Sunday, April 02, 2006

Late April Fools: ABE and Booksellers

April Fools

Since ABE announced the impending changes at the site, ABE booksellers stirred and groused much more than usual. (I believe the contract changes go into effect April 3, 2006.) At contention also are the ongoing site problems such as books missing from one's onsite inventory.

I recall the two biggest complaints ABE booksellers currently have against the listing service are the disallowing of sellers to process their own credit card transactions (thus bringing overall charges/fees up to 13.5%) and decreasing the bookseller contact by moving bookseller information to a less prominent spot. Hmmm, appears that ABE is mirroring Amazon and Alibris more and more.

In an attempt to assert some power and make a point, an unknown number of booksellers planned to "remove" their listings from being offered for sale as a protest. The start date was April Fools' day to correlate and reflect on the April 3rd fee changes. I believe that protest was
ABAA inspired (?- likely not the correct word here) and was only intended for one day. (?????) Okay...

Someone on the
ebay Booksellers' discussion board commented that everyone was going to place their books on "vacation" or whatever. Yeah, right. I don't think hell froze over and I haven't heard how big a hit the "strike" was. I haven't had the time to go through all my resources the past few days. I seriously doubt it was viewed as more than a joke or nuisance by the company. I'd be amazed if enough people pulled listings to cause great damage to ABE. Certainly, one day is hardly a fly in the ointment, especially if mainly the high-end antiquarians were involved, but bravo for the effort. I understand principles.

Much of the discussion on ebay is humorous since the ebay sellers are bandying about how everyone will be joining ABAA,
ABA or ILAB/LILA to sell their wares. As if! I'd say the people haven't a clue about the associated membership fees or the relationships between the organizations themselves judging by the discussions.

Even more interesting is the complete lack of discussion- not even a mention to my eyes- on this matter on bookthink, Alibris and the Amazon boards. I found plenty on the Insider list, unfortunately. (My
Insider mailing list registration was on vacation for over a year, so I think it was deleted. I had to re-subscribe. I'd prefer to read everything from the archives, but set my subscription to digest mode. For quite some time the list was pretty noxious and contentious with negativity and advertising, which is why I vacated- and why I'd rather read the list via the "Archives." Not happy I must begin the daily digest crap again, even for information. And as I roll around in the archives I see I do not miss reading the mostly non-informative banter. I am getting a headache from it and don't really care how the "strike" fared.)

Another tactic some of the angry ABE booksellers are taking is an informative email to customers. This technique is taking several different forms. I received one of these "informative emails" from a KA in Washington state, in clear violation of ABE Privacy Policy. No, I did not order a book from her- recently. In fact, my only book order from her was on 1/23/2003!!!!! In her email, she bad-mouthed ABE informing me of all the transgressions ABE is imposing on her and other ABE booksellers. I was advised how to use and when searching for books, but told my primary choice should be ADDALL for book searches, since ABE owns Bookfinder. I was also advised to purchase my books from in preference to ABE. While I understand the dealer's frustrations, I am mightily peeved by receiving an unsolicited email that violates privacy policies. AND- I did complain to ABE. Sorry, but I am tired of booksellers feeling my book order is an open invitation to send me their catalogs, mailing lists, or other spam when I did not give permission. People, ask first, please or provide a means to subscribe in your initial contact!!!!

Another form of the email campaign is to inform the buyer that there is a 15% surcharge on all ABE orders, which can be avoided if the book is purchased elsewhere- the preferred site to be named by the individual dealer. I don't know how that will work. Unless the customer is a "regular," I think most want price and convenience in one spot without hassle. Who's to say the person won't move on to another venue or say fuhgedaboutit?

My take on all this is, if you don't like the way the big kids play with your ball, take it and go home. We (booksellers) are using the assorted listing services to sell our items. No one is forced to stay with any single one of the sites. There is no gun to our collective heads. The sites aren't ours; we didn't develop them. We are, in fact, more or less renters, and the other fact is we are in a landlords' market. We all had to apply to be accepted on the various sites. No, I am not happy with every site I list on, either, but I like to think I am realistic.

There are many reasons that bookselling has arrived to the point we are at: ScoutPal; discussion boards where every Joe Blow and his dog are welcomed with open arms and pages full of helpful information; Amazon inviting its customers to sell their past purchases; Antiques Road Show, HGTV and the like; penny books, megalisters, auto-repricers and as the King said, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Don't even get me started on the fact that every person not in the know thinks bookselling is an easy way to make money. Sheesh!!! Talk about hard work- both physical and mental.

Booksellers have also been offered other listing options, like ABBookman's
Collectors Book Market and IOBA's (only for members) but these options were considered too new, too small, too powerless, or whatever the excuse of the day is/was. Everyone (or nearly) crawled back to eBay after the category changes and Item Specifics. Then there was Alibris and their changes and fee collecting. If memory serves me correctly, those who jumped ship from Alibris went to ABE and/or Biblio. Constant complaints about Amazon glitches haven't chased away the hordes, either. I hardly see how ABE is any different from the three (of many) examples I used. Times are harder for the big dawgs, too.

"Bookmen" (Sorry ladies- but we're included here, too.) with principles should support the likes of IOBA, Biblio,
Tomfolio, Collectors Book Market and other similar sites. Yes, the whines about low/no sales will be voiced regarding these sites. Whether true or not, every site has to start somewhere building its online inventory and reputation. ABE did not always have the size and stature it does now!

Any and all corrections, observations, experiences or opinions are welcome.

No comments: