Yet another aggregator portal for rare book sellers

November 1, 2006 at 11:36 am Leave a comment

I just received an email notifying me of yet another rare book portal that has been launched for sellers to put up their wares. The site in question is known as antbo, and is a german implentation of the flurry of online portals that are appearing on the web to help aggregate book stock to sell to collectors. The site looks pretty simple and follows the line of every other portal… “You send us your upload file, and some cash, and we’ll put your books online for you”. There is nothing wrong with this concept at all, and certainly every bookseller will attest to the success of sales through many of the larger portals. I’m a huge fan of aggregation, simply because I do not have the time to visit seventy odd sites every day just to check if something I’m interested in has just appeared.

Still, one has to question the proliferation of these portals and what it means both to the internet and to the trade as a whole. My first problem with it is that as more aggregators appear, the value of using each aggregator decreases. Largely because the point of aggregation is to provide a single place for the market to gather and view what is available. As more aggregators appear, the market becomes fragmented again, with some collectors gathering at one portal, and others at another. The result is that booksellers are spending increasing amounts of hard earned cash to appear on as many portals as possible. This has a number of interesting implications. To start with, it simply means that booksellers are paying more for less of a service. Ultimately, booksellers will be driven to decide which of these portals offer the best return and ultimately lose some visibility to a portion of their potential customer base. On the upside, the proliferation of these services should help to push the service charges down and result in more competition in terms of special offers to dealers and openness to statistical information about the performance and popularity of the portal site.

From an admin perspective, each new portal generates a little more overhead as we track yet another site that we might be posting to. Every so often a site doesn’t refresh or clear our previous upload, or somewhere a cache  stores an image of a page and an irate customer leaps up and down about the fact that a book he has just bought is still shown as available online. These issues increase the amount of web administrative work we have to do. Contacting companies and resolving little issues. Frequently, I don’t think the added overhead in administrative terms is ever taken into account as we subscribe to more and more of these portals.

So, do we really need all these aggregator portals? Clearly, the success of ABE and their ilk are evidence that there is something valuable in the existence of these marketplace sites. However, as some sellers drifted away from the mother of all aggregators in response to the restructuring of their charges, the migration was a disorganised diaspora of disgruntled booksellers looking for something that would offer them the same success that had been found at the birth of this online megalith. And with this came a bunch of ever-hopefuls putting out portal sites at every corner. In the end only the fittest will survive. And meanwhile, a lot of booksellers are going to feel the pinch that comes with a fragmented market.

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