Indie booksellers around the world suffered lost income over the weekend when the Amazon-owned website AbeBooks.com went down for nearly two days.
The "technical" failure meant booksellers trading on the online marketplace for new, secondhand and rare books could not make any sales and customers could not make any orders from early Saturday morning until early Monday morning (2nd-4th September).
Independent booksellers in the UK The Bookseller spoke to said they had been "stressed" by the outage over the weekend, particularly due to AbeBooks.com's lack of communication during the blackout.
The company said it was having to update customers and traders via social media because its customer support tools were also down. By 3pm on Sunday, it still could not provide a timescale for fixing the problem.
Ian Gallagher, co-owner of the Tombland Bookshop in Norwich said the company's radio silence during the outage was unhelpful and added that he expected better of a global company owned by Amazon.
“I’ve come in today and have no orders, I’d usually expect around four or five books to have been ordered over the weekend," said Gallagher. "The stress levels were definitely higher than usual. The main difficulty was the lack of information from Abe… We didn’t know if it was being hacked , or if any financial detail had been stolen. It should’ve been handled better by Abe. It’s a global company owned by Amazon, they should have had a mirror site or some other kind of back-up in place.”
Chris Howard of Wormhill Books in Hereford said it has been a "really worrying" experience, not least because every sale counts for small booksellers, and sales were lower than usual over the weekend.
“Abe is a small part of my turnover, but as a small bookseller it’s hand-to-mouth, every loss of turnover makes a big difference," said Howard. "I was getting really worried over the weekend. It was just a hiccup but if it carried on for a week or a month, it would have had a really significant effect. When it went on for more than a few hours, and then more than one day, I didn’t know if the outage was ever going to end. It was really worrying at the time.
“It’s only a small business so we only make around £1,000 a month from Abe, so its difficult to say how much money I lost out on. Probably only around £100. But if the outage had lasted longer it would have been serious.”
Booksellers in other countries also blasted the disruption on social media.
Historian and writer Elizabeth Crawford tweeted: “Will there be rebate to sellers on the cost of this month’s listing because we couldn’t receive orders for 2 days?”
While Louise88books who described herself as a dealer and collector of rare books, tweeted: “Too many days without service and sales! I assume you will not be charging booksellers for the days when the website has been down!”
AbeBooks.com is a standalone enterprise, acquired by Amazon in 2008, that operates from six international sites and claims on its website it "helps booksellers to sell books to buyers around the globe – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year".
On Saturday, the website tweeted: "All our websites & services are currently unavailable due to technical issues. Sorry about this. We're working on fixing the problem."
By 3.18pm on Sunday, it did not address how much longer the site would be down for, tweeting: "We're still trying to fix the technical issues that have been affecting our sites & services. Thank you for your patience!"
Customers were relieved when in the early hours of Monday morning, the e-commerce site announced it was back up and running: "Good news. Our websites and services have been restored. We’re really sorry for all the inconvenience," it said.
Amazon, which acquired the company in 2008, has not responded as yet for comment.