A “Bookjacker's” Website

- by Michael Stillman

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Antiques.gift website focuses on books' language.

We are grateful to Montreal bookseller Michel Lanteigne for bringing this website to our attention. While reluctant to call it an outright scam, it is certainly very misleading to its customers. Mr. Lanteigne has supplied us with an appropriate term - “bookjacker” - to describe the business.

 

The website is called Antique.gift Book Shop and it is located in Riga, Latvia. They advertise offering “more then [sic] 10 million books in more than 30 languages!” Latvia is not a place you might expect to find such a large bookseller, but the internet is international in scope. Still, how did a firm in Latvia make the necessary connections to get so many booksellers to place their listings on this obscure site, including Mr. Lanteigne?

 

The answer is, they didn't. This is where the term “bookjacker” comes in. They are copying listings from other sites, likely AbeBooks, but perhaps others. This is not done with the consent of the lister. Nor does this site credit the listing dealer, as does Abe. It doesn't claim to be shipping the books themselves. It speaks of books being sent by “suppliers.” “We deliver books directly from suppliers,” the website explains. However, the purchase is made from Antiques.gift, and you might incorrectly believe they had some special relationship with the “suppliers,” rather than just buying the book from them off the internet like any other customer, and having it shipped to your address.

 

For example, we found artwork for the paperback cover of The Planet Buyer, by Peter Bramley, artwork by Cordwainer Smith. It is one of Mr. Lanteigne's listings. The same listing was found on AbeBooks, the description identical. Even images were picked up from the original listing by the Latvian site. Along with the full description and basics like author and date, they provide a briefer description after the publisher. I can't figure out the purpose of this, as it is a character-limited repeat of some of the description. It is evidently character-limited because the description cuts off mid-word. This site is definitely amateurish.

 

A comparison of the two listings also reveals how Antiques.gift hopes to make its money. The item's cost on AbeBooks is $450. On Antiques.gift the price is €499. At the time, the euro to dollar conversion rate would put their price at around $525. The $75 is what you pay for the honor of having them place your order on Abe rather than doing it yourself (not that it saves you any time as you still have to place the order on their website).

 

In one of those examples of great chutzpah (nerve) or irony, whichever you wish to call it, Antiques.gift has a section on copyrights. They say, “The copyright of the bibliographic database is held by Antiques.gift web site and its content suppliers.” If they are claiming copyrights to bookseller-written descriptions for their own, that is very nervy. And if they are claiming the descriptions' copyrights are held by their “content suppliers,” then they certainly aren't honoring those copyrights themselves.

 

The site is hardly the epitome of professionalism, not a place you might feel particularly comfortable about sending your money or credit card information. The language (English) at times is clearly written by someone for whom English is a second (or third or fourth) language. Some sections show little thought. Part of the FAQ section for sellers picks up paragraphs from the buyers' FAQs, so that it is describing such things as how long it takes to receive a book or how to determine when it has been shipped, information clearly inapplicable to the seller.

 

I don't know whether any specific laws have been violated by this site. It probably wouldn't matter whether they were, unless it is a Latvian law. Suing them in a Latvian court seems hardly worth the expense anyway. It is hard to imagine many people will buy from this site, except maybe a Latvian customer, of which, we imagine, there aren't too many for your books. However, if you are a bookseller, and receive an order from this outfit with a shipping address to someone else, you might want to send that person a notice that you don't honor these orders, but they are free to buy the same book for less on AbeBooks or another legitimate site.