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Booksellers in 24 countries hit Amazon with strike

San Francisco

MORE than 250 antiquarian book dealers in 24 countries say they are pulling more than one million books off an Amazon-owned site for a week, an impromptu protest after the site abruptly moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike against the site, AbeBooks, which was set to begin on Monday, is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers for much of its merchandise and revenue. The protest arrives as increasing attention is being paid to the extensive power that Amazon wields as a retailer - a power that is greatest in books.

The stores are calling their action Banned Booksellers Week. The protest got its start after AbeBooks sent e-mails in October to booksellers in countries including South Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia to say that it would no longer "support" them.

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As the news spread, even unaffected dealers were surprised and angered. AbeBooks, together with Amazon itself, is by far the biggest international marketplace for secondhand and rare books.

AbeBooks lists millions of books and manages the payments. The booksellers mail the books directly from their shops.

The platform was founded in 1995 and was bought by Amazon in 2008. It continues to operate independently, and many of its customers never even realise who the owner is. AbeBooks is based in Victoria, British Columbia, where it started.

The Amazon subsidiary told the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers that it was scaling back because "it is no longer viable for us to operate in these countries due to increasing costs and complexities".

On Saturday night, in response to a query from a reporter, AbeBooks issued a statement saying that it was dropping the countries because "our third-party payment service provider is closing at the end of the year".

Since AbeBooks controls its storefront, the only recourse the protesting booksellers have is to mark their businesses "on vacation". Some of the participating booksellers started doing that over the weekend. NYTIMES