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AbeBooks will no longer sponsor the 62nd edition of the UK’s flagship book fair now branded Firsts – London’s Rare Book Fair following its plan to pull out of Czech Republic, Hungary, South Korea and Russia countries with national associations that are members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB).

An ABA spokesman said: “Following a successful partnership with AbeBooks for our 2018 summer fair, we were saddened to learn that from November 30, 2018, AbeBooks will no longer support ILAB booksellers in certain countries, with a significant negative impact on the businesses of our friends and colleagues.

“Sadly we feel that AbeBooks is not a suitable fair sponsor for us at this time and so have decided not to renew our sponsorship agreement for the 2019 Firsts book fair.”

“Disrupting trade”

ABA president Angus O'Neill of Omega Bookshop added: “Many of our members trade through Abe, and we were grateful for their contribution towards last year's fair. However, we are very disappointed that they have suddenly cut access to their services for some of our colleagues overseas, for reasons which remain unclear, potentially disrupting their trade at very short notice.  As a result, we don't feel we should accept their sponsorship at this time.

The ABA's formal name is The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (International); we were the first trade body of its kind when we were founded in 1906, and we have always welcomed overseas members and encouraged international trade. The UK has always been an outward-looking economy, and that isn't going to change next year.

ILAB also spoke out against the website’s decision. President Sally Burdon said: “This is a serious blow. The ILAB committee applaud the action taken by the ABA in deciding to decline Abe’s sponsorship of Firsts next year. This sacrificial action will of course make their fair more difficult to stage but it sends a clear message to Abe that booksellers around the world stand together.”

Amazon-owned platform 

AbeBooks, launched in 1996 in British Columbia, Canada, and bought by Amazon in 2008, is the most influential online trading site for out-of-print books.

An AbeBooks spokesman said: “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.

“We continue to support sellers in all other 18 of the 22 countries with national associations that are members of ILAB.”