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In a deal announced last week, Amazon – currently best known for sales of new books and compact discs – have agreed to license the catalogue from the British Library, providing the online retailer with the details of more than 2.5m book titles including 1.7m books produced before the introduction in 1970 of the 10-character International Standard Book Number that identifies any modern book.

Each book will have its own page and Amazon are now inviting members of the antiquarian and secondhand book trade to post (at a fee) details of the copies they have available and their prices.

Amazon – who are offering the new service through the Marketplace slot on their website – propose to act as a broker in any deal, guaranteeing security of payment. It is not known how the site will be policed.

Customers will also be able to place a ‘wanted’ notice on a book that they would like to buy should a copy become available. As the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s director John Critchley points out, that could be “a lot of wants” for titles from the legendary British Library catalogue.
Robin Terrell, the managing director of Amazon.co.uk said: “This is a massive deal. We have so far focused on books that are in print but now we can make available to users of the website millions of books going back hundreds of years.”