The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

ABE can suck it

Due to recent changes in ABE's (Advanced Book Exchange) fee structure and some extremely anti-competitive (and desperate) buy-ups, ABE can officially suck it.

ABE adjusted their fee schedule so that they now charge an 8% commission on SHIPPING, a fixed (and constantly increasing) charge over which a bookseller has no control. This is a particularly cruel time to do this as, due to the weak dollar, international buyers have been making opportunistic (but very welcome!) purchases from US sellers. The standard cost for overseas shipment is $11 via international priority mail and can easily go up to $20-40 for oversize books. That's a fee increase of from $.88 to $3.20 on each international sale ON TOP of ABE's already considerable commission on the list price.

In addition ABE recently purchased Bookfinder and Chrislands (a website building and hosting service, popular with internet booksellers) and despite promises to remain hands-off they recently notified Chrislands customers that:
There are two fees involved in enabling your books to be available to searches.

1. Flat fee of $10.00 per month. The monthly fee covers the cost to increase your bookstore capacity to handle the amount of searches generated by

2. Commission on sales from The commission is a 7% commission on sales in your store from customers that came to your store from The commission amount is based upon the order total less taxes. There is a maximum sales commission per book of $35 (7% of $500).
(I guess that is still technically "hands off" but it is certainly both hands out)

So even booksellers who've made an effort to hack out their own web presence are once again corralled by ABE.

Despite these greedy buy-ups, my ABE sales are down 62% from last year (Jan 1-Apr 24) even with a somewhat larger inventory. So instead of effective promotional efforts or selling innovations (like customizable bookseller RSS feeds that I've suggested to them like 50 times) ABE just gives another push and further alienates their already poorly compensated booksellers.

I've been using ABE links on this blog because they were the only venue that listed my complete inventory with images. Going forward I will make no further links to ABE and I will steadily redirect the old links to Antiqbook which so far has been very responsive (I just started listing with them) and allows for sticky searches (staying within a single bookseller's inventory), image links, and exact shipping quotes after the sale.


Anirvan said...

Hey, this is Anirvan from

You refer to some of AbeBooks' acquisition as anti-competitive. I don't speak for AbeBooks, but I do want to mention that remains 100% independently operated.

The fact that our shareholders have been Canadian since November 2005 hasn't caused us to start favoring AbeBooks properties; in fact, we've pretty dramatically expanded our partnerships with both AbeBooks competitors and bookseller-owned coops.

Our site's open to the public. If AbeBooks was making us do secret bad stuff, it'd be pretty obvious. Feel free to email me (anirvan at if you want to follow up.

Thanks, and sorry for catching your post so late.

William Smith said...

Bookfinder may be dealing fairly with the book data once it's received, but ABE now controls the pipeline for that data from Chrislands and is charging for the privilege of using it.

I'm probably not the best person to comment on this since I'm only an occasional Bookfinder user and I don't have a Chislands site (though I was considering it before the buy up) but I believe that if ABE's acquisitions were actually beneficial they should realize a profit from the increased sales and exposure for their member booksellers rather than just bleeding them for more fees.