So I have a strange kind of love/hate relationship with Abebooks. In the past I’ve bought a lot of books from them, especially when I was a poor student and just starting to fall in love with books, but in the summer of 2018 I read a book that changed how I think about the second hand book market. The Diary of a BookSeller had a couple of sections where it spoke specifically about Abebooks and how it can be used to help and hinder second hand booksellers. In this post I’m going to talk about the pros and cons for both sellers and buyers as well as the many scandals the company has picked up along the way. (also love of books unites us! Just putting that in there because I want that to be the title of the blog post and my SEO plug in gets angry if it’s not in the beginning.)
Abebooks was opened in 1996, created by Rick and Vivian Pura, and Keith and Cathy Waters. Since 2001 the company has hoovered up smaller companies all around the world as well as picking up awards such as British Columbia Technology Industry Association Impact Award and BC’s Top Employer every year since 2008.
In the December of 2008 is was bought out by Amazon.
There’s many pros to selling with Abebooks though I kinda feel like the cons outweigh them. But then I feel like I’ll always say that when it comes to big corporate companies even if they say they’re here to support the independents.
But let’s be fair here, I’ll give you the info and let you make your own choice. (Please note these are pros and cons for sellers and buyers. I will say this though.)
There’s a butt ton of books to buy!
Abebooks bostes a huge amount of books on their websites by thousands of sellers all around the words. With some books selling for as little as 60p you’re always guaranteed to find what you’re looking for. But it’s not just second hand books for 60p, they also give a marketplace for people who want to buy and sell collectable books and rear artwork. In 2015 they did their most expensive sale, with a book going for $191,000. (£145761.65)
They offer direct links to seller and buyer.
Abebooks allow their sellers to have very personalized profiles, with images, unlimited word count descriptions, their address and their website. This means that buyers could also use this as a way of finding independent bookstores near them. It’s also another way for independents to build up a following.
But of course there’s plenty of cons.
There is no quality control.
Abebooks take a very hands off approach when it comes to how some sellers describe books. There’s also a huge issue with people relisting books over and over and people listing books they don’t actually own.
A seller could list a book club edition as a first edition or use “autograph” to mean that the previous owner wrote his/her name in the book, then these books will be included in the search results for “first edition” or “signed” books respectively. Of course this pisses a lot of collectors off. Abe have taken some steps to stop this from happening but you still can come across it in different places.
It is very spenny.
With flat monthly fees, commissions and credit card processing fees (on both the cost of the item and shipping) things can add up very quickly. You may just be buying a book for 60p but it’s hardly worth it to the seller and it’s not fair. 8% commission and 5.5% credit card processing fee, 13.5% in total. Of course this is less than some companies charge but the addition of 5.5 % on shipping, the higher flat monthly fees and the minimum fees on inexpensive books can push the total monthly bill higher.
And then to make it worse in 2018 Abe made their biggest mistake. They announced that they would no longer be supporting booksellers from some countries including Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Russia. This was obviously a huge blow, leaving loads of people high and dry. There was mass outrage, many booksellers from other countries removing their listings and boycotting Abe. Abe lost more than 3.5M books in this short time. They did this under the motto of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, “Amor librorum nos unit” (love of books unites us). They later apologized for this, going back on their word.
I’ll let you make your own option and choices but I never feel proud when buying from this website even if a small percentage of my money is going to support an independent.
Find my last post here where I did the TBR tag.