Amazon Buys Abebooks

Amazon has agreed to buy Abebooks.

Abebooks Logo

According to numerous reports this morning, Amazon will acquire Abebooks. No terms have been disclosed. The deal will close by the end of the year and Abebooks will remain a stand-alone unit. This is very big news in the bookselling world.

I spent three years at Alibris and became convinced that Amazon would purchase ABE or Alibris. Lowball offers aside, things never seems to get anywhere on that front.

In that time ABE shed it’s business partnerships with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and instead pursued a vertical integration strategy. They bought Fillz, a company that provided inventory and order management software for booksellers; Bookfinder.com, the leading price comparison engine in the vertical; a 40% stake in LibraryThing, the leading social reading site; and Chrislands, which creates online storefronts for booksellers. ABE also has a bigger international footprint.

I often thought that Amazon may have been waiting for ABE or Alibris to fall apart. In fact, I think that is what they were doing. Unfortunately for them, each player found a niche and persisted. Now, finally, they’ve decided to turn their attention back to books. Solidifying their core business is a smart move in my opinion.

Alibris, on the other hand, continued to build business partnerships with Barnes & Noble, Borders, eBay, Chapters and Blackwell UK. Not to mention their own Sparks, NV warehouse which allows them to service the Library market with greater ease.

Essentially, Alibris gives many Amazon competitors the ability to offer a marketplace of used books without building substantial infrastructure. Most recently, Alibris now powers the Borders.com used book marketplace. This is more notable because Borders is a former Amazon partner.

So what happens now?

Perhaps nothing, but … perhaps this is the start of the endgame. Barnes & Noble could see this move and want to counter. I’ve already theorized that Barnes & Noble might purchase Borders. I still think this makes sense. However, why not purchase Alibris as well? Barnes & Noble would roll up the brick and mortar space, owning it by a wide margin, and have a strong competing stake in the secondary market.

Independent booksellers may be unsettled by this consolidation and will likely keep an eye on commission and fee schedules over the course of the next year.

Thanks to Duncan Riley at the Inquistr who brought this news to my attention via FriendFeed.

15 thoughts on “Amazon Buys Abebooks

  1. It’s definitely big news.

    Quick correction: Filz, BookFinder and Chrislands are Abebooks companies. LibraryThing is a minority position for Abe.

  2. You’re right Tim (and you should know!) Apologies for the inaccuracy which I have now updated. And clearly there may be some contractual language surrounding change of control.

    All that said, what’s your take on the news?

  3. Dear Sirs:
    I´m a young member of ABEBOOKS , and I don´t know if this notice is good for the small library shops or not. I think that AMAZON is a big market and more people see our books but perhaps the comission are more hight. EBAY in the last times is more expensive. Please if you have more perspective of this theme give me notices.
    Thanks for all
    eva

  4. It’s like it was meant to be or something.

    AbeBooks International

    * AbeBooks.com
    * AbeBooks.co.uk
    * AbeBooks.de
    * AbeBooks.fr
    * AbeBooks.it
    * AbeBooks.ca
    * IberLibro.com
    * Australia & New Zealand

    Now take a look at Amazon International:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=487250

    Sure there is no Japan or China for Abebooks web sites but still a very parallel mix of International sites.

    Can somebody please tell us that selling price?? : )

  5. David,

    You’re right. The international business is likely one of the reasons why Amazon pulled the trigger on the ABE deal.

    In addition to the ABE sites, Bookfinder has gone international:

    JustBooks.co.uk
    JustBooks.de
    JustBooks.fr
    JustBooks.nl

    No word on terms. TechVibes believes it is between $90MM and $120MM, however I think that’s too high.

  6. AbeBooks has also launched Gojaba.com, a no-frills low-cost online marketplace for used, rare and out-of-print books in Sweden, Russia, Poland and Brazil.

  7. What will this do to Borders? – looks like it is giving Amazon yet another advantage in the online marketplace – Do you really think Barnes and Noble will buy Borders, I think if they do they are going to wait until they do even more damage to themselves and the sales price goes down – they would have to restructure everything, get rid of high salary executives that aren;t towing the line – I think they would get rid of most of the stores that directly compete with their stores now, unless that Borders location was a better choice – I firmly believe when it comes to research and real estate, most of the Barnes and Nobles are probably in the better location – it would actually be a smooth transaction – if it happens.

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