From The Editor

by Craig Stark

#77, 11 September 2006

Today's BookThinker consists of one piece only - an interview with Sue Connors at Abebooks. It's long and illuminating, so I won't be long here.

It's almost an axiom that the largest bookselling venues attract the most criticism, and there's no question that Abebooks, along with eBay and Amazon, have experienced the brunt of bookselling ire in recent years. But Abebooks, in my opinion, has received more than its fair share of bad press, I think in part because it has introduced so many changes, especially in the past year or so - and we all know how enthusiastic booksellers are about change. Add to this the fact that Abebooks dominates the online market for antiquarian and collectible books - that is, it's home to a large contingent of Old School booksellers, many of whom marketed A & C books in pre-Internet days, and some of them are perhaps more resistant to change than others, more likely to vocalize their displeasure. Change is uncomfortable but - don't forget - often necessary and, perhaps more often than we realize, initiated as a direct response to booksellers' needs or venue circumstances that aren't apparent at first glance.

As a personal matter, I've have made three trips with various portions of my inventory in tow to Abebooks over the years. The first and second times were neither protracted nor highly profitable ventures, though I did see a pattern: My average sale price was consistently higher on this fixed-price-venue (FPV) than any other. Also, certain oddball books sold on Abebooks that sold nowhere else. A funny thing happened on the third trip, however, at which time I returned with a much higher concentration of collectible, higher-value books. This new mix, apparently, was key, and over the past 12 months Abebooks has held a rock solid second place in the 9 venues I list on - and, to put this in perspective, I was born and raised on eBay. For many years, eBay was my bread and butter, and all FPVs were a sort of afterthought. No more. This is real income derived from a venue that, I think, booksellers shouldn't dismiss.


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