P. Scott Brown – ABookCoOp (dba Tomfolio.com)


TomFolioLogoFrom: P. Scott Brown, ABookCoOp dba TomFolio.com, Treasurer

URL: http://www.tomfolio.com

What is your purpose in starting a online book database (i.e., to help online booksellers, to get a database that does what you think a book database should do, because it’s a good business to be in, all of the above, none of the above, or ????).

Over the last two years, the large book databases have increasingly changed their focus from serving book buyers to figuring out ways to make a profit off of book customers. The result has been extra fees for basic services like secure ordering and markups over the bookseller’s price.

TomFolio.com was started as a bookseller-owned cooperative that would have the book buyers’ interests at heart. After all, our success as individual booksellers depends upon our ability to provide good books and good service to our buyers. As a cooperative, we don’t have to look to book buyers as a source of revenue.

With the large purveyors of used books becoming increasingly “corporate,” the founders of ABookCoOp wanted to make sure that there was a book database site that would be under our control, free of profit motives, and not subject to sale to the highest bidder.

Is this a long-term commitment on your part?Where do you see yourself and your database in 3 years?5 years?

 

We are in this for the long haul. The Internet has changed used bookselling forever and we plan to be on the vanguard of that change.

TomFolio.com offers all book buyers the option to use credit cards—booksellers who do not have credit card processing ability use TomFolio.com’s merchant account.

TomFolio’s category system also provides a showcase for vintage periodicals and booklets, documents, maps, historical photographs, and other printed ephemera, making them easy to locate by historians, archivists, and collectors.

TomFolio.com requires booksellers to abide by a code of ethics and will remove members who don’t meet high customer service standards.

TomFolio.com, as a cooperative, offers booksellers the option of shaping the growth and development of the database by participating on the Board of Directors, one of many active committees, or as members of the owner’s mailing list.

In the next three to five years, TomFolio will be a strong player in the used bookselling field and since we are owned and operated by booksellers, we will be on the cutting edge of new services and will push other databases to maintain a customer focus.

What lister book database inventory programs do you/will you support?

We will work with any member or subscriber to translate their data into the TomFolio.com database. All the major inventory programs are currently in use along with custom-developed systems.

What are your upload procedures?Deletion procedures?Are “wants” listings available?For sale matches?Are any additions/changes planned?

Uploading books to TomFolio.com is a breeze. Most members use a drag-and-drop FTP to upload changes to the database. Other FTP methods are also available. Adds and deletes are handled the same way.

At present, want matches are not available but they are currently under consideration.

What customer service (for both sellers and buyers) do you/will you have?

Most customer service is by email. Owners can post questions to the owner’s mailing list and the “Contact Us” page on the site goes to a mail list that is answered as long as people are up. The answers are provided either by the webmaster or a member of the coop who is an expert in that area. Our customer service is fast, informative, and given by the experts, not telephone support without real knowledge of the system.

Will you/do you have any quality (i.e., descriptions, shipping, and/or customer service) standards for your listers?If so, what will be/are the consequences of violating those standards?

Independent booksellers may join TomFolio.com either as a subscriber (a lister) or as a shareholder (owner and lister).

Listers in both groups must abide by a code of ethics that requires good book descriptions and a money-back guarantee on the part of the bookseller. The booksellers must provide good customer service with the following book buyer protections:

The bookseller guarantees delivery (no shipping at the customer’s own risk).

The bookseller agrees to take returns for any reason within a reasonable period.

If booksellers fail to meet the standards, they can be removed from the database. In the small handful of cases where this has been a problem, a call from a member of the Board of Directors is usually enough to resolve the issue. The Board takes customer service seriously and responds to every complaint.

The Code of Ethics may be viewed at http://www.tomfolio.com/TomFolio/ethics.asp

What are your technical arrangements (in non-technical language, please) to ensure reliability of service?Future growth?Additional services?

The TomFolio.com system has been developed using industry-standard software and powerful hardware. It is designed for scalability and can grow comfortably. When BookFinder searches began to consume too many resources, a separate server was set up to handle that service. The dedicated server ensures very fast responses to BookFinder searches and is an example of TomFolio’s commitment to excellent service and fast searches.

Will you/do you have the capability of taking credit card info for orders?If so, what can you tell us about the safety procedures you have or will have in place to ensure the security of such info?

