Booksellers unite in protest as Amazon’s AbeBooks withdraws from several countries.
Hundreds of booksellers have taken ‘vacation’ from the secondhand books marketplace due to it dropping sellers from countries such as Russia and South Korea.
The motto of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, “Amor librorum nos unit” or “love of books unites us”, has been adopted as a battle cry this week by an army of hundreds of secondhand booksellers around the world. From Australia to Mexico, they have united in a flash strike against Amazon, after its secondhand books marketplace AbeBooks announced it will withdraw from markets including South Korea and Russia, which booksellers fear will devastate local businesses.
Booksellers in Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Russia were told by AbeBooks that from 30 November, it would “no longer support sellers located in certain countries”. “We apologise for this inconvenience,” added the marketplace, which was founded in 1995 and acquired by Amazon in 2008.
The move was, said booksellers Jan and Ondrej Schick of Antikvariát Valentinská in Prague, a “complete shock” and means they will “almost certainly have to dismiss at least five employees. It also leaves them no outlet to sell around 20,000 books that aren’t in Czech, which are harder to sell in store.
The Schicks contacted the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), which mobilised its members – including British bookseller Simon Beattie, who proposed a mass demonstration of solidarity with those affected by AbeBooks’s withdrawal, by taking what he described as a “vacation” from using the website. Now, around 2.6m books from more than 460 booksellers in 26 countries are now listed as “temporarily unavailable”.
“I think what sparked my initial action, and my hope that other booksellers might follow suit, was simply the gross unfairness of it all: a high-handed blanket approach from Abe, at such short notice, ending with a perfunctory ‘We apologise for this inconvenience’,” said Beattie. “Many booksellers rely on sales through Abe to stay in business.”
ILAB president Sally Burdon, who is meeting with AbeBooks this week to discuss the situation, said the Schicks’ story has struck a chord. “The booksellers wish to send a clear message that they resent the short notice given to 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,” she said. “Amor librorum nos unit is ILAB’s motto and these last few days has proven this to be true.”
Mats Petersson, president of the Swedish Antiquarian Booksellers Association, said there are already 10 Swedish members taking part in what is being called Banned Booksellers Week, with more planning to sign up. “There are absolutely no hints from AbeBooks that they are planning to withdraw from Sweden, but if they act like this today against other countries, what guarantees do we have for their future behaviour against us?” he said.
The Schicks told the Guardian they were “amazed and moved by the extent of solidarity over the whole world”, while Ekaterina Kukhto of Moscow bookseller Biblionne, said that “Russian booksellers are really appreciating colleagues from all over the world who are taking a vacation (temporary or permanent) to support us and booksellers from Czech Republic, Hungary and South Korea”.
British organisation Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) was in the middle of negotiations with AbeBooks about sponsorship for their annual summer fair, but decided not to renew its sponsorship agreement for 2019 after hearing about the marketplace’s move.
“AbeBooks are entitled to do business where they like, as are all other businesses,” said the ABA in a statement. “It is not the decision itself that has led to this unprecedented uprising of dealers across the world, but the high-handed manner in which they dismissed these few rare booksellers from Poland, Czech, Hungary, Russia and South Korea, destroying their livelihoods in just a couple of impersonal sentences. This is against the spirit and ethos of independent rare booksellers around the world, it is right that it has been noticed and the protest has shown that this is the general feeling of the rare book trade as a whole.”
A spokesperson for AbeBooks said that it had notified “some sellers” that it would be unable to support them after 30 November “because our third-party payment service provider is closing at the end of the year”.
“Buyers will be able to continue to make purchases through AbeBooks regardless of their location, but unfortunately a small number of sellers will be impacted as we migrate to a new payment service provider,” said the spokesperson. “We regret that we cannot continue to serve all sellers. We remain committed to helping those affected by this change and are actively contacting them to help them explore other options. We are deeply appreciative of our community of buyers and sellers, and our goal remains to serve all book lovers, both buyers and sellers, in as many countries as possible.”
ABA president Angus O’Neill said that booksellers were “still not satisfied” with AbeBooks’ explanation.
“The latest we’ve heard is that they are cutting off colleagues in four countries because they are ‘migrating to a new payment service provider’. But their parent company, Amazon, still seems to manage somehow,” he said.
Anthony Bourdain’s Biography To Be Released in 2019
Bourdain’s former assistant and collaborator, Laurie Woolever, will edit the biography.
Throughout his life, Anthony Bourdain undoubtedly touched many other lives through his talent and passion for food, travel, and of course, cooking. In fall 2019, readers will get a glimpse of the impact the renowned chef had on those fortunate enough to know him personally. Bourdain: The Oral Biography will detail Anthony’s life through stories from those who knew him best. Cookbook author Paula Forbes announced via tweet that Anthony’s former assistant and collaborator, Laurie Woolever, will be editing the biography.
The “authorized portrait” will be published by Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins. In a statement to Eater, Woolever said, “After working with and collaborating with Tony since 2004, I’m honored to now be working with his estate, and talking to the people who knew him best, in order to share the story of a life that influenced so many people, in so many ways, all across the globe.”
Though we will have to wait until next year to read the biography, family and friends of Anthony’s continue to pay tribute to him in various ways. His mother, for one, plans to get a tattoo of his name on her wrist from his former tattoo artist.