Each day the newspaper, television news anchors, and our own industry email lists are full of events that impact our industry, our income, and our lives. Our business world is changing so fast that trends are impossible to predict from history.
How do we survive, much less thrive? Virtually all IOBA members are small businesses, dependent on commerce with unseen customers, most of whom we have never met. We depend on these strangers to pay us in advance for books, depending upon our honesty for delivery, for the accuracy of our descriptions, for fair treatment in case of damage, shipping delays, or other problems.
How do we let these customers know that we really are honest, dependable, knowledgable, professionals? That when we do make mistakes, we will correct them without delay or complaint.
IOBA is part of the answer. As an IOBA member, you have promised to conduct your business honestly and professionally. You agreed to follow a published set of standards in describing your product. You also agreed that if you did not uphold these principles, IOBA could end your membership.
These are important committments. They provide a basis for trust between a customer and an unknown bookseller. A customer should be confident buying from a member of IOBA. Buying from you!
Last year IOBA established a basic framework to differentiate our members from the general population of booksellers. We promulgated a comprehensive Code of Ethics. We published standard definitions of book conditions. We included a committment to ethical behavior in our Bylaws and our membership application, with sanctions for violations. We began regular publication of this newsletter, to keep you informed about our industry.
We will continue and expand upon this work this year. We will be working on educational programs for new and experienced booksellers. Neil is continuing publication of our outstanding newsletter. We will continue work on our Ethics Code and enforcement provisions. Membership in IOBA will increasingly mean you are part of the elite in online bookselling.
Of course, if the customers don’t know about us, or what we stand for, these differences don’t really help our individual businesses. This year we plan to begin letting the customers know, and to help those customers find us when they are ready to buy.
The board has approved funding a significant and continuing advertising/publicity campaign. This will be one of our largest investments over the coming year. Our Public Relations Chair is an experienced professional in this field. We will be promoting both IOBA as an organization, and each of you, as IOBA members. We are still finalizing plans for this campaign, but you will be kept in the loop as this comes together. Interested members are needed to add their knowledge and ideas to this effort. This campaign will include both trade publications, national media, and the local media in your community. We know you’re good. We’re want to help the buying public find out about you.
Once the customer knows about IOBA, they also need to know how to find you. We’re working on that too. One year ago I announced an IOBA member only search engine. This engine was similar in concept to Bookfinder or Addall. A customer would enter search parameters, then be presented with a list of books that matched those parameters. The difference is that only IOBA members books would be shown. The customer could then click on the link, and buy the book directly from you.
When I announced this program the engine was in the testing phase, and we expected it to go live last summer. It has taken a little longer than we planned.
The work on this project became a major task chewing up countless hours of work. All of this work was contributed at no cost to IOBA by Deanna Ramsay, our former Internet Operations Chair. The programming hours made major inroads into Deanna’s professional and personal time. These demands were in addition to her Committee Chair responsibilities. Like most computer programming projects, unanticipated problems were met and solved, chewing up additional time. We are still not there, but major progress has been made.
The board has committed additional funding to this project. Deb Graham is now our Internet Operations Chair. Deanna is assisting Deb with the search engine project. While we still don’t have a final launch date for this service, we have committed significant resources to its completion. We believe this major project can be a tremendous asset to each of our members. We’ll keep you informed of the progress.
Deb has also begun planning enhancements to IOBA’s website that will allow increased visibility to our individual members.
We know you’re good! You are doing important work! Let’s work together to spread the word.