Booksellers show unprecedented act of solidarity and send their books “on vacation”
On 18th October 2018, AbeBooks sent an announcement to booksellers based in Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Russia, informing them that their accounts will be closed by 30thNovember 2018 as a result of the complete withdrawal of AbeBooks from those markets. Very little information and explanation was given to the affected booksellers, who then contacted the international trade body for the rare book trade, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, ILAB, asking for support.
After ILAB’s request for more detail on why booksellers from a number of countries will no longer be able to use the platform, AbeBooks sent a more detailed statement on 27th October 2018: “We sincerely regret having to take this action but it is no longer viable for us to operate in these countries due to increasing costs and complexities.”
The AbeBooks statement gave very little additional information and background as to why the company would withdraw from these markets.
On 31st October, the London Rare Book Fair “Firsts”, managed and owned by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, ABA, announced that they will not sign a pending sponsorship deal for the 2019 fair, one of the major international rare book fairs. The bookselling community widely approved of this decision.
British bookseller Simon Beattie suggested to his colleagues worldwide that they could demonstrate solidarity with the booksellers whose accounts are about to be closed down, by putting stock “on vacation” - a functionality booksellers can use when indeed going on vacation.
“I have decided to put my books on (permanent) vacation on ABE in solidarity with fellow booksellers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Korea and Russia.” writes Simon Beattie. "I hope you might like to follow suit.”
An overwhelming response by the international bookselling community resulted from this email and by the time of writing this update (5 November 2018) over 300 booksellers have joined this form of protest. Many have quoted ILAB’s motto “Amor Librorum Nos Unit” – “The Love of Books Unites Us”.
Booksellers from Denmark, France, South Africa, Italy, Australia, the UK and the US, Canada, New Zealand, Turkey, Mexico, Hungary, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Hong Kong, Sweden, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Ireland, Belgium and Argentina are currently pausing their listings on the AbeBooks platform.
The international press picked up on this unique form of protest and demonstration of solidarity and various articles have appeared in France, Germany and the US.
The New York Times writes (4 November 2018): “…The flash strike against the site, AbeBooks, which is due to begin Monday, is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon…The protest arrives as increasing attention is being paid to the extensive power that Amazon wields as a retailer — a power that is greatest in books.”
Many booksellers have come forward and contacted ILAB via an internal mailing list or written to Sally Burdon (ILAB President) directly. The ILAB committee wants to assure all its affiliates that all these suggestions are taken very seriously and welcomes the dialogue.
As Sally Burdon wrote in one of her recent communications: “The booksellers wish to send a clear message that they resent the short notice given for our colleagues affected by this decision and for the lack of information regarding why this decision was reached. It is felt that this decision was made without any understanding of the human cost involved. ‘Amor Librorum Nos Unit’ is ILAB's motto and this weekend has proven this to be true.”
Link to New York Times, 4th November 2018: "Booksellers Protest Amazon Site’s Move to Drop Stores From Certain Countries"
Link to Article in French Book Journal ActuaLitté, 3rd November 2018: "Mobilisation internationale des libraires anciens contre Abebooks"
Link to German Börsenblatt, Aus dem Antiquariat, 3rd November 2018: "Proteste gegen Abebooks"