, 2005
Once again online bookselling will undergo a major change. Hannes Blum, CEO of Abebooks, sent out an email stating, "This afternoon Amazon confirmed to us that as part of their efforts for improving the customer experience, they are officially moving away from what we call an "aggregator" business model. That means they will no longer be allowing sites like ours (which list multiple booksellers under one account) to sell on their website, since every seller must be responsible for their own account. We expect the closure to happen sometime in October."

This morning I telephoned public relations department of Abe and spoke with Richard Davies. Understandably, this has been a difficult day for because this departure follows so closely to the departure of Barnes and Noble affiliation.

Davies stressed, "We've got confidence in ourselves. We've matured a lot in the past 4 - 5 years. The partnership with Amazon was good but Abe is strong enough to keep developing our own sales."

Last year Hannes Blum granted us an interview and at that time he was eyeing the Far East market as ripe for expansion. That model, according to Davies, has changed somewhat. They will be focusing on the existing 5 platforms Abebooks currently utilizes.

Blum's message to its sellers was that the news from Amazon was "disappointing" and that Abe's steady growth caused a complexity that was not easy to maintain. But, he said, this change will result in two actions. The affiliation with will end and Abe will focus on the individual sellers that created their initial success and will try to grow using that model.

"There is a lot of potential with the UK market. We currently have two thousand sellers." Davies believes there is a greater opportunity to garner buyers from the United Kingdom and that is what is most attractive.

The other European markets: Spain, France, Germany, as well as the United States promise potential for development as well.

One thing Davies promises is that Abebooks will put forward a marketing strategy that "makes sure all our sellers get value for money. That includes the antiquarian and used book sellers because they are really important to us."

So far no plans have been made to change Abe's fee structure as a result of yesterday's loss.

September 21, 2005
A review of the booksellers' forum on reveals what the bookselling community thinks of Abe's recent development. The discomfit is two-fold: that recently launched software changes that caused major glitches in what had been a smooth-running system and that was so busy tamping out software woes it didn't notice Alibris appropriating major marketplaces.

Some responders were forgiving, acknowledging the upgrading of software was difficult at best. Abe had not done a major upgrade in seven years and the work was more extensive than initially anticipated but the glitches caused by the upgrades left room for competitors to lure away major clients.
We, too, have seen sales shift from Abe to Alibris and from our perspective, it seems as if the bigger companies are jockeying for power with our fates hanging in the balance. If companies like Abe are squeezed out, the little guy has less chance of making money because he or she will be at the mercy of corporations who do not have a regard for individuals. Rates will rise until the margin for profit narrows to the extent it is not worth the effort to list books. By then it would be impossible for a smaller, seller-friendly company to out market the existing industry.

October 3, 2005
My take on the following is that Alibris may not know what Amazon is going to do. Perhaps negotiations behind the scenes will force concessions by Alibris or a termination of the partnership. Almost every online seller is wondering how this will affect them.

As it stands, those who sell on Amazon through Abe will no longer be able to do so after the middle of this month. Those who signed on to sell on Amazon through Alibris do not know if they will be able to do so much longer. Amazon is in a strong position now to force sellers into signing on to sell through them directly.

October 6, 2005
Alibris and Amazon will end their alliance next month according to an email I received from Alibris seller services. "The current program will end in mid November. Alibris is committed to helping sellers through this transition and are developing free tools for sellers to simplify inventory and order management for their own Amazon accounts. We expect these new tools to launch in early November."

October 6, 2005
The program will be officially closed as of October 31, 2005. We'll begin removing books during the last week of October. The account will also remain active until December 31 to enable the processing of returns. (excerpt of email from

Amazon sellers discuss new policy

About the author:

Edith Reynolds is a former newspaper and magazine writer. She and her husband Dan own an antiquarian bookstore, The John Bale Book Company in Waterbury, CT. For the past 10 years, they have specialized in early Americana and rare bindings. They are members of the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers of America Association), ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) and OAUA (Online Auction Users Association). Edith manages online sales. In addition to their bookstore, they sell on eBay and at book fairs. They will launch American Booksellers in January, an e-fulfillment center for online booksellers. Visit their Web sites, and eBay ID: BALEBOOKS

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