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International booksellers end strike against Amazon’s AbeBooks after company reverses stand

Image on International League of Antiquarian Booksellers site at end of protest. (ILAB Image)

A strike by international rare book dealers to withhold their books from Amazon-owned AbeBooks is over, after an organization that represents the booksellers said AbeBooks has reversed a decision to withdraw from several countries.

On Monday, hundreds of booksellers from around the world pulled their inventory from AbeBooks, putting themselves ‘on vacation,’ which suspended their sales on the book-selling platform. At issue, said the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, was an announcement sent to booksellers based in Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Russia saying AbeBooks would close their accounts as of Nov. 30 and completely withdraw from those markets.

Within days, the “flash strike” was over. On Wednesday, ILAB said it reached an agreement with the Amazon subsidiary to reinstate the affected booksellers, letting them operate with AbeBooks as they do now until Dec. 31, after which AbeBooks would offer a solution to let them continue on the platform indefinitely.

AbeBooks had earlier issued a statement to try and explain why it was pulling out of several countries. “We sincerely regret having to take this action but it is no longer viable for us to operate in these countries due to increasing costs and complexities,” the company’s statement read. However, ILAB said that wasn’t enough information, and British bookseller Simon Beattie suggested the global protest as a show of solidarity.

ILAB said what had drawn more than 300 booksellers to suspend their sales as of Monday morning grew to more than 550 in 26 countries by Wednesday. ILAB said many quoted its motto, “Amor Librorum Nos Unit,” translated as, “The Love of Books Unites Us.”

The head of the ILAB called the flash strike an “historic, unprecedented action.”

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who participated in this extraordinary and unprecedented protest,”  said Sally Burdon, ILAB president, in a message to the trade group’s members. “Without the protests on the list and the media attention I know we would not have so easily got this excellent outcome.”

The protest itself was unusual in that Amazon has incredible reach and power when it comes to book sales, and many third-party sellers rely on Amazon and AbeBooks for a worldwide customer base and revenue. Amazon purchased AbeBooks, which is based in Victoria, B.C., in 2008.

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