image Amazon has smartly gobbled up a niche rival, Abe Books, self-described as “the world’s largest online marketplace for new, used, rare and out of print books.”

In ’06, Abe bought 40 percent in LibraryThing (image), the social book-cataloguing-site. Will LibraryThing eventually be part of the deal? If so, Amazon more than ever will be the dominant forum for reader reviews of books.

Meanwhile please note my use of “smartly.” The purchase of Abe Books is a big win for Amazon and a potential loss for consumer choice and diversity online.

The used book-DRM issue

If nothing else, if Amazon has a chokehold on the used book business, does this mean it will slowly try to shift people away from “used” to E? Beware! This could be one more way to impose DRM on the unwilling. I myself try not to buy DRMed books, preferring the used variety, which I can own for real.

Related: LibraryThing blog item on the purchase. LT leader Tim Spaulding makes the point that “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.” Let’s hope it won’t in the future, either.

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  1. Hey. Thanks for linking to my blog post.

    One interesting point: Why do you think online book discussion is massively aggregated? From where I sit, it looks massively diffused. Amazon is many things, but, apart from reviews, it isn’t much a book discussion site. It’s Forums are pretty empty. Nobody else rises very high either. I see most book discussion happening on blogs and specialty sites.


  2. Best of luck maintaining control, Tim, and many thanks for your note.

    Reviews are the kind of discussion about which the typical reader cares most—even though you and I know there’s much more than that. And Amazon blends in reviews for zillions of titles. The typical reader isn’t going to bother checking blogs, even though this might change.

    BUT you’re right to raise questions about the use of the word “aggregation,” which refers to blending of content from different blogs, etc. Point hereby acknowledged. I’ll rework the item.


  3. It’s good that Tim wants LibraryThing to stay independent.

    I’ve been using LT, ABE and Amazon for years. LT is great for finding readers with similar interests and Amazon wins hands down for book reviews (a thread beside the book in question – LT won’t do it).

    I agree that ABE is just a gateway to a bunch of small used bookstores.

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