A quick glance at the table of contents suggests this will be our Mega-lister Number, but it just kind of worked out that way. Gwen Foss posted an interesting glossary of mega-lister terms to a list some weeks ago, which led to the Standard soliciting an article on the topic. I will admit to some prejudice here, as I have been vexed by the phenomenon over the last couple years, first by an important purchase that fell through before I realized who (or what) I was dealing with, and since then by the once simple task of researching prices and points and selling my books through the major search services and meta-sites, which are now clogged with confusing and deceitful mega-listings. If we as professional booksellers are inconvenienced and annoyed by this pollution and confiscation, imagine how the general public feels.
Gwen’s article is pretty forceful, and she included a lengthy annotated list of the most notable mega-listers at the end. I thought it prudent to run this aspect of the article by the IOBA board, and after some spirited discussion we decided to leave it out. The list itself (a work in progress which Gwen says she will be happy to provide on a private basis, along with her nifty glossary of mega-lister terms) did not mince words. In addition, some of the mega-listers cited only practice milder degradations of generally accepted professional standards, while others are far more dastardly, and we did not want to lump them in together, as helpful as it would have been to have such an annotated list. Another aspect here is that in verifying and updating all the information we would have had to do a lot of fact checking. There is much fluidity and shape-shifting as mega-listers try to stay one step ahead of exposure, expulsion, or legal action, and one thing I learned from this research is that some of the absolute worst practices (see the article on plagiarism) have subsided in the last year or so. I have gone back to the drawing-board, however, and provided a short and simple list of ten really big online bookstores that look like they will be around for awhile.
In our board discussion we realized that the existing terminology is inadequate, and that led to a related article that attempts to define various levels of mega-listing. Rounding out this treatment, we sought perspective from the ABAA, and sent a short questionnaire to the 3As and to AddALL. Finally, to those mega-listers who sell books that they don’t physically own for huge mark-ups, and to those who list books that are not actually available, and to those who don’t provide helpful descriptions of their online wares, and to those who page hog search service results, and to any who will admit to stealing descriptions and hard work, and to mega-listers who disappoint or anger their customers on a frequent basis, we invite rebuttal.
On a happier note, we present an interview with Mike Goodenough of TheBookGuide fame; and currently profiled IOBAn Joe Perlman airmails us a breezy SJ Perelman-like piece on quixotic vacation book buying in Spain. From the Reference Desk, an ephemeral assay on plant closings; another bookselling book review; and a couple of reviews on books about books by Lynn Wienck, who also writes reviews for Cuppa Joad, the Alibris book blog. The Tool Box includes perspectives on the world’s best rare books school (our answer to Hogwarts) from a new teacher and a recent student. What would the Standard be without interesting IOBA bookseller profiles, and dribs and drabs bring up the rear, though dribs endeavor to outnumber drabs. Enjoy, happy hunting, and we’ll see you again on New Year’s Day.