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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Alibris Makes Me Gag (Again)

Oh boy, this one is so rife with problems, I do not even know where to begin. In case you missed it, Alibris cheered today its new partnership with Better World Books.

"Libraries...BWB will accept your castoffs, even pay for the outbound freight to their warehouse, and then turn around and list the books on Alibris (and elsewhere), splitting the sales proceeds with you and a charity of your choosing. And since small commission checks sometimes do not wind up back at the library, let alone back in acquisitions budgets, once your sales have reached a $100 quarterly threshold, these monies can now be turned into an Alibris "store credit," allowing you the freedom to choose valuable books from our database to add to your collection."

First of all, LIBRARIES BEWARE, this is NOT a great option for you. I do not even want to know how your accountant is going to feel about your partnership with this new for-profit, quasi non-profit, organization... Besides that, however, I am probably not the only one who is concerned that two of the three founders of BWB, now run a definitely FOR PROFIT online book industry related Indaba. (By the way, in case the pipeline from BWB ever runs out, Indaba is currently looking for "angel investors" - just in case you were wondering). There's no conflict of interest there.... right? I mean just because Indaba was developed FOR BWB (assumedly WITH BWB money), it is slightly shady. It seems like these three young men who (in their own words) were dissatisfied with the corporate world, certainly don't mind dipping back into that realm on the backs of their socially aware for profit company.

Libraries, do yourself and your patrons a favor. Hold onto those "castoffs" and donations and sell them locally. Sure some of us online resellers will come and scoop some up, but so will your own borrowers. The cost-benefit for distributing these books locally is clearly much stronger than contracting out this service to BWB. Let BWB go non-profit, let see their financial statements and accounting records even, then maybe we'll step off of this soap box.