SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah antique booksellers are adding their voices to a global demonstration against policies implemented by an Amazon-owned company targeting sellers from several countries around the world.
Dubbed by some as Banned Booksellers Week, scores of antiquarian book dealers have joined in a worldwide protest of a decision by Amazon-owned AbeBooks to ban sellers from several countries from using the company's online platform. One local dealer calls the edict "a rather cavalier move that will hurt the international trading community."
"This is another chapter in their (Amazon's) corporate dominance when accountants are calling the shots and not book people," said Tony Weller, co-owner of Weller Book Works in Trolley Square. "These types of things don't occur when stronger competition occurs in the world."
Speaking Monday, Weller said his store will join his "colleagues" around the world by "removing our books from the site" for one week. While he is passionate about supporting small-business owners in the antique bookselling community, Weller is unsure how effective the boycott will be in the long run.
"They are so big, there is a point of power where they no longer feel any obligation to listen to messages from the (bookseller community)," he said. "Over and over we see that corporate dominance does not work for people."
He called on "thoughtful shoppers" to begin to move their business away from the platform and choose other online marketplaces to make their literary purchases.
A New York Times report indicates the protest began last month when AbeBooks sent emails to booksellers in countries including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and South Korea, explaining the company would no longer “support” them, adding, “We apologize for this inconvenience.”
Founded in 1995 as Advanced Book Exchange in British Columbia, Canada and acquired by Amazon in 2008, AbeBooks is an e-commerce and online marketplace that offers books, collectibles and fine art from sellers in more than 50 countries around the world. The company told the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers that it was scaling back because “it is no longer viable for us to operate in these countries due to increasing costs and complexities,” the report states.
In a statement, AbeBooks said it was dropping the countries because “our third-party payment service provider is closing at the end of the year. We regret that we cannot continue to serve all sellers.”
In response to AbeBooks' announcement, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association — part of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers — pulled out of a sponsorship deal with the London Rare Book Fair "Firsts" scheduled for next year.
Meanwhile, booksellers worldwide are taking action in solidarity with those dealers impacted by the AbeBooks decision.
"It could put them out of business because of their inability to offer their wares internationally on the most recognized and well-known bookselling site," said Ken Sanders, owner of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City.
Noting that not all booksellers are in support of the protest, he said, "The individual members are doing this (protest), not the association."
Sanders also noted that the affected countries are not banned from using Amazon, just the AbeBooks bookselling platform, which he said is particularly unfair to small dealers whose livelihoods could be at stake.
"If Amazon could find a way to take payments from these affected countries, why can't AbeBooks?" Sander queried.
"We're going ahead with the one-week in-solidarity boycott," he said. "It's just to send a message to (AbeBooks) that we believe they have taken a mistaken action and we request that they put the banned booksellers back on."3 comments on this story
He said the boycott will cost his business thousands of dollars in lost internet sales revenue. He added that some dealers believe the protest is misguided, but he feels strongly that it is the "right thing to do."
"The fact they are taking away other booksellers' livelihoods really strikes home with me," Sanders explained. "Even at financial cost, I want to express solidarity. It's a one-week 'walk out' if you will to say to AbeBooks that we care about our antiquarian colleagues the world over and we don't think your taking their livelihood away from them is responsible and ethical."