I discovered through a blog post by the Wall Street Journal’s Mylene Mangalindan that Amazon had agreed to acquire AbeBooks. I haven’t been to the AbeBooks site or bought anything there for literally years. The site manages transactions between buyers and independent booksellers and was founded in Vancouver, BC in roughly 1995.
Set the Wayback Machine Sherman, we’re going to back to 1996 . . .
You see back in those days, for those who may not recall, Amazon was viewed by many who loved books as the embodiment of evil and the potential end of the traditional book business. AbeBooks was conceived and launched as a direct response to Amazon: a way for independent booksellers to offer books sales online as an alternative. Many people in my social circle, at the time, advocated buying from AbeBooks.
Since then of course many things have changed. Indeed, it’s hard to make a living as an independent bookseller in America, Sherman, partly because of online book sales. But it’s mainly just hard. Yet Amazon didn’t kill the business and embraced independent bookstores — and they it — a long time ago.
The lesson here, if there is one, is that things usually don’t turn out exactly as predicted. And e-commerce didn’t kill the independent bookseller or, more broadly, online commerce didn’t kill traditional retail. As we now know, quite the opposite is true.