TomFolio.com was designed from the beginning to take credit cards—in fact, in order to provide high-quality customer service, all booksellers must take credit cards either through their own merchant accounts or TomFolio.com’s. The credit card processing takes place on a secure server and credit card numbers are stored online for a short period.

Do you ever plan to process credit card orders through your database (rather than simply passing on the info to the lister) and, if so, will the lister or buyer bear the processing cost, and how long will it take to get payment to the lister?

Currently TomFolio.com booksellers can use either TomFolio.com’s merchant account to process Visa, MasterCard, and American Express orders or their own credit card processing service. Booksellers who use TomFolio.com’s merchant account pay the cost of the transaction, currently 7.5% of the total charge. For most booksellers, this is much less expensive than acquiring their own merchant account.

Many TomFolians direct credit card orders from other databases to TomFolio.com so that the customer can use the secure credit card server. The booksellers can then choose to use TomFolio.com’s processing services or their own. In either case, the customer does not pay extra for use of a secure server.

Every book on TomFolio.com has a unique URL so that dealers can direct their customer right to the book on the TomFolio.com website.

Payments are made to booksellers twice per month.

Do you have any plans for programs associated with your database which would involve anything other than direct contact between seller and buyer?

TomFolio.com is designed to bring booksellers and book buyers together. We are constantly working to make the book buyer’s experience more like a bookstore not the other way around.

Do you have or do you plan to have an “all word search” capability?

At present, TomFolio.com does not have a full text search feature, although this feature may be added in the future.

In lieu of that, TomFolio supports both searches on categories and on keywords.

What search capabilities does your database have now? What is planned for the future?

TomFolio.com offers full text searches on the following fields: Author, Title, and Publisher, and Keywords. Searchers can specify first editions, signed copies, price, new adds, price range, and can request books sorted by Date Added, Price, or Bookseller.

Books can also be searched within a category, such as Fiction: Mystery or History: Canada and No. America.

On what will you base your listing fees?What fees do you have now or plan to have?

TomFolio.com offers independent booksellers the option of becoming a shareholder in the Co-operative. The current cost of a share is $500, which may be paid in $50 monthly increments. Shareholders have voting privileges and can participate in discussions on the owner’s list.

Booksellers are not required to become shareholders to list books & ephemera on the site, however.

Everyone who lists on TomFolio.com pays a monthly fee based on the number of books they have listed. The current fee schedule can be found at http://www.tomfolio.com/TomFolio/stockoffer.asp.

Do you plan to have or now have your database searched by Addall or Bookfinder or any other mega-search site?

TomFolio.com is currently searched by BookFinder.

How do you plan to advertise your database (both to draw listers and buyers)?

TomFolio.com spends a considerable portion of its income on advertising. We currently have ads running in the New York Times Review of Books, Firsts, and Bookseller Monthly. We also sponsor links on GoTo.com (Overture.com). TomFolio.com recently hired a professional marketing firm to handle the organization’s media campaign.

We also use guerrilla marketing techniques, with bookmarks, t-shirts, brochures, and a campaign to add links to the site on the Internet. Since TomFolio.com is owned by booksellers, we promote the site far more than the members of competing sites.

What background or experience do you or other people involved with your database have that relates to the online book or online book database business?

TomFolio.com is designed, owned, and operated by booksellers.

Do you or are you planning to have professional management, bookseller management, or????

TomFolio.com is managed by professional booksellers through a Board of Directors elected by the owners.

What markets (geographical and/or demographic) are you aiming at?

At present, most of our shareholders and subscribers are in the US, but we have subscribers in eight countries on four continents. TomFolio.com has wide appeal for the general used and OP book market, we are also targeting book collectors, archivists, and libraries, and collectors of ephemera such as vintage and historical periodicals, pamphlets, maps, photographs, postcards, illustrations and illustrators, autographs, trade cards, business paper, brochures, etc.

What services/features does your database have that you feel sets you apart and/or will ensure the success of your database?

TomFolio.com has four distinguishing characteristics:

  1. TomFolio.com’s dealers guarantee customer satisfaction or their money back.
  2. TomFolio.com has a pioneering category search that enables book buyers to browse our virtual shelves.
  3. TomFolio.com is owned and operated by booksellers who are committed to an excellent customer service experience.
  4. TomFolio.com is establishing a foothold in niche markets for collectible books and ephemera by offering the ability to categorize and showcase these items.

Please tell us anything you’d like about yourself and/or your database, and thank you for participating.

I think we covered it pretty well already. Thank you for providing this valuable service.

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

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