More signs of growth—and the prospect for additional growth—in the used book marketplace comes from, which reported a 30% increase in sales in 2003. Gross merchandise sales at Abebooks—the value of the books sold on its various sites—hit $100 million last year. Last month, competitor Alibris reported a sales increase of 46% in 2003 and announced plans for an IPO. To help boost sales in 2004, Abebooks has upped its commissions on used books and is planning to offer new titles from its Web site.

Marci Crossan, Abebooks spokesperson, said that while the Internet "has been brilliant for the sale of used and rare books, the marketplace is telling us there is room for new books." The details of a site featuring new titles are still being worked on, but Crossan said the company hopes to unveil the site at BookExpo. Although Abebooks' initial plan called for selling titles from only small publishers, interest has been greater than anticipated, Crossan said, and Abebooks has been talking to publishers of various sizes. She quickly added that Abebooks has "great respect for the traditional publisher-bookseller relationship."

Under the new commission structure, which went into effect April 1, the basic commission fee has increased from 5% to 8%. The company's monthly listing fee, which varies according to the number of titles offered for sale, is not being changed. (For up to 500 books, the fee is $25.) Abebooks has also introduced an 8% commission on bookseller-to-bookseller transactions as well as a new minimum commission fee of 50 cents per title. The maximum commission fee has been raised from $25 to $40. Crossan said the additional funds raised by the new fees will help finance more marketing initiatives, including an expansion of its print advertising campaign. Some used and rare book dealers, however, worry about "how much more Abe will take out of our pockets," as one dealer put it.

Another new initiative from Abebooks was the February launch of a site that sells Spanish-language books. And Crossan said Abebooks is starting to benefit from the decision by eBay to close its site, which sells used textbooks, in July. Crossan said, "We're seeing a tide of booksellers coming over to sell their used and new textbooks on"