Friday, August 1, 2008

Homogenization, now available second hand

From Publishers Weekly:

Amazon has reached an agreement to acquire AbeBooks, the British Columbia-based online marketplace that has over 110 million titles for sale through its bookseller network. The purchase, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, will strengthen Amazon's already dominate position in the used book field. Terms weren't disclosed.

I'm generally not a fan of consolidation of power in any form; as a second hand book buyer, who reluctantly lists some books at the big A, this news is particularly sad. While it's a marketplace expansion issue (the same reason I list a few), it still homogenizes the way online consumers will view and purchase books. And, it seems, Abe Books (or the executives at Abe Books) is one bookseller who will benefit financially. I doubt that other, similar services will get the same (or any offers) from Amazon. Likely, they'll wither. Now, we'll exclusively send folks to Alibris, I suppose.

This isn't an online v. "real" world divide for me, as I don't necessarily believe that those spaces are separate for most people. That's why I blog. About books. And, more and more, about online community. That's why we Ning. The thought is that we can build social capital together, exchange thoughts on books. If you're in Milwaukee, you might stop into the shop on Downer to talk with us. If not in SE Wisco, you might leave a comment on the blog, join the Ning, follow our twitter and even buy a book from us online. Or, you might have cause to stop into your local independent bookseller to start a conversation there.

Rather, this is Amazon gobbling up competitors and consolidating the marketplace, which will only allow them to further dictate how (and which!) books are sold. Or, as smaller networks and brick-and-mortar shops disappear from your neighborhood, they will be able to control the flow of information in printed form, as they see fit.

Sure, pure free markets reward the most efficient, but we don't live in a pure free market (regardless of anyone's thoughts on the merits of capitalism). We can vote with our dollars, choose to support our friends and neighbors and form social connections, rather than exchange goods and services in bland transactions. In short, we can be a community: of geography, of interests, of taste, whatever.

Thanks for reading.

Hang out and build some social capital with us.


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