Indie Booksellers Battle E-Commerce Issues

Independent booksellers are still reacting to the news that they can no longer accept credit card payments directly through their own websites. As of June 22, booksellers who rely on the Missouri-based ChrisLands Inc. to host their web shops were no longer able to process credit card payments online. In a decision handed down by ChrisLands' parent company, AbeBooks, ChrisLands stores are now limited to Google Checkout and PayPal. According to the statement issued by ChrisLands, it is "reviewing what other payment processing options we may be able to include in the future."

That isn't happening fast enough for some dealers. Catherine Petruccione of Old Scrolls Book Shop in Stanley, NY, said, "It seems odd that they are way behind the mark in 'trying' to come up with an alternate solution." She said she also worries that this is a precursor to raising the monthly web-hosting rates. "As it stood, ChrisLands was a pretty good bargain. But with the credit card option disabled, not so much of one anymore." ChrisLands has been touted as an affordable e-commerce solution for indie booksellers.

Carla Wykoff of Bent River Books & Music in Cottonwood, AZ, said, "We are looking into alternatives--there are several--tomfolio, bibliopolis, and our personal favorite, forseeingsolutions." She said the ChrisLands decision sparked an extensive discussion on booksellers' listservs and that "quite a few" booksellers have switched to a new online host.

A California-based bookseller said, "In the first heat of the moment, a LOT of people (including me) threatened to close our ChrisLands sites, but of course that means either giving up our own site or spending quite a lot of money establishing an alternative."

Some booksellers have also raised the idea that this move essentially channels most sales through the AbeBooks marketplace. Ever since AbeBooks acquired ChrisLands in 2008, booksellers have measured the "inherent conflict of interest between ABE's genuine desire to aid independent booksellers and ABE's corporate self-interest in channeling as many transactions as possible through the ABE site," as one dealer put it.

When asked if the new restriction was prompted by Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance regulations, Richard Davies of AbeBooks said he was "unable to comment." He added, "However, the change was not made to channel sales through AbeBooks. ChrisLands continues to operate as an independent subsidiary of AbeBooks."