or Godzilla buys Frankenstein. Throngs still waiting for Superman.
It will be a long time before the dust settles on this seismic event but here are some initial thoughts on the acquisition.
First - How much did it cost?
The folks over at TechVibes venture a guess that Amazon paid between $90-$120 million. Since Boris Wertz, former COO of AbeBooks, is on the Board of Directors of both TechVibes and AbeBooks, I'm going to believe the number is somewhere in that ballpark.
Hits a home run. They have been steadily building their offerings through there own acquisitions preparing themselves for a potential buyout. Many saw it coming though were still surprised when the news broke that it was Amazon.
Also, for many booksellers AbeBooks has been a declining revenue stream while Amazon has been an increasing one. AbeBooks model is in many ways mature and their stellar growth years are behind them. For them to get Amazon to bite is a bit of a coup.
AbeBooks will also benefit greatly from Amazon's infrastructure and management. They will become a better company.
Regardless of how broken or mature the AbeBooks model is they are still the leader in the field. And if you add AbeBooks' eyeballs to Amazon's eyeballs you get one giant cyclops. No competitor is in the same ballpark. If AbeBooks were a public company the S.E.C. would probably be taking a look at the acquisition. Amazon has surely strengthened their position in book world.
The increased exposure of used, rare and out of print books on Amazon will in the long run benefit the bookseller. One of the long-standing stumbling blocks for the non-new market is simply the lack of exposure to and understanding of the used book market. Having Amazon join the fray could be huge in bridging this gap among the general public. This ain't no zshops.
Without some major adjustments to their model Alibris might be in a bit of trouble. CEO Brian Elliott recently shared a bit of their current strategy. Providing the back end for Barnes & Noble and Border's used book offerings might not be enough to combat Amazon.
Will Barnes & Noble respond by buying Alibris? Probably not. Barnes and Noble has recently made great strides through their Barnes & Noble Studio effort to showcase, among other things, book collectors and tell the story behind particular books. Though Alibris might be able to help them more effectively integrate the used and rare book segment into B&N Studio I am not sure what else they bring to table. All their books are already available on B&N.
The hidden gem in the acquisition is the 40% minority interest that AbeBooks has in LibraryThing. Amazon is also an investor in Shelfari. Is there room for both at Amazon?
As John Cook notes on his Venture Blog at the Seattle PI "It is unlikely that Shelfari and LibraryThing will be joining forces in a happy merger anytime soon, since there is bad blood between the two organizations." I wouldn't necessarily call it bad blood but I agree that they won't be playing with each other anytime soon.
This could also be the death knell for Shelfari, at least in terms of Amazon's support. Their investment to date is only $1 million and with the LibraryThing carrot now dangling in front of them I wouldn't be surprised to see them shift gears and work on getting LibraryThing in the mix. LibraryThing has many components that have Amazon appeal. For one, LibraryThing is a veritable data goldmine and it is community driven; whereas, Shelfari is more bells and whistles and is community focused. There is a big difference.
Though in the long run as I mentioned above this might be a good thing for booksellers, in the short run it is painful. If we felt we were being held hostage by AbeBooks before this news then this Amazon/AbeBooks marriage is a form of torture.
All Print on Demand Publishers except BookSurge
If they got rid of them on Amazon they'll get rid of them on Abebooks.
Can they use this consolidation to promote themselves as a real alternative to the "mass market" bookselling approach?
If Amazon jumps on, watch out.
I can't wait to see how this shakes out.
Previously on Book Patrol:
Brendan Sherar, CEO of Biblio.com, Weighs In
A Response From Brian Elliott, CEO of Alibris
The Bright Spot at Barnes & Noble : The Rise of BN.com
Amazon To Acquire AbeBooks, And With It A Stake In LibraryThing
Shelfari and LibraryThing: Awkward Bookends To AbeBooks-Amazon Deal
Time-Colonist, AbeBooks hometown newspaper, piece "Book world's reaction mixed on Amazon grab of Abebooks"
The LibraryThing blog, Abebooks news: The scoop for LibraryThing.