Amazon has agreed to buy Abebooks.
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.