More Independent Resistance: This time from the Antiquarians
In mid-April 2014 the Austrian antiquarian bookseller Norbert Donhofer was elected president of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), an umbrella organization compromised of twenty- two national associations, including our own ABAA, representing thirty-four countries and around 1,800 individual affiliates.
In his first interview as President he noted that the most important project he was working on at the moment was “a strategic part-time cooperation with AbeBooks.”
He went on:
The aim is that ILAB booksellers listing on AbeBooks are highlighted on the Abe homepage as the world’s leading experts. This would be an enormous advantage for all ILAB dealers who offer their books on one of the biggest commercial databases, and it would be a clear sign to all book collectors where to buy high quality books and where they can trust in the authenticity and precise descriptions of the books for sale as well as on adequate prices.
On the surface it might seem like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want front page real estate on the largest commercial database in the non-new book market.
But then there is the reality that AbeBooks (Abe) is wholly owned by Amazon.com. And as any professional bookseller who has tried to list their books on Amazon quickly realizes any descriptive integrity that has been a standard in the trade for hundreds of years must be compromised.
Is that a fair price for increased exposure?
Regardless of whether there are more options for listing on AbeBooks one thing is certain AbeBooks is no Switzerland in the Amazon universe.
Dissent and hostility from ILAB members naturally and rightfully ensued and from day one it was clear it was going to be a tough sell to many constituents.
Yesterday, in a letter to its members ILAB officially put the project on the shelf noting that the “latest draft of a proposal the Committee has received from them [Abe] was not as promising as what had been shown during the presentation at the Paris Meeting. It is very possible that the higher management of ABEBooks [ie. Amazon] may not be very convinced that a peer to peer cooperation (i.e. on an equal footing) between us would be desirable.”
Also noted as a reason was the “negative media articles about Amazon’s dealings with publishing houses.”
Hats off to all who helped sidetrack this potential train wreck and my hope is that solution to the current maladies of the trade come from within our powerful ranks.