Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2008 Issue

AbeBooks Launches Gojaba -- a Book Site for Russia, Sweden and More

Gojaba

The Gojaba site, which leads to Russian and Swedish versions.


By Michael Stillman

Leading internet bookselling site AbeBooks has launched a new service in territories outside its traditional base of North America and Western Europe. Its name is Gojaba, and the first countries to be served (now in Beta) are Russia and Sweden. Brazil is expected to follow not far behind.

Gojaba hearkens back to the early days of Abe. It is described in their news release as "a new no-frills, low-cost online marketplace for used, rare and out-of-print books." There are no commissions and there is no credit card processing. The bookseller simply pays a monthly listing fee and all leads are sent directly to the seller. Abe's role is to connect buyer and seller and then step back from the transaction. The rest is up to them.

The price for listing 20,000 books on the Russian site is 129 rubles, or in U.S. currency $5.32! That sounds like one heck of a deal, but Gojaba would not yet have a following among buyers approaching Abe's. Additionally, Russia is not yet a very wealthy nation. For Swedish sellers, the monthly rate is 99 krona, or $15.95.

We asked AbeBooks' PR and Publicity Manager Richard Davies whether there would be any integration between listings on Abe and Gojaba. He responded no; "The Gojaba database and AbeBooks database are completely separate, and it will remain that way. The two sites use different technologies but also serve different markets." As to whether Abe expects Gojaba to attract collectors or readers, Davies responded that he believes it will draw in both high-end rare book buyers and those looking for cheap used copies.

To the question why Abe selected Russia, a land with its share of economic and other problems, Mr. Davies responded that there were several reasons. "There is a huge population of over 140 million and a well established book culture -- more than 95,000 books were published in 2005. If there is a book culture then there are collectors. Internet usage is growing - over 25% of the population uses the internet. The average wage is increasing and the economy is booming, and there are a growing number of wealthy individuals with significant spending power, particularly around Moscow." He noted that there is already a site similar to Amazon, and a few basic, though not well-developed book sites. In addition, he described the Russian postal system as "efficient," a necessary element for online bookselling. "So we see potential in Russia," he concluded.

He is undoubtedly right. These markets will develop and the question is who does it and when, not whether. Abe got out of the box early in North America, and they are evidently determined to repeat that success in other markets. Asked where else we might see Gojaba go after Brazil is launched, Mr. Davies answered, "We intend to look into opportunities in a number of emerging markets for online used bookselling - in no particular order, they include Poland, India, China, Japan and South Korea."

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