(EDITOR’S NOTE: PLEASE NOTE THAT ABAA IS A MEMBERS’ ONLY DATABASE, BUT INFORMATION WILL GIVEN AT THE END OF THIS INTERVIEW ABOUT HOW TO JOIN, WHAT THE REQUIREMENTS ARE, AND SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF JOINING.)
What is your purpose in starting a 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 ????).
The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America has been in existence for more than 50 years. Its purpose is to promote interest in antiquarian books for the general public, and to provide a code of ethics and standards for the antiquarian book trade. For more detail, see the Section on the ABAA at the end of this interview.
The ABAA has been active in using the internet to support the interests of its members and to provide information of use to the general public, book collectors, librarians, and all members of the bookselling trade. The ABAA website provides information in a variety of areas, including links to other sites of interest to visitors, book fair information, glossary of terms, short essays on literary topics, articles by members of the ABAA, a listing of members with links to their sites, our book search database (more to follow!), member catalog announcements, and more. In addition, there is information about the ABAA itself, including our ethics guidelines, membership requirements, and information about contacting the ABAA. We also provide functions to our members only, such as listserves, which enable our members to communicate rapidly and efficiently with each other about matters of general interest to the membership, as well as specific items. Our committees also make use of these to accomplish their goals.
The ABAA online database is a natural extension of the goals and purposes of the ABAA. It provides our members and our site visitors still another way to buy and sell books, and survey the books offered for sale by our members.
Is this a long-term commitment on your part? Where do you see yourself and your database in 3 years? 5 years?
The ABAA is firmly committed to the internet and our online book search database. We feel that the internet is a major force in the antiquarian book trade, and one that we need to continue to work with as it evolves. We see the ABAA database and website continuing to take advantage of new technology for websites. While it is not always easy to predict where technology will lead us, I think it is safe to say that the ABAA website will offer more capabilities for booksellers to present their books in interesting and innovative ways which will make shopping for books easier and more satisfying. We will also continue to enhance the website to provide more functions for visitors, enabling them to look for book related information as well as books!
In addition, the ABAA is affiliated with the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). This organization promotes the same goals and interests as the ABAA, only on an international scale. Its member organizations cover the globe—Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Australia. Earlier this year, the IOBA newsletter featured a review of the ILAB search engine. ILAB and the ABAA share the same webmaster and database. So, when a bookseller lists with the ABAA search engine, his books are also listed on the ILAB data base.
We see the international flavor and cooperation represented by our affiliation with ILAB continuing and expanding with time.
What inventory programs do you/will you support?
The ABAA data base supports all of the commonly used inventory programs, and can accept comma or tab delimited files as well. Inventory programs supported include BookEase Pro, BookMinder, RS BookStore, HomeBase, BookTrakker Pro, and BookMate. In addition, database programs such as Record Manager, MS Access, and File-Maker are supported. Both Windows and Mac files are supported. Members having special requirements for uploading files can often be accommodated.
What are your upload procedures? Deletion procedures? Are “wants” listings available? For sale matches? Are any additions/changes planned?
The ABAA database accepts six import file types: tilde-delimited, tab-delimited, “Comma Separated Value” (CSV), UIEE, ABE and Alibris PRV files.
When a bookseller first uploads, an example file is sent to the Support Desk so they can create the settings for that bookseller. Then the bookseller can upload their files to the website using the “total update”, “additions and changes”, or “deletions” functions provided in the members section of the website. An FTP account is also possible. These uploads are added to the database within 24 hours (usually much faster). Individual listings can also be altered on line. There is a wants service in place and we will soon be implementing the possibility of uploading wants files.
Other enhancements are under review, and will be included whenever it is appropriate. We invite suggestions from member booksellers as well as our site visitors.
What customer service (for both sellers and buyers) do you/will you have?
