Friday, August 01, 2008

Abebooks news: The scoop for LibraryThing

Today Abebooks, the Canadian bookseller, announced that it was being acquired by Amazon, a company that needs little introduction. (See Amazon press release.)

Abebooks owns a minority stake in LibraryThing. This means that, after regulatory approval and finalization, Amazon will become, through Abebooks, a minority investor in LibraryThing.

I congratulate Amazon on a shrewd acquisition. Abebooks is a great company, full of wonderful people. They have accomplished great things (link). I have no inside info, but I can foresee Amazon's extraordinary technical infrastructure giving Abe a big lift.
Here's the scoop:
  • LibraryThing did not have any knowledge of or influence over this deal.
  • 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.
As always, I want your feedback on how to make LibraryThing the best book site on the web. I've started a Talk post to talk about all of this, or you can comment here.

Stay tuned for two more blog posts, both major. We have rushed two projects forward that demonstrate LibraryThing's commitment to open data and support for libraries and other book lovers.

Tim Spalding

  • Check out the blog post of Boris Wertz, long-time COO of Abe and co-founder of JustBooks.
  • Local Victoria TV has a story with a good photo of Hannes, the CEO.
  • It's funny to watch the news fly by. 90% of the news stories rehash the press release without pointing to it, as if they are engaging in reporting. Odd

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Blogger MC said...

Does this make you and Shelfari kissing cousins?

8/01/2008 10:55 AM  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

amazon is taking over the world, and that worries me ...

8/01/2008 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> It's funny to watch the news fly by. 90% of the news stories rehash the press release without pointing to it, as if they are engaging in reporting. Odd

Not odd at all; that's business as usual in the media world. Much of what you see in and on the news is content provided by PR agencies and in-house PR departments.

Years ago, I had an administrative job at a major PR firm (for those who follow such things, it was the one that later sold you the original Gulf War). One junior account exec used to show me articles in the business section of a major Chicago newspaper which, though presented as news articles, were in fact word for word from her press releases. It made me pretty cynical about "reporting." Now the 24/7 plus Internet news cycle makes the media even more info-hungry than ever. Press releases (and video footage, especially stock footage) just need to be timely, relevant, and appear credible to be used as is.

8/01/2008 12:46 PM  
Blogger JLH said...

Oh! Thanks fir the tinely news, Tim. I always remembered that you kept 60% control and that abebooks were good people. And Amazon was, like Starbucks, a PNW homegrown venture by brilliant guys (mostly guys, it seems). And I will always have some measure of warmth forthose that have gotten HUGE, but you just have to wonder and wait and watch. Best wishes to you, Tim: I have complete trust in you. (As much as one should ever have -- 99.9999999....., you kinow.) Now I'll head over to the talking post.

8/01/2008 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a long time LibraryThing customer and fan, I'm pretty excited by this news...congrats!

8/01/2008 7:52 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

Kinda of disturbed that Techcrunch ( says "So it might not be surprising to see Amazon try to join the forces of these two modestly sized startups."

I hope not, I like you guys as is.

8/01/2008 8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm fed up with Amazon on a number of counts. (1) They're squeezing small presses for more money, thereby contributing to the further homogenization of the publishing world. What happens when they further narrow the choices for booksellers who need to reach large customer bases? Will they squeeze them out of business as well? (2) Their service of late has really slipped in the shipping department. It takes me far longer to get books ordered directly from Amazon than it does any other dealer including dealers from outside the US. (3)Their website is clumsy and slow if one is forced to use dial-up, which some of us are because the cable companies bypass our neighborhoods. (4) Their search engine is crude. (5) Does this mean users will be subject to the overly abundant and excruciating long to load (if one has dial-up) advertisements? I say a pox on Amazon's house.

8/02/2008 2:50 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

3. The site is definitely not made for dial-up. (Neither is LT, although Amazon is, I think, heavier.) But I'm pretty sure someone has made a lightweight version, using the Amazon API. Anyone seen it?

5. Amazon's minority stake has no effect on whether LT takes a short time or a long time to load.

8/02/2008 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I wasn't talking about LT. Rather I was wondering out loud whether abebooks would end up becoming a site like Amazon. By the way, LT loads remarkably fast even on dial-up. The only time it gets tricky is when a thread gets really long.

P.S. How do I sign in so that I show up as an LT user?

8/02/2008 9:02 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Oh, sorry. I mistook you.

I don't see big changes in the Abe site, at least for now. If anything, it should get faster. Amazon loads slower because the pages are very "heavy." But the Amazon infrastructure is extraordinary—the best technical delivery on the web, excepting Google. I feel—and again, this is just a feeling, not something I know about—that they won't make Abe heavier. Amazon's design meets Amazon's goals. I'm sure they've A/B tested the pages extensively, and even though I too think they're overloaded, they must make financial sense. Ditto Abe. What Amazon needs and what Abe needs are different.

On signing in, the blog is run by blogger, and has a separate system. So you can't do it. Users who seem to do it are really just signed up that way on Blogger.

8/02/2008 9:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I suppose this is good news for Abe, but they aren't the first second-hand booksite to have come under Amazon's influence.

I just hope they don't eventually get subsumed like did, once the initial publicity wears off...

8/03/2008 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just warn us if you start receiving threats from Carl Icahn. ;)

8/04/2008 10:13 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Some guy named Rupert Murdoch left a message this morning. Probably trying to sell me something.

8/04/2008 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rupert Murdoch? I heard it was the Office of Homeland Purity - some about the word erotica appearing o our pages.

8/04/2008 11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get a clue, people. Amazon is EVIL. They announced back in March that small publishers would have to use their famously crappy BookSurge POD service or risk their books not being available for sale through Amazon (only through Marketplace).

The effect of this is to allow Amazon to effectively set book prices for all POD books, and take a higher cut for themselves. They have since tried to explain this as a way to ensure prompt delivery (it's all "for the customers"), which is a crock that has been exposed by and the Small Publishers Association of North America. Google it for yourself...

Tim's right, though; Amazon does have the best infrastructure. Not surprisingly, Darth Vader and his ilk can afford the best systems money can buy.

8/06/2008 11:28 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

You might be interested in our blog post about the BookSurge deal:

8/07/2008 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's Amazon Light

8/18/2008 1:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I know it have been long time since it happened but I knew about abebooks few days ago and found some coupons here anyone knows another site that offers abebooks coupons?

4/07/2009 12:38 AM  

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