AbeBooks Institutes Charge On Shipping
We asked Mr. Davies whether Abe's greater openness with revealing sellers' identities was costing them commissions, thereby necessitating a pricing change. He declined to place any blame here, saying that when it comes to sales transacted outside of Abe, "it is simply impossible to record, or even estimate, such a statistic." He stated, "We have always encouraged contact between buyers and sellers - being able to request extra images or confirm the exact edition or condition is something buyers really value. We accept this helps some orders to go around the system but this is not an issue of major concern." Obviously opening the lines of communications has a cost to Abe, though how much is unknown.
Of course, some booksellers question Abe's "need" to raise rates. Only Abe knows what its needs are, but business is not really about need. It is about the market. Few booksellers would refuse to raise prices if it increased their profits, even if they didn’t "need" it, or such increases drove some collectors from the market. Abe can hardly be faulted for running its business in a businesslike manner. They may be wrong that raising commissions is good for them. It could reduce total income by reducing sales or the number of listing booksellers. In this case, there would in time be a rollback. However, we suspect that Abebooks will still be a worthwhile investment for most of its members even with the price adjustments. Certainly there are alternatives for booksellers. There are several good cooperative and organizational book listing sites out there, along with a number of excellent smaller private ones that can add income to a bookseller's bottom line. However, these are more like niche opportunities. The extra income is worth having, but only an Abe or one of the other large sites, such as Amazon or eBay, can provide the volume of traffic most sellers need as a foundation for their business. Of course, those other sites often upset their dealers every bit as much as Abe.
One protest we suspect is doomed to failure is one rumored as of this writing to be planned by many IberLibro sellers (Abe's Spanish site). They are said to be discussing a one-week boycott. Many eBay sellers participated in such a boycott a few weeks back, and the effect was nil. A one-week boycott simply tells the target that while I'm mad at you, I still need you. Business relationships are built on mutual self-interest. If Abe becomes unprofitable to the dealer, or better options emerge, the booksellers will move on regardless of their personal feelings. If not, they will stay. Booksellers who are unhappy need seek out other options or find ways to coexist with Abe. Fair or not, there simply are no other choices available.
Editor's Note: Several Abe booksellers have written us to say that the new Abe charge on shipping fees also applies to any sales tax collected, meaning the amount of money collected for sales tax is insufficient to pay both the tax and Abe's charge.