There is ready access to assistance via the website. Buyers may review information about our members, email questions, and even send messages to our webmaster or to the ABAA headquarters itself. Visitors may send inquiries to a bookseller regarding a book of interest. A shopping cart facility is provided. When a book is not found in our database, the visitor has the option of linking to OCLC to find a copy for reference at a local or nearby library. Our members have access to a members-only section of the site where there is online help information as well as an easy way to send queries to our webmaster. In addition, members may use our listserves to ask the membership for advice on any difficulties. We are working on enhancements to the site, and will be providing FAQs for members. Members may include images with their listings. Members also have the option of incorporating code on their website that will invoke the ABAA search engine and present the results on the members website.
Very soon we will be offering members the possibility of having their own homepage which will include the Personal Search Page feature. This will ensure that members will have their own URL, http://www.ilab-lila.com/membersname.htm and their own email address, email@example.com.
Another service is our “highlights” feature. For a small fee dealers will be able to add their books to a “highlights” gallery putting them, as it were, in the shop window.
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?
All of our members pledge to adhere to the ethics guidelines of the ABAA and are expected to describe their books and procedures in a professional, consistent manner. Complaints about members are reviewed by the ABAA Ethics Committee, which works with the involved parties to arrive at a solution. Noncompliance with the guidelines may be cause for removal from membership in the ABAA.
What are your technical arrangements (in non-technical language, please) to ensure reliability of service? Future growth? Additional services?
Our webmaster has a professional staff of over a dozen programmers, all of whom are highly trained in the software packages used to support the site. In addition, he specializes in website design and support for bookshops and booksellers’ organizations such as the ABAA and ILAB. The owner of the company was himself a bookseller for many years. As a result, they are highly responsive to the needs of the bookselling community. From a hardware standpoint, the functions are split across a number of systems, with considerable redundancy built in to provide the best possible availability and security. Industrial-strength software for security is in place. Further, one individual is assigned to the ABAA site to monitor performance, availability, and security, and make the appropriate changes.
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?
We offer a secure order form that uses the Verisign technology. The credit card details are sent to the bookseller in two separate emails. Credit card details are not saved on the server. And, of course, customers are always free to contact the bookseller directly.
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?
We are considering this.
Do you have any plans for programs associated with your database which would involve anything other than direct contact between seller and buyer?
No. The ABAA believes that direct contact between the customer and the seller is one of our strengths.
Do you have or do you plan to have an “all word search” capability?
We have it.
What search capabilities does your database have now? What is planned for the future?
One can browse a bookseller’s books or catalogues. One may search by: author, title, description, any word/keyword, minimum price, maximum price, when added, publishing date, books of all ILAB members or of a national association (when on the ILAB site), first editions, signed, dust wrappers, hardcover, paperback, type (books, maps and prints, autographs) and we have a special character keyboard in place, which allows for accurate searching using characters unique to a given language.
On what will you base your listing fees? What fees do you have now or plan to have?
All members have directory listings on the web site. In addition, they may have links to their own sites. They can have new catalogues announced on the website. The directory listings are searchable by name, specialty, and location.
Use of the database is optional. The one time fee for setting up the database is $95. The monthly charges for listing books are determined by the number of books listed:
Up to 10,000 books $35.00 For each 5,000 books above this (or fraction of 5,000) $5.00
The monthly fee for having the search engine invoked on a bookseller’s own website is $10.00
Do you plan to have or now have your database searched by Addall or Bookfinder or any other mega-search site?
Our database is searched by both Addall and Bookfinder. As we learn of new mega-search sites, we evaluate them. Because we are listed as part of the ILAB data base as well as the ABAA data base, we will also be searched by any mega-search site based in Europe or any other part of the globe which searches the ILAB database.
How do you plan to advertise your database (both to draw listers and buyers)?
Listing books in the ABAA database is a privilege of membership in the ABAA.
For buyers, we regularly run adds in major book-related publications, such as Firsts, the New York Times, the FABS (Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies) bulletin, the Antiquarian Book Review. In addition, the promotional materials for our annual book fairs (held in New York, Boston, and San Francisco/Los Angeles) also display information about our web site. We publish an annual Members Directory that describes the site, and several of our regional chapters do so as well.
