Saturday, August 02, 2008

BPN 1177 Amazon buys Abebooks and dabbles now in two social networks

Abebooks was in the news yesterday. Amazon is going to buy the Canadian online marketplace for used, rare and out-of-print books. I remember that Abebooks was a winner in 2003 of the World Summit Award 2003 in the category e-business. (The WSA has a good nose for quality candidates!). The laudation for Abebooks read at that time: is the world’s largest online marketplace for used, rare, and out-of-print books. It connects those who buy books with those who sell books and covers the entire cycle of an online transaction, from registration to logistics. has unique features, including a matching system that helps users find unavailable books, direct bookseller contact and a free bookstore inventory management system. The site also includes literary features and community fora where booklovers have lively literary based discussions. Abebooks has an unparalleled selection including collectibles, comics and reading copies of bestsellers. has reached an agreement to acquire AbeBooks,. Its site has over 110 million books listed for sale by 13,500 independent booksellers from around the world. It will continue to function as a stand-alone operation based in Victoria, British Columbia. AbeBooks will maintain all of its websites
But reading the news, I discovered some new thing about book and books collectors. While we have the friends’sites like Facebook and the Dutch Hyves and the professional network sites like Linkedin, Xing and Plaxo, there are also social network for booklovers. Abe books owes a 40 percent minority share in LibraryThing, which keeps track of books and finds other like-minded book lovers. Amazon has also invested in a similar service called Shelfari. So, what is Amazon going to with these two services? Basically the question is of course: has it any influence on those two companies and can it take any action such buying the majority stakes and merging the services?

Here is the reaction by the owner of LibraryThing: I congratulate Amazon on a shrewd acquisition. Abebooks is a great company, full of wonderful people. I have no inside info, but I can foresee Amazon's extraordinary technical infrastructure giving Abe a big lift. … The majority of LibraryThing is in my hands. Abebooks holds a minority of the shares, with certain notable but limited rights. This situation does not change when Amazon acquires Abebooks. Amazon will not get access to your data. The LibraryThing/Abebooks terms are specific. Abe gets only anonymized and aggregate data, like recommendations, and they can only use it on Abebooks sites (eg.,, Nothing has changed here. Abebooks customers won't see much a difference. The name will survive and the site will continue. Both employees and management will remain in Canada. LibraryThing remains LibraryThing. We will continue to uphold and advance LibraryThing values, including open data, strict privacy rules and support for libraries and independent bookstores.

I did not see any comment on the site of Shelfari. This social site, online since 2006, introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now). Shelfari was the first social media site focused on books, and will continue to innovate as it brings together the world's readers. Our mission is to enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word.

But both sites, LibraryThing and Shelfari are interesting. Their members can build virtual bookshelves to express themselves to their friends and to the world and discover books that are popular in their trusted circles of friends. It is also like a virtal book debating club where members can influence peers by rating and discussing books online and learn from people with similar reading tastes. They can also interact with with and learn from authors.

(BTW Have a look at the exciting, remodelled site of the World Summit Award, ready for the WSA 2009 edition. The site was produced by the board member Anya Sverdlov and her ACTIS team.)

Blog Posting Number: 1177

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