A major combination, and contraction in terms of the number of companies engaged in the book listing business, occurred on March 2 when AbeBooks announced that its European division had purchased Germany's ZVAB. As best we can tell, ZVAB is that nation's largest online book listing/selling company, though AbeBooks already has a major presence in the country through its Abebooks.de website. This is not Abe's first foray into purchasing a German competitor, it having purchased JustBooks years ago (Justbooks.de still exists on the web as a multi-site search engine, much like BookFinder in the U.S.). This time, it is fairly clear that AbeBooks will emerge the major force in the German market.
AbeBooks itself was purchased by Amazon, the largest online bookseller (when you include new books), in 2008. ZVAB's parent purchased the American listing site Choosebooks in 2004, and while that site was thrown in with the deal, it seems unlikely to survive independently of the Abe site. Choosebooks was on its deathbed when ZVAB's corporate parent, Mediantis, purchased it in 2004. At the time, it was Mediantis' entry into the American market, but the corporate parent has now chosen to exit the book-listing field entirely.
While firm numbers are hard to come by as sales figures are proprietary, we believe ZVAB/Choosebooks was the fourth largest of the sites dedicated primarily to selling used books, behind AbeBooks, Alibris, and Biblio. AbeBooks has been the leader since the turn of the century, and this purchase will solidify that position even further. If its sales of used books are combined with parent Amazon, which also does a substantial business in second-hand books, its leadership position becomes that much greater.
The price of the purchase was not disclosed. AbeBooks did reveal that ZVAB works with over 3,000 booksellers in 27 countries and offers over 35 million antiquarian and out-of-print books in many languages. AbeBooks does not reveal its figures, but we would estimate the number of sales and sellers to make ZVAB around one-fourth the size of AbeBooks.
We asked Richard Davies, Public Relations Manager for AbeBooks, what the combination would mean for the separate ZVAB and Abebooks.de websites. His response was, "We’re committed to keeping the ZVAB.com and AbeBooks.de brands, and to offer sellers and buyers the same services that they receive today. It's too early to give any details about exactly how we're going to be working together." However, the lights appear to be going out on Choosebooks, a casualty of the inevitable consolidation in any field of business as it matures. "We intend to redirect Choosebooks to ZVAB/AbeBooks in the near future and the sellers using Choosebooks were notified of this on the day of the announcement. We’re doing this because the two brands, ZVAB and AbeBooks, are far more established in their markets."