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?
This can be evaluated on at least two different levels. First, the Internet Committee of the ABAA oversees all internet related activities. Members of this committee all have extensive experience with the internet and using the internet in bookselling. Many have sophisticated websites themselves. Further, many of the officers and directors of the ABAA have extensive internet experience, a number of them being pioneers in using the internet for bookselling. Secondly, our technical staff at our website has previously been described. These are web development professionals in all aspects of web design and maintenance who also deal exclusively with booksellers and booksellers’ organizations.
Do you or are you planning to have professional management, bookseller management, or????
We do. See above.
What markets (geographical and/or demographic) are you aiming at?
The ABAA is based in the United States, and all of its members are booksellers doing business in the U.S. However, our books are also listed on the ILAB database, which draws an international customer base.
What services/features does your database have that you feel sets you apart and/or will ensure the success of your database?
The ABAA database is managed by the oldest nation-wide American booksellers’ organization, which has a national reputation and stringent ethics standards. The ABAA has about 500 members, including many of the best known and established booksellers in the United States. The ABAA website is an integral part of the ABAA, and will continue to be supported and enhanced. We have a continuing international presence through our relationship with ILAB.
Please tell us anything you’d like about yourself and/or your database, or about ABAA, and thank you for participating.
I am presently a member of the Board of Governors of the ABAA, chairman of the Internet Committee of the ABAA, and the owner of Four Rivers Books, Ltd., which specializes in fine press books, Limited Editions Club, artists’ books, and books on books. I also write articles on my specialties, and am writing a history of the Limited Editions Club.
About the ABAA:
This information is extracted from the ABAA website at http://www.abaa.org. Please visit the site for more information.
Membership in the ABAA cannot be obtained simply by paying a fee or signing an agreement. Before being considered for membership, booksellers must prove that they are established, knowledgeable, and of excellent reputation. Prospective members must be sponsored by current members, and undergo a rigorous screening process. The average ABAA member has been in the antiquarian book business more than twenty years. Many of our members helped build some of the greatest public and private libraries in the world, and many are recognized experts in their fields, with numerous publications to their credit.
ABAA members have always been known for their active roles in the book world, and for setting high standards in bibliography and business practices. For more than fifty years, countless librarians, researchers, and novice and seasoned collectors alike, have found that they can do business in confidence with members of the ABAA.
Code of Ethics
As the oldest association of professional antiquarian booksellers in America, our members take their Code of Ethics seriously. It is the cornerstone document that makes us who we are: dedicated professionals with established reputations based upon integrity and reliability.
It is essential for the reputation of the Association that complaints or disputes involving Association members be resolved in a manner befitting the objectives of the Association. Claims against Association members, or disputes among members, should be made in writing to the Chairperson of the Ethics Committee, at:
Chairperson, Ethics Committee c/o ABAA 20 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036-6604
The mission of the ABAA is to promote ethical standards and professionalism in the antiquarian book trade, to encourage the collecting and preservation of antiquarian books and related materials, to support educational programs and research into the study of antiquarian books, and to facilitate collegial relations between booksellers, librarians, scholars, and collectors.
More specifically, the objectives of the ABAA are:
1.To encourage and promote interest in and appreciation of fine and antiquarian books and other printed materials, and manuscripts;
2.To establish, maintain and promote professional and ethical standards in the trade;
3.To foster friendly relations among both the membership, and the bookselling community at large;
4.To encourage the advancement of the technical and general knowledge specific to the trade;
5.To sponsor book fairs and otherwise promote bookselling and book collecting for the benefit of the trade;
6.To collect funds to be used for the general purposes of the Association;
7.To act as an association in matters where individual action would be less likely to succeed;
8.To cooperate with similar organizations for the above purposes, in this country and abroad.
One very special activity of the ABAA is the maintenance of the Benevolent Fund and distribution of funds to booksellers in need. This fund is intended to assist booksellers, not necessarily members, who are experiencing extreme difficulties