Apparently when I graduated and sent UMI my dissertation, the vague form that I filled out allowing them to provide academic copies has now been broadened by them into a general publication permission that allows them to print up copies, just like a book, and then sell them to whomever. They told me that if I didn't want them to provide copies I could choose to do that.
In the meantime, ABE finally came back to me with a statement, which I print here, in its entirety, unedited:
One of my colleagues in Europe has been in contact with the bookseller in question… Here is an update -- when you put your article together, please consider this email content as our official response to your inquiry from Friday.
-------------------------------------- On Friday, we removed the listing offering your dissertation for sale. This is common practice for us when an author or publisher has a problem with a listing and then makes contact with AbeBooks.com. We almost always remove the listings in cases like these.
The seller in question, Discantus, is listing the catalog of a print--on--demand (POD) publisher. That POD publisher is working with the University of Michigan and other universities. The publisher should only be issuing books and dissertations that it has authorization to print but this is not being done. We're going to help Discantus clean up his database. However, he is very much dependent on receiving correct data from the POD publisher. As you can see, certain aspects of online bookselling are dependant upon information stored in databases, which can be incorrect.
In terms of our policies in an issue like this, booksellers selling through AbeBooks.com are allowed to offer any book that they are legally entitled to sell. Discantus was not legally entitled to sell your dissertation, so we have acted upon your information and intend to remove further illegal listings by working with this bookseller. Thank you for helping us. With 100 million listings to police, we are simply not going to be aware of issues like this unless third parties contact us.
In case your article addresses the issue of drop--shipping, this is a subject that we are frequently asked about. In terms of location of the book, we cannot define where the book offered for sale is physically located while actually on sale through AbeBooks.com. Please note that we do not discriminate against booksellers who do not have the book in their possession but fulfill the order directly from a distributor.
< br> However, our site policies do not allow AbeBooks booksellers to copy or "scrape" listings from other AbeBooks' booksellers and then offer that "scraped" book for sale with the intention of drop--shipping the book if it is ordered. If a bookseller believes another AbeBooks' seller has copied their listing, then they should lodge a complaint with our customer support department. They need to be able to demonstrate proof that a listing has been copied.
If you have any further questions, please contact me.