Wednesday, February 04, 2009

ABE, Now With 100% More E-Book

On the website ABE books, a user can create want lists which ABE matches every now and again, primarily when a bookseller adds more books. Those books are matched against all of the wants in ABE's system and notifications go right out.

But what happens when those listings are e-books, and all of a sudden several booksellers seem to have durn near every book in electronic form?

Sounds like Operation Mayhem to me.

That is just what recently happened. All of a sudden today (yes, I am a day behind dear readers) many of us who have such want lists with ABE get these e-book notifications. I have no interest in e-books. The closest I have ever come to buying one was back in the cd-rom days, when Voyager was putting out those awesome multimedia books. I still have them, and they still hold up. No, when go to ABE, my want lists are for books made out of atoms, not bytes. I am not going to go into the merits or problems with e-books in this post, but boy, it’s coming.

ABE seeks to promote itself as a professional used and rare bookselling site. But increasingly I have been seeing Kessinger and University of Michigan Print on Demand titles. Now, an e-book swarm. This is not good, and the main reason it is not good is a very old one, something I learned early in my bookshop days:

Bad books drive out good ones.

If you have a lot of beat up common books on your shop that are always there and never change, then that says something about your shop to your customers. The bad books not only take up space for better books, they hide the good ones, or give the impression that there aren't that many in the shop.

If you are trying to be a used and rare and "collectible" site, then I do not se how those e-books further that aim. All those easily made e-books aren't used, rare, or collectible. The plethora of records that may very well sprout up would overwhelm records for actual books, so that users look through the first 20 or so listings and just give up.

Worse, most of the online sites are what I call "sites that can't say no" - they don't let you limit searches by removing records with certain words. eBay does this, and true, listers there are always trying to find some cute way to get around the search parameters to show you things you won't buy. But they help. So, if there is at least an attempt allow users to easily limit want matches or searches to printed books (and while you're at it, a way to remove ex-library copies as well) then that can be a win win. It won't be perfect, but it can sure help.

IF ABE does not do this, I predict lot of complaints, and a number of buyers moving their want lists elsewhere. Inaction and a lot of false hits are not exactly customer service, and a bit of a dangerous gambit to play in these times of tightening belts.

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