From: Brent James
Interview submitted to ABE by Barbara Lightner
A list of questions covering many aspects of the changes at ABE was submitted, including asking for written confirmations of many verbal assurances and commitments given by ABE representatives during their meetings with booksellers on their U.K. tour. As you’ll see below, none of these commitments made by ABE agents are confirmed or addressed in this response from Mr. James. We show the response from Mr. James first, and then the original list of interview questions submitted to him.
We will continue working with ABE to try to get you answers by the time of the summer issue of this newsletter, as that will be the last issue in 2002 containing database interviews.
Shirley Bryant, Editor
RESPONSE FROM BRENT JAMES AT ABE:
Before I begin, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss Abebooks in the Standard. As a probing reporter, you have asked insightful and in-depth questions. As many of your questions are at the heart of several hot issues that we have dealt with and are still working through, I cannot, unfortunately, respond to the majority of your questions just yet.
We recently launched two new international websites (abebooks.de and abebooks.fr), tested them in the European market and monitored their progress to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. We are now moving towards applying the results of this testing to these sites as well as our English web sites (abebooks.com, abelibrary.com and the upcoming abebooks.co.uk).
We learned a great deal from working through this testing process and received plenty of feedback from our booksellers. At this point, we are still developing and fine tuning our approach, and are not quite yet ready to make public the details of our future plans.
Please be assured that the issues you have identified in your questions coincide with the issues we are currently working for our new web site model. Rather than disclosing partial details of our plans, I would prefer to discuss these questions with you at a later date when our plans are further along and I am able to provide you with the full details. By doing this, I hope to avoid some of the confusion that could result from premature discussion.
I would be happy to speak with you again, through the summer, to educate your members (and ours!) about our upcoming changes. Our Public Relations department can assist you in organizing a similar initiative in a couple of months.
1) First, let me thank you for making possible the special program for IOBA members to search member books only, through ABE. We’ll get to that in more detail later. For now, could you tell us the three most important points you would make to booksellers about ABE? Short answer, please.
We work hard to provide the high level of service our booksellers have come to expect from Abebooks. We have worked very diligently to sell as many of our members books as possible while, at the same time, facilitating not only buyer communication but also assisting buyers to purchase directly from our booksellers. We have never competed with our booksellers from an inventory of our own; we are in the service business, focused on helping booksellers make the most sales possible.
The second point I would like to make is that change is an inevitable part of business. The Internet market for used, rare, out-of-print and antiquarian books has undergone dramatic change in a very short time. In this dynamic marketplace, companies who embrace change will thrive as they adapt to customer/marketplace needs. By listening to the needs of booksellers and book buyers, we are preparing to meet future challenges. Abebooks has always lent an ear to its booksellers. Listening to booksellers is very important for our success. Our Advisory Group has, and continues to play an important role in representing booksellers interests and in helping us make decisions that affect our booksellers. We listen closely not only to our Advisory Group but to other member booksellers, discuss all feedback and work to incorporate suggestions wherever possible before we make a final decision. We are working to improve how we communicate with our bookseller community, so they are informed about how changes in our business will affect changes in their own. Most importantly, we know we will succeed only if our booksellers sell books on our web sites.
2) What are the three most important points you would make to book buyers about ABE? Short answer, please.
There really is only one message I would like to make to book buyers: we are committed to providing buyers with a large selection of used, rare, out-of-print and antiquarian books. We are committed to making each customer s visit to our web sites a pleasurable experience and we will continually improve all areas of our web sites.
Abebooks is committed to increasing its profile in the consumer market in a number of ways, one of which is advertising. We are always working to learn more about our buyers and choose the most appropriate methods of promotion based on this understanding.
Currently, we are advertising in a number of print publications in the U.S., Canada and in Europe. We are currently co-sponsoring Minnesota Public Radio’s The Writer’s Almanac hosted by Garrison Keillor, which reaches approximately 2 million listeners every day on over 300 radio stations across the United States. We also attend several major trade shows each year and enjoy sponsoring book-related events. Abebooks works closely with the press and receives regular coverage in print, online and broadcast media.
Information about Abebooks media coverage, press releases and corporate information is available through http://www.abemedia.com or our monthly bookseller newsletter, the Abebooks Update, available through our Members Menu.
4) IOBA Search Program
Once we received the list of IOBA dealers who were listed on Abebooks, the entire process took between 2 to 3 days to put into production on both the abebooks web site and the IOBA web site. First, we set-up an IOBA searchable group for our own web site, and then provided IOBA with a piece of code to place on their web site. This allowed the organization to have its own search box on the web site, which it may not have been able to do otherwise. We have also provided this service for other associations, as listed in the Advanced Search page Bookstores option. This type of service is evaluated on an individual basis, but generally non-profit bookseller organizations are accepted.