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In protest at what they consider to be excessive fees, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association organised a one-day ‘holiday’ from the site, encouraging its 260 members to take all their books offline on April Fool’s Day.

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, representing the 2000 top book sellers around the world, and the Provincial Booksellers’ Fairs Association with a further 600 members, both promised to back the April 1 boycott.

According to the ABE website, 13,500 booksellers worldwide currently offer 80 million books, making it the largest internet marketplace for secondhand, out-of-print and antiquarian books. In numbers, the site is without a close rival and consequently many booksellers have chosen to use ABE as their online shopfront rather than investing in their own

Originally ABE charged a flat monthly fee and allowed customers direct access to
individual booksellers (making it easy for bibliophiles to telephone to ask questions or send a cheque in the post), but a sale commission was introduced as the site evolved that rose from five to eight per cent last year.

The ABA, the oldest trade association of its kind in the world, and its sister associations, are objecting in particular to ABE’s decision to impose a mandatory processing of all credit card orders and charge a processing fee of 5.5 per cent from April 3.

Given the regular use of this form of payment online, many booksellers have their own credit card facilities, typically incurring fees of between one and two per cent (for example ABA offer members Barclays Merchant Services at advantageous rates), but they will no longer have the option of using them.

Funds will now be released to sellers at regular intervals rather than on the day of the transaction and steps have been taken that, say the ABA, make it increasingly difficult to find a dealer’s contact details through the ABE website.

At the time of going to press, John Critchley of the ABA was confident the one-day ‘holiday’ from the site would receive substantial support. “Whether one is selling books for £5 or £5000, the new charges – effectively an automatic 13.5 per cent surcharge – will hurt, and most booksellers will have no option but to pass them on.”