Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2005 Issue

Abe: A Walk on the Wild Side



An alternative that banks the fires and works for both regular book sellers and the rare book trade is a system of listing rates that are tied to asking prices rather than to actual transactions. Basically a seller would pay more to list and be given the opportunity to tell potential buyers they can buy through Abe or directly from them. It need not be too complex and might work like this. Today Abe assesses modest listing fees for various quantity levels. Give Abe sellers the option to choose the current listing rates and 8% sales commission or pay higher listing rates and be able to promote a direct purchase option. A significant percentage of buyers are going to buy through Abe whether the dealer wants it or not but they'll have the option to show buyers that direct purchase is possible.

In a listing fee system tied to asking prices it seems only a few price levels need to be considered. In this example I've assumed three levels and that the listing fee for books priced between $50.01 and $250 is twice the listing fee for material priced at $50 or less. Books priced above $250 would, in this example, cost 3 times as much to list as items priced at $50 or less. Because more expensive material usually is more thoroughly described Abe could permit extensive descriptions on more expensive listings and potentially limit the descriptions available at the minimum listing cost to some reasonable level.
X For books priced up to $50
XX For books priced from $50.01 to $250
XXX For books priced from $250.01 up
As an example a seller could list 500 units with asking prices up to $50, 350 books that are priced between $50.01 and $250 and 150 that are priced higher than $250.01. They would pay to list 1,000 books and pay a surcharge on the books priced above $50.01 and a higher surcharge on books priced at $250.01 and higher.

This would give Abe the higher revenue it deserves, give typical Abe sellers access to the order processing if they need or want it and permit those antiquarian booksellers who put their emphasis on customer relationships an opportunity to conduct their business in a way that works for them. It restores peace in the house and lets Abe get back to the business of building its business, something it has shown itself to be very good at doing.

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