What Is happening At Abebooks?
On Abe, however, the bookseller has always been intimately involved in the sale. Their name is upfront on every listing. While Abe also offered the opportunity to complete the sale through its site, it was not of significance to them whether the customer bought the book on their site or directly from the seller. Either way, they were paid the same amount, the listing fee. Abe was not like Wal-Mart, making the sale. Abe was more like a magazine or other advertising media. The bookseller, in effect, placed an advertisement on Abebooks site, and paid his fee. As with any ad, they paid the same fee whether the advertisement generated no sales, or so many sales that its cost was a steal for the price. Abe, in effect, became what A.B. Bookman's Weekly had been in another, low-tech era, a place to run for sale advertisements in front of an audience of people interested in books.
Fast forward to the commission structure. Now, it is critically important to Abe how the customer purchases the book. Abe needs the customer to buy on their site, not directly from the dealer. If the buyer goes direct, Abe will never know a sale has been made, and they will not receive a commission. While the commissions were still small, this may have been a tolerable situation for Abe. Now that commissions are more substantial, and probably Abe's planned major source of revenue, getting customers to buy on their site becomes imperative.
This, naturally, leads Abe to take steps to make sure customers buy on their site. So we saw the introduction of "canned" descriptions and images, which tend to blur distinctions between dealers, making direct contact appear less important. Then we see a downplaying of how to contact the sellers directly. Abe still lists the seller's name next to the book, and provides a link to information about the seller. However, that seller information page does not contain the magic number for contacts, the bookseller's telephone number. That is not to say the buyer cannot figure out how to contact the Abe seller directly. A small link under "Payment Methods" on the "Details" page headed "View Bookseller's Homepage" leads to his phone number if he/she has provided one. There is also a small link to "Ask Bookseller a Question" which allows the buyer to email the seller directly, sufficient to set up an offline conversation. Abe has not eliminated direct contact between buyer and seller, at least not yet. However, they certainly don't encourage such contact. If customers continue to contact and buy directly from the dealer, my guess is that Abe will take further steps to reduce that interaction. As commissions become Abe's major source of income, I can only surmise that Abe will take greater steps to make sure that these sales take place on the site, where Abe can collect its commission.