Usedbookcentral announces it will close; citing PCI compliance

Longtime independent book marketplace Usedbookcentral released an announcement over the weekend that it would be closing its site after seven years, citing the pressures imposed by the credit card industry with regards to PCI compliance.

PCI compliance has become an enormous burden on businesses worldwide, but particularly on small businesses.  I speak from experience when I say that the resources needed to comply with PCS/DSS standards are not at all easy to come by for a small company of ten.  I can’t imagine what its like for a company of just a couple of folks.   Not only that, but for us at least, some of the policy decisions we are forced in to as a result can sometimes have the unpleasant side effect of making us look like the bad guys to some of our booksellers.  (Not that we blame booksellers for getting upset at these changes.  We hate this stuff, too!  But, unfortunately, PCI compliance is an albatross that the credit card industry is magnanimously draping across the shoulders of the whole industry, and no one is immune from the regulations nor the penalties)

At the heart of it is this: 1) The storage, even temporary, of the CVV code is now absolutely prohibited, and 2) the storage and subsequent retrieval of sensitive card holder information by third parties is also in violation.

Simply put: this means that sites who have previously allowed book sellers to retrieve credit card details left by customers cannot continue to do so, without facing very real penalties from our very heavy-handed friends Vinny Visa and Manny “The Maestro” Mastercard.

What penalties?  Try up to $500,000 and permanent revocation of one’s merchant account (as in for as long as both you and Vinny shall live).

So clearly, some very tough decisions, and I do respect Usedbookcentral’s decision.   I’m certain they agonized over it for a very long time.  Its not an easy thing to close a business.

And, I must say, I’m saddened to see them go.

While Usedbookcentral has been a competitor of Biblio’s since our own beginnings, it was with no joy that we heard this announcement.  We are disheartened to see one of the few remaining independent book sites leave, and although I never met Jeff Moore (the founder of Usedbookcentral), by all reports he’s a terrific guy.

The absorption of abebooks by last fall resulted in not only abebooks, but Bookfinder, Chrislands, and Fillz becoming wholly owned subsidiaries of Amazon (you can read my public reaction to that news on BookPatrol).  Since that time,  the need for independents in the market has never been greater – if we want to preserve competition and choice for book sellers and book buyers on the internet.  To that end, while we compete with sites like Usedbookcentral, ZVAB, Antiqbook, or even Alibris (to name a few),  we also want them to thrive and succeed.  The loss of any independent book site or company is a loss to the entire book community, and further weakens the ability of the independent bookseller to remain independent and provide competitive pricing, choice, and products to customers.

Please join me in wishing Jeff and his team well in their future endeavors, and in appreciation for the years they put in working on behalf of all of us in the independent book business.

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