What is your purpose in starting an 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 ????).
Global Book Mart, in its new incarnation, is a continuation of our original philosophy and intent in launching Global Book Mart in 1999. We created a book database conceived by booksellers for the express purpose of maintaining an independent database that is not interested in creating a brand name for itself. GBM does not want to position itself between the bookseller and the customer, but instead to be a conduit for customers to find booksellers, and booksellers to attract customers.
GBM has always taken the stand that we must remain independent in order to serve our customers. This philosophy was developed from our perspective as booksellers who experienced the early days of online bookselling on Interloc onward, watching the evolution of the book database, with both the good and not-so-good consequences.
Is this a long-term commitment on your part? Where do you see yourself and your database in three years? 5 years?
This has been a commitment of more than 3 years to date. GBM publicly launched in 1999 with 85 dealers. GBM grew to more than 940 dealers with more than 4.6 million book records by August, 2000. Our hiatus from the online book industry was not voluntary.
In August of 2000, we learned that owning your equipment and owning your proprietary programming does not necessarily afford protection from unscrupulous parties. The computer programming firm retained to perform work on GBM demanded that we pay them approximately $187,000 which was not provided for in our contract, or in the alternative, to relinquish to them a controlling interest in GBM, or they would commandeer our equipment (which was physically housed in their facility to have a direct T1 connection), programming and data.
These same programmers used our equipment to pirate the GBM database and bookseller data for use on a website they registered, http://www.bookcrawler.net which included the use of all of our proprietary code and copyrighted materials, with the exception of changing the name. We were even told by one of these parties that should GBM booksellers not be willing to contract with their new site, these programmers intended to purchase inventory and duplicate the efforts of booksellers. We consulted our attorney and notified all of our booksellers of these events on August 10, 2000. Within 2 hours of our notifying our booksellers, the programmers physically unplugged our servers and severed communications. We want to again thank our customers who emailed, phoned and faxed our former programmers with cease and desist demands.
At this point, our world was turned upside down. In addition to withholding our property, these programmers managed to transfer registration of our URLs to a secondary registration company–which, while recognizing that Leon and I were listed as the owners of those URLs, would not release control of the URLs to us without the written permission of the party who transferred the registrations to them, our programmers, who, in turn, refused to do so.
Appeals to Network Solutions failed to resolve the control of the registration. Litigation and 18 months were required before we regained control of our URLs in March 2002. Ultimately, Leon and I have personally lost tens of thousands of dollars, and in order to pursue litigation, and rebuild our personal lives, sold our home and liquidated our book inventory.
We immediately commenced legal action against these parties. We are still engaged in that litigation. The defendants were ordered to return all of our property to us. The defendants failed to return our property and were held in contempt. However, the defendants have subsequently admitted in court hearings that they destroyed our equipment, code and other property upon receiving communications from our attorney. The court imposed sanctions upon the defendants, including striking a portion of their court pleadings. The case is awaiting a trial date on damages. We anticipate the trial to be scheduled for sometime this summer.
We are rebuilding GBM for the long-term. Our goal is to continue to evolve to meet the needs and desires of booksellers and their customers as those needs and desires change over time.
What lister book database inventory programs do you/will you support?
GBM will support all book inventory programs. Additionally, as in the past, we will add new formats from individual booksellers on an as requested basis.
What are your upload procedures? Deletion procedures? Are “wants” listings available? For sale matches? Are any additions/changes planned?
Uploads will be available via FTP (and we will offer a downloadable FTP interface), as well as a custom, onsite upload interface.
We will offer a wants listing/matching service for booksellers and customers.
What customer service (for both sellers and buyers) do you/will you have?
As always, booksellers and customers alike, will be able to contact GBM via email, fax or phone. When you contact customer service, you deal directly with Leon and myself, the owners. The buck stops here. We currently have a feedback option on our site, and will continue to do so. We encourage booksellers and customers to contact us.
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?
We have always included bookseller guidelines as a condition of participation with GBM. Should customers experience unsatisfactory transactions, then we encourage them to contact us for investigation. Should a bookseller demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to perform to industry standards, then GBM has the choice of terminating our relationship with that dealer. By the same token, as long-term booksellers, we understand the realities of bookselling and customer relations. As such, we have a realistic understanding of such situations and are hopefully in a position to make reasonable conclusions based on the facts presented to us.
What are your technical arrangements (in non-technical language, please) to ensure reliability of service? Future growth? Additional services?
We have state-of-the-art equipment (light-years ahead of what we had previously), we have a direct DS3 line (the equivalent of 28 T1 lines) as well as satellite capabilities in the near future. Having direct access ensures the highest level of up-time–subject to the phone lines, and whether a backhoe cuts a line somewhere between here and a particular user. Our equipment is expandable for future growth. Our available capacity allows for nearly exponential growth rates. This also allows advanced services such as website hosting, image hosting, etc.
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?
GBM will provide a secure server for the storage of customer credit card information. As before, dealers will have to log on to the GBM secure server to retrieve that information in order to process their credit card sales transactions.
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?
Do you have any plans for programs associated with your database which would involve anything other than direct contact between seller and buyer?
Do you have or do you plan to have an “all word search” capability?
Yes, it is called ‘exact’ match in our search parameters and works in multiple fields, as well as partial word(s), starting and ending search features as well.
What search capabilities does your database have now? What is planned for the future?
Search parameters include title, author, price, keywords, publisher, ISBN, (or any combination thereof) all of which can be sorted by those variables or in reverse order.
On what will you base your listing fees? What fees do you have now or plan to have?
We will have a flat monthly listing fee, without a restriction on the number of records. We will offer additional services, such as website hosting, image hosting, etc, which will be optional for booksellers.
Do you plan to have or now have your database searched by Addall or Bookfinder or any other mega-search site?
How do you plan to advertise your database (both to draw listers and buyers)?
Our philosophy on advertising has not changed. You won’t see full-page ads for GBM in the New York Times. Our experience has been that advertising and networking that builds word-of-mouth is the most successful. As before, we will pursue online links, advertising and networking which successfully drives online buyers to a site. We will also focus on building word of mouth via sources that book buyers will encounter. Finally, networking with booksellers, and promotion of use of GBM for their customers will be pursued, including booksellers who are not online sellers. We will continue to offer bookmarks, mugs, shirts, etc. to our sellers and customers.
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?
Leon and Lisa Martin have managed and owned open bookstores since 1991, and have been online booksellers since 1996. We made the jump to database owners in 1999. In other business and professional experience: Leon has previously worked in retail and service management, owned and operated a hazardous materials cleanup and excavation business, and owned a computer hardware business; Lisa is an attorney, having practiced in the area of employment law, as well as many years in public interest law.
Do you or are you planning to have professional management, bookseller management, or????
We will continue to own and operate GBM. Leon and Lisa personally manage GBM operations. That will not change. Period.
What markets (geographical and/or demographic) are you aiming at?
As always, GBM is focused upon cultivation of a global clientele for our booksellers and to promote the globalization of the online book buying community, including our multi-lingual features.
What services/features does your database have that you feel sets you apart and/or will ensure the success of your database?
GBM has always been an innovative, independent book database. That attitude and forward-looking perspective continues today. We will offer the services we had before, but now with a faster site. Additionally, during our hiatus, we have had the opportunity to reflect upon the state of the online book database and new projects are in development.