Abebooks: Internet Visionaries

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AE Monthly Feature Article


ABEBOOKS: Our “Wants” list is hugely popular with our buyers. At the moment we have one million and sixty-four thousand wants registered in our system. (1,064,000) These are screened every 8-10 hours against books that have been recently uploaded to our system.

We find that different people use the “wants” for different reasons: acquisition librarians who are putting together collections use it to help them locate rare or hard to find items; collectors use wants to help them be the “first to know” when a copy of a book is available; general booklovers and avid readers use it to find out when a used copy of a new book comes onto the site.

Booksellers also find this a convenient means to determine which books are in high demand and low supply.

Abebooks allows anyone with an account (bookseller and bookbuyer) visiting our site to browse our books-wanted list.

AEM: Can you look ahead and tell us what the future looks like to you?

[Editor’s Note: Answer from Brent James, CEO Abebooks.]

ABEBOOKS: Another way of asking this question is: what does the future look like for buying and selling used, rare, out-of-print and antiquarian books over the internet?

From Abebooks' perspective, the supply of rare books on the Internet will continue to increase as booksellers around the world become more aware of the Internet and become more comfortable in listing their rare books for sale online. For sellers of rare books, the Internet is (so far) the most efficient medium to list their books to a world-wide audience.

In parallel, book collectors around the world are increasingly turning to the Internet to locate such rare books. Indeed, only the World Wide Web allows a book collector to browse the inventory of a bookstore anywhere else in the world.

Abebooks sees an ever-increasing demand for an Internet service which brings buyers and sellers of rare books together. We recognize that sellers of such books may want to process credit cards themselves, so we give booksellers the option to do this and save money on transaction costs; we recognize that such rare books tend to be higher priced than other books, so we cap our transaction fees; we recognize that booksellers want to be able to provide a full description of their rare books, so we do not limit the amount of information for book descriptions; and we recognize that buyers of such books will likely want to contact the bookseller to ask questions, so we display full bookseller contact information including email address, telephone number, and address.

In summary, the Internet does not only facilitate the sale of used, rare, out-of-print and antiquarian books, but in many cases the Internet is the only way that buyers are able to find the books they are looking for. Demand and supply of rare books are inter-related - supply increases with demand, and demand increases with supply. This inter-relationship continues to grow, and Abebooks is committed to not only keeping up with this growth, but to fueling this growth.