Amazon’s Acquisition of AbeBooks: Brendan Sherar, CEO of, Weighs In August 2, 2008 – Tags: , , ,

Brendan Sherar, CEO of was kind enough to answer a couple of questions regarding Amazon’s acquisition of AbeBooks and how it might effect the overall used, rare, and out-of-print online market and Biblio in particular.

Book Patrol-What effect do think Amazon’s acquisition of AbeBooks will have on the used, rare, and out-of-print online market?

Brendan Sherar -I believe it is unhealthy for the overall market, because it further removes competition and choices for collectors, readers, and booksellers alike. In a free market economy, that is generally accepted to be a bad thing. When competition and choice are reduced or eliminated, markets inevitably move towards lower standards for product quality and service for all concerned, as well as unrestricted pricing strategies which ultimately hurt the customers – in this case, booksellers and bookbuyers.
For booksellers, this is yet another chapter in the history of online bookselling that continues the story of the steady erosion of their autonomy, independence, and identity as independent businesses. I can speak candidly in saying that one of the reasons I originally got in the book business 12 years ago was because it seemed one of the last great bastions of a proud, bygone era of small, independent business. I do hope that this story has a plot twist ahead soon.
The good news, to me anyhow, is this two fold. This first part being that booksellers remain fiercely attached to their independence. They won’t surrender it very handily. In fact that has been able to grow and thrive – outpacing overall used book industry growth year after year by a factor of multiples – is a great case-in-point; we have focused on service and respect with our booksellers, and they have responded in kind by helping us to grow. Its a business relationship in which everyone benefits: booksellers, bookbuyers, and ourselves.
I would like to point out that there are several other high quality, independent book marketplaces who have benefited from the same phenomenon – Antiqbook, Maremagnum, and ChooseBooks/ZVAB, to name a few. Each time the industry shifts in such a way that threatens the independent bookseller, sites like these and thrive.
The second part of the good news is that technology changes fast. And, gets cheaper, more accessible. We have to remember that we’re only about fourteen or fifteen years into this “internet thing.” All of us, booksellers and marketplaces alike are very immature companies in this sense, even Amazon. We’re learning, changing, adapting on a daily basis. Perhaps its pertinent to note that out of the original companies on the Dow Jones 112 years ago, only one is still on it. Only one. There are clearly many chapters more to go.
So, in a sense the same forces that build momentum towards consolidation becomes the very same that becomes the catalyst for emergent and disruptive businesses in the next chapter. And, this is what makes a free market successful.

BP– In what ways do you see this consolidation affecting the Biblio model?
BS– I don’t want to sound dismissive – we really don’t have that much hubris – but, it really doesn’t affect things in a profound way.
We began our company five years ago, committed to serving the book community and independent businesses. We do so in three key ways, all contained in our mission statement: providing exemplary customer service, creating opportunities for our booksellers, and fostering the growth of the communities we serve. We’re going to continue to focus on that. It simply wouldn’t make sense to depart from our core strategy and mission solely in reaction to a change in the competitive landscape.
Naturally, we’ll grow and adapt – as we do every day. Change is certainly the one constant in this business. So, while the core strategy will remain the same, we may make some tactical adjustments. We have many medium and long term plans we’re working on. I don’t believe in reacting directly to “negative” forces in a market, but I do believe in reacting to some of the opportunities they afford. So, we’ll probably shift a few things ahead, move others back, put some on hold for now. New opportunities may emerge. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to support independent business and serve our customers and our communities. That’s what we built our business on, and what we will continue to do.
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