Welcome back to the IOBA Standard, which has been on a bit of a hiatus. I read somewhere once that hiatus often means goodbyatus, but we are back with a new team, a new look, and ambitious plans. If you ever come across premier issues of periodicals, take a look at the opening remarks. Back in the early days, they used to call this the plan of the magazine, where rosy intentions are announced. These messages are remarkably similar through the decades, though the language was far more erudite and flowery a century or two ago.
The Standard was first published in 2001, which makes it about forty years old in dog or internet time, and IOBA is for the most part an all-volunteer force, so a breather was not out of order. Going forward, our primary goal is to put out four increasingly substantial issues per year, in January, April, July, and October. We will continue to solicit a wide variety of lively articles on matters pertaining to the noble and hopefully lucrative profession of bookselling. We will broaden our scope with, among other things, more international content, and more views and news you can use.
This is an exciting time for the Independent Online Booksellers Association. As many of you know, IOBA was formed out of concern for maintaining traditional bookselling values and standards in the face of a rapidly changing online selling environment. Many of us feel caught in the middle, with a glut of books and unqualified or unscrupulous booksellers on one side and the creeping corporatism of the major search services on the other. The web can be a great real-time pricing tool, and we can display our wares to the entire world, but lots of problems are cropping up too.
IOBA is here as a natural byproduct of the online bookselling industry. It provides various tools for learning the trade, it requires meeting certain reasonable standards for membership, it has a code of ethics, and it has a dedicated board of directors and committee members. As IOBA grows, it hopes to provide the traditional advantages of a trade association. This includes member benefits, acting as a clearinghouse for information, taking an activist role when warranted, and uniting professional booksellers under one umbrella for the benefit of buyer and seller alike. That last bit can be difficult, as getting opinionated and occasionally cantankerous booksellers together has been likened to herding cats, but thats why Independent is in the title.
IOBA is also here to help earnest new booksellers get started. Although we find rumblings about the changing book trade going back for centuries, surely we are in the midst of the greatest upheaval since the advent of the printing press, due largely to the internet. Some overnight booksellers dont care about traditions and standards, and might as well be hawking Beanie Babies or fake watches. Others are anxious to learn and grow. The old guild or apprentice system is breaking down, partly because many bricks and mortar stores were driven out of business by urban blight, chain stores, high rents, and now the relative ease of selling exclusively online. While many of us might aspire to join the prestigious Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America or one of its international counterparts some fine day, and to perhaps open a shop of our own, that takes time, effort, and dedication, not to mention the proverbial handling of one million books. Im told that at a recent book fair banquet, a former ABAA president conducted a poll of the booksellers present. Of more than fifty, only four were under the age of forty-five. He asked who would mentor the future generation, with so many B&Ms closing. With so many online-only dealers joining the profession, this is where IOBA can make a big difference. In addition to the services previously mentioned, one of the projects we are working on right now is a formal mentor program.
The Membership Chair reports a recent surge in new membersfrom 185 last August to 215 in February to the present number of 290 and counting. Joining IOBA is very inexpensive . . . only $60 per year. One fairly new member benefit is listing your inventory through IOBAbooks.com, also very reasonable ($15 a month for 10,000 books, for example, with a modest sliding scale below and above that figure). IOBAbooks.com does not interfere with the buyer-seller relationship, it offers credit card processing, it charges zero commission, and it is currently searched on BookFinder. Crafty booksellers could cover their entire yearly fees by listing some very scarce, collectible, and commission-free titles exclusively on IOBAbooks.com. Many members are reporting very respectable sales.
Ive come to view IOBA as a safe harbor in a sea of uncertainty. It wont sell out, and it has our best interests at heart. A recent highly interesting thread on the IOBA Discuss list on why members have joined was inspiring enough to get me to volunteer for this editing job. We are setting a goal of 500 members (and the more of them that list on IOBAbooks.com the better). That is a big increase from 290, but the time is right. And if some of the search services can claim tens of thousands of members and counting, there is no reason why IOBA couldnt grow to several thousand strong by 2010. For more information, please visit our home page at www.ioba.org.
As for this issue, we start off with a major tutorial on internet bookselling from Brendan Sherar, the proprietor of Biblio.com; followed by an entertaining look at hunting Modern Library specimens in the steamy and often fetid jungles of eBay. From the Reference Desk section, another ephemeral assay, on pulps; and the first in a series of reviews by the editor on books about bookselling. We crack open the Tool Box for a look at personalized inventory database management by IOBAs talented Chris Volk; followed by a preview of the 2006 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, where Chris has just been invited to join that distinguished staff of bookselling professors. There are three fun IOBA bookseller profiles. Rounding things out, an Errata section takes up uncustomary residence at the rear of the work in question, with an emphasis on where we can find good stock and how we can learn good lessons.
Special thanks to Shirley Bryant, the first editor of the public version of the Standard and my current mentor in this endeavor, the previous editor Michael Watson, our great and patient new webmaster Rayburn Taylor, and the president and board of IOBA.