AE Monthly

Articles - November - 2006 Issue

Abebooks Reaches The 100 Million Listings Milestone

Alogo

Abebooks new logo released last month.


By Michael Stillman

In an October 4th press release, the largest old and used books listing site, Abebooks, announced that it had reached a new milestone -- 100 million books listed online. Abe noted that they reached one million listings within six months of going live in 1996, 35 million in 2000, and have been growing at a rate of 17 million listings per year over the past three years.

Abe now notes having 13,500 booksellers, a more slowly growing number, as some sellers cycle out while new ones join the crowd. Growth in the average number of listings per dealer accounts for the bulk of the increase. Abe states that the average seller now lists 7,400 titles, up from 6,500 a year ago. Based on their stated numbers, Abe would have had 83 million books listed a year ago, and with an average quantity of 6,500 books per lister, that means they had roughly 12,770 dealers last year. That translates to an annual increase of 730 dealers or 5.7%. As to whether this represents what is happening in terms of the number of people in the bookselling business overall is anyone's guess.

Abebooks also announced that it will be integrating listings from its Spanish site, Iberlibro, into the Abe site by the end of the year. This will add another two million books to the database.

Abebooks stated that they expect listings to continue to grow. CEO Hannes Blum is quoted as saying, "We anticipate that our booksellers will list well in excess of 100 million in the years ahead." Then, in an interesting note, he adds, "We remain committed to books and booksellers, and have no intention of moving into other areas." That stands in sharp contrast to their closest competitor, Alibris, which, after being purchased recently by outside investors (as was Abe earlier), announced that they would particularly target increasing sales in their music and movie listings. Abe and Alibris clearly have different strategies when it comes to business plans.

Abebooks did not reveal sales numbers in their press release, but hinted at them by saying, "AbeBooks has millions of customers who purchase up to 25,000 books a day from its 5 global websites." Note the "up to" and the inclusion of all five global sites. How many are sold on the Abebooks site alone, or the average price, were not stated.

While Abe apparently does now have 100 million listings, that exaggerates the number of books a bit. Some of the larger listers have evidently found ways to sneak in multiple listings of single titles, such as using shipping included and shipping not included listings, or slightly different descriptions to list the same title. Other "booksellers" are noted for being "re-listers," those who list other dealers' inventory at a higher price and then buy that other inventory up when they get a sale. Finally, there are the ubiquitous phantom "books-on-demand" reprints, where a dealer offers to print up a copy of some old book one at a time as orders are received. Abe has attempted to stop some of these practices, notably double posting, but this tends to be a cat-and-mouse game with those who violate site policies. These issues notwithstanding, 100 million is still a very large number, and we can safely there are a lot of books posted on Abe.

Abe also displayed its new logo in the press release. That new logo can be seen at the head of this article.

AE Monthly


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