April 01, 2006

Good-Bye ABE, Hello Biblio

by Alan Beatts

The ability to sell books on-line is pretty important for book stores, especially specialty stores like Borderlands.  Not only does it bring in extra money but it also lets people know that we exist and it allows us to buy more obscure books because we have access to a worldwide market, not just our (very well loved, believe me) local customers.  For a small business there are really only two options for selling on-line: we can either spend a great deal of time and money to set up a full e-commerce section at our web site or we can use one of the on-line book listing services.  Almost since the day we opened, we've been going with the second of these choices.  In that time we've only used one company, not only because I feel a great deal of loyalty to companies that give us good service but also for years there has been a hands-down winner in terms of selection, service, and reliability.

For years we've been listing our books on-line at a site called abe.com.  In fact, we've been listing there so long we still call it by the original name - The Advanced Book Exchange - in unguarded moments.  For a very long time, ABE gave us wonderful service at a fair price.  Their sellers were probably the finest in the used book field and we used to recommend the site to all our customers.

However, in 2002 or thereabouts, things started changing.  The company was sold, or went public, or some damn thing, and all of a sudden ABE started trying to make more money.  In itself, I think that's a great goal.  It's what we do here at the store.  The problem is that the way they went at it was to start soaking their sellers (us) and their buyers (you) for more money instead of trying to grow their business.  Granted, there were a few attempts to start an advertising campaign in the beginning, but it was a pretty weak attempt (how many of you have ever seen an ad for ABE?).

Service also began to suffer and costs went up and up and up.  More distressingly, there has been a systematic attempt on the part of ABE to obscure our identity as a business behind layers of mandatory rules, complex web site structures, and inflexible policies.  It seems that the goal of ABE is a system whereby booksellers are little more than share-croppers for ABE while the buyers see only the face that ABE wishes them to perceive.

At the beginning of this month, the final straw has been put into place.  Without going into tedious detail, suffice it to say that ABE will be charging us an additional commission for a non-service and they will be taking control of a substantial part of our post-sale customer relations.  And we're not going to put up with it.

As of Monday, April 3rd, for the first time in almost seven years, our books will no longer be listed at abe.com.  We are moving to a new service called biblio.com ( http://www.biblio.com ).  There are a number of features at their site that are vastly superior to ABE from a buyer's standpoint, and they are a much better business to work with from our standpoint.  The funniest part of all of this is how slow I am -- when I went to look at Biblio's site I discovered that all the other specialty SF, Fantasy, and Horror booksellers that I admire and consider my peers, like Paul Dobish, Lloyd Currey and Bob Brown, were there already.  So, if you're looking for quality books in our field, you'll almost undoubtedly do as well at Biblio.com as you would on ABE.  Probably better since most of the people I've spoken to who are still listing on ABE are planning on increasing their prices _only on ABE_ and/or not listing their "best" books there.

For many of you, our move to Biblio.com will be completely unnoticed.  But, if you're used to checking our inventory at our web site, you'll notice some changes in how the search function works.  There also may be some initial glitches as we get the new system worked out.  Needless to say, if you're used to searching our books on ABE, you'd best bookmark http://www.Biblio.com.

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