Abebooks: Internet Visionaries
True, lately there have been more grumblings than ever from Abebooks’ user-detractors, particularly those who resent a recent change in pricing policy for booksellers listing on Abebooks. This pricing policy, like many aspects of the business, will be further delved into in the interview with Abebooks representatives that follows this introduction. But to sum it up briefly, Abebooks has gone from requiring no transaction fee whatsoever of booksellers to requiring that 5% of booksellers' transactions facilitated through Abebooks go back to Abebooks. This 5% is hardly a substantial figure – especially considering the fact that it is not currently being strictly enforced, meaning that some booksellers could and probably do deal directly with customers who were referred to them via Abebooks without Abebooks knowing about it – but it is an adjustment for booksellers listing on Abebooks nonethess. And nonetheless, Abebooks does provide a major service to the bookselling community and they are certainly entitled to profit from the considerable services they provide.
But even amongst these partially dissatisfied customers, you’d be hard pressed to find one who does not turn to Abebooks multiple times during his or her day. Indeed, according to Abebooks an average of one hundred and fifty thousand people visit the site per day – many for multiple visits. Abebooks has truly revolutionized the book trading, buying, and selling business and has become an ingrained way of life for anyone integrally involved in the used/rare/antiquarian book business. It is here to stay, and there is no going back, only forward.
So what does Abebooks do?, some readers might be asking at this juncture. What doesn’t it do is more the question. First and foremost, Abebooks provides an effective and easy to operate database whereby users can simultaneously search the inventories of approximately ten thousand booksellers in forty-two countries for a specific book. These searches can be conducted by book title, book author, and keyword (and via other fields such as ISBN number or publisher in the Advanced Search mode.) The resultant information informs the user which booksellers have the desired book in stock and provides users with a way to conduct business either directly through said bookseller or in one fell swoop on Abebooks using their purchasing software (which is embedded into their system and need not be loaded onto the individual user’s computer.) Oftimes a search for a particular book yields several different results, reflecting different booksellers that have different copies of the book – often different editions of the book, in varying condition – at various pricing levels. Then it is up to the user to determine which copy is more appropriate for his or her purposes. (One way to do this is with the help of AE's Bibliographic and Auction Databases, which gives the potential purchaser of an Americana book a sense of the book’s history, importance, and relative value.) Abebooks also allows for searches for particular book dealers by geographic location or by book firm name; through these searches, users can then browse the bookseller’s inventory and/or choose to search through only that inventory for a particular item.