Biblio Finds Its Way in the Used, Rare, and Out-of-print Book Market


In a world of commoditized physical and online retail offerings, consumers are looking for more diverse shopping experiences. Buyers are again searching for things that meet their needs, and wants, and are favoring quality over price. This is where Biblio.com fits in.

In 2000, the original Biblio.com was launched as metasearch engine for new, used, rare, and out-of-print books: it quickly gained recognition for its speed and simplicity of use. In 2002, the name of this metasearch engine was changed to SearchBiblio.com to prepare the way for the upcoming new listings service.

During this time, development continued on the core product that was later to resemble the Biblio we all know today, with the revenues generated by the metasearch engine helping to provide seed money for the eventual launch of Biblio.

Biblio was ready to launch with its new product in February, 2003, initially with 14 booksellers. One of the hurdles was the difficulty of acquiring adequate inventory in order to attract buyers. At the same time, gaining a sufficient bookseller membership required active customers.

Fortuitously, in early February the listing site Bookopoly.com was offered for sale. Recognizing a unique opportunity for acquiring an existing base of booksellers and customers, and the market exposure which the acquisition would provide, Biblio purchased Bookopoly.com.

One week later, Biblio.com officially launched under its own brand. For the next several months Biblio.com and Bookopoly.com were both run independently. In June 2003 Bookopoly was closed down and its bookseller and customer bases were folded into Biblio.com.

Approaching its second anniversary this February, Biblio.com has grown to become the world’s third-largest site dedicated to used, rare, and out-of-print books, with more than 2,250 independent booksellers from 21 different countries representing an aggregate inventory of over 14 million books.

The little engine that could

Biblio differs from its larger competitors in more ways than just size. Built from the beginning with managed growth in mind, Biblio has received no external investment or capital and all shares in the company are privately held by individuals who are actively involved in the daily operations of the company.

Chief Executive Officer and founder Brendan Sherar notes that its larger competitors also have a radically different business strategy than Biblio. Their sales are largely reliant on partnerships with major corporations such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, whereas Biblio’s primary sales and customer bases are independently cultivated.

Sherar says “This gives us two strategic advantages moving forward in the marketplace. First, our resources are not exhausted in maintaining such demanding partnerships. Instead we are able to focus our attention on building partnerships with our booksellers and relationships with our customers. Second, it clearly stabilizes our position in the market when the bulk of our business is supported across a base of hundreds of thousands of customers.”

“This is not to say that we will not be announcing some key strategic partnerships in 2005. The difference s that we are looking to form mutually-beneficial partnerships with like-minded companies, where it is clear that we have common goals and both hold equal sway in our relationship, and that it is in the best interests of our bookseller members and customers.”

Standing out in the crowd

Biblio is, of course, not the only small company to recognize the opportunity in the market for a company which focuses its attention on its relationships with its booksellers. It is, however, the largest of these.

“While our fundamental philosophy towards our independent booksellers is very similar to most of our smaller competitors, the chief thing that has made Biblio stand out is the sales results we generate for our booksellers. We believe what we do best is to find the balance between sales results and independence for our booksellers, and achieve that equilibrium.”

According to Director of Sales and Marketing, Kevin Donaldson, Biblio currently averages more than one million unique visitors to their site monthly, with millions of page views. With the substantial traffic that Biblio has built up over two years, sales have increased proportionately.

“We often hear reports from booksellers that the sales we generate for them exceed those of the other independent sites they list their inventory on – in some cases, rivaling even the sales of our larger competitors,” says Donaldson. He believes this trend in sales growth will continue, saying, “Our sales numbers in 2004 were up nearly 400 percent over the prior year and we project similar gains in 2005.”

Beyond the numbers

Biblio’s identity as a company extends beyond pursuing the bottom line and profits. Their vision statement reads: Biblio.com Inc. will lead our market through providing exemplary customer service, creating opportunities for our partners, and fostering the growth of the communities we serve.

Allen Singleton, Biblio’s Chief Operations Officer, explains what their vision means; “It has been part of our vision for Biblio to be much more than a traditional corporate entity. In short, we wanted to build a company that, through its operations, through its day-to-day contacts with customers, through the products and services it offers, through its colleagues, and through every aspect of its business, would give expression to the highest ideals of excellence. Additionally, we wanted to make sure we were able to make a difference through charitable work and funding community enriching projects”.

Just recently, Biblio announced the completion of La Biblioteca – Morado K’asa, a joint construction project which Biblio began with the municipal and state governments in Bolivia in August 2004, and through highly successful fundraising contributions from its bookseller members. This library places resources for education and learning in the hands of some 3,000 members of the rural community of Morado K’asa, where before, they did not even have access to books in their elementary or secondary schools (located 30 minutes away).

Biblio plans for the La Biblioteca project to be just one of many similar undertakings as they continue to grow and diversify in the marketplace.

A Customer Focus

“I think there is an untapped market of customers out there that are looking for that book that they loved so dearly from their childhood, or they have gotten the run around from the big box retailers on out-of-print books.” Donaldson says, “There are so many customers out there that want our products, we all have to spend our time and effort letting them know they are out there!”

Biblio’s focus in 2005 and beyond is to enhance the customer experience even further by making Biblio.com a destination for customers. In the works are monthly newsletters for customers, enhanced Want List management, coupons, an improved Rare Book Room, and much more.

“Where our Bookseller Members can help us is in ways that obviously assist us in getting their listings online, but also, and most importantly, enhancing the customer experience. When we are able to successfully connect a customer with a Biblio.com Bookseller Member, we all benefit,” Donaldson says.

Pulling it all together

It is clear that everyone at Biblio is genuinely excited about where their company has come from in such a short time, and the direction they are headed in the future. Market growth, enabling independent businesses to thrive, and taking an active leadership role in communities are the primary business focuses of Biblio.

“I truly enjoy what we do together as a community of people ultimately joined together by the love of books,” Sherar says. “As the saying goes, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. I believe this is what we see happening with Biblio, whether one is considering the collective resources we provide to empower our bookseller members to succeed, or the collaboration in building a library for a community in need. Our growing position in the marketplace is enabling us to facilitate positive progress and change.”

Biblio offers used, out-of-print, and rare books, with over 14 million titles offered for sale by over 2200 booksellers and bookstores worldwide. Visit Biblio at http://www.biblio.com

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