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ABEBOOKS, the largest online marketplace for rare books, lost over 1m entries in a coordinated dealer boycott over its decision to charge a 5.5 per cent credit card fee.

The action, taken over April 1 and 2, saw members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) remove 185,000 books from the abebooks.co.uk site, while a reported 800,000 were taken off abebooks.com by Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America members. Biblion dealers removed an additional 20,000 permanently.

ABA secretary John Critchley, said: “This was a very successful protest, supported not just by other associations but also many other booksellers around the world.”

Despite the widespread boycott, ABE have said they will not back down over the charges for processing all Mastercard and Visa transactions, which are on top of the eight per cent sales commission. They do not think the combined 13 per cent charge is excessive. “Other major bookselling marketplaces also process all credit card payments and we still offer the most competitive and flexible pricing model for booksellers,” a spokes-man told ATG.

“We are concerned when any sellers express unhappiness with our service. However, it was business as usual for the weekend in question. Buyers still had a selection of well over 80m books to choose from.”

He argued further that with ABEbooks processing all credit card payments, they could tackle fraud more effectively.

“For the booksellers, the benefit will be that they no longer carry the cost of fraudulent purchases made by Visa and MasterCard, as ABEbooks will assume the responsibility for these charge backs. Also, some buyers pull out of transactions when they realise their credit card details are being passed on to a third party (eg the bookseller), so we feel this decision will help increase sales.”

The new arrangements would also simplify the launch of gift certificates and discount/merchandising coupons, said ABEbooks.

Despite their concerns, many dealers are reluctant to leave ABEbooks since an estimated 70 per cent of all antiquarian book sales on the internet take place through their websites.

“ABEbooks is an important part of nearly all dealers’ trade,” said Mr Critchley. However, he added that the ABA had not ruled-out further action. “We feel ABEbooks are now going their own way. Whereas they used to be in tune with dealers, they are now losing support in the trade with the costs spiralling upwards.”

ABEbooks have now invited the ABA for a meeting to discuss the issues. But with regard to the credit cards fees, the spokesman said: “We have no plans to change this policy and we began processing all credit card transactions on April 3.”

By Alex Capon