Book Sites Unite

Pioneer comparison shopping site has been purchased by, one of the largest online sites for new and used books. Both companies started in 1996, about a year after burst onto the scene with a new way to purchase books online.

The deal was announced today, and the plan is for Berkeley, Calif.-based to continue operating as an independent entity. is based in Victoria, B.C.

“The biggest part of this deal is that we remain independent and unbiased,” Anirvan Chatterjee, founder and CEO, told “If people don’t believe we’re independent, we die. won’t get any special designation or special benefits as our owner.” lets buyers search through over 100 million new, used, rare and out-of-print books for sale from thousands of booksellers. Its partners include A1Books, Abebooks, Alibris,, Barnes &,,,, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and Powell’s Books.

Chatterjee said the breadth of his company’s offering has allowed it to carve out a successful niche among larger comparison shopping sites. Unlike simple comparisons of pricing for the latest books, includes used, rare out-of-print, titles as well as international listings. The company generates revenue by receiving a commission from purchases that result from a buyer being forwarded to a bookseller’s Web site.

While he declined to provide details, Chatterjee said funding from the acquisition will allow his “tiny operation” to push ahead with new features and functionality for its current customers and to attract new ones.

Ironically, the Web has been something of a godsend to the used book business, linking millions of buyers to new sources for titles they might have had a hard time finding at local book stores or purchase online simply for the convenience. A September report by the Book Industry Study Group claimed the used book business was worth $2.2 billion in sales last year, with e-commerce sales enjoying growth of 38 percent from 2003 to 2004. said it features over 70 million new, used, rare and out-of-print titles listed for sale by more than 13,000 independent booksellers from around the world. Its customers collectively purchase around 20,000 books a day from five global Web sites that operates.

“Our goal is to help booklovers find and buy any book from any bookseller anywhere, so the acquisition of makes perfect sense,” said Hannes Blum, president and CEO, in a statement., Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have embarked on different plans to expand access to books. is offering access to parts of a book a customers might want to read for a small fee. Google and other software companies have different schemes involving scanning books for online retrieval.

Said Chatterjee: “I think there’s some pretty cool technology out there, but I don’t see anything that’s going to make much of a difference in actual book sales.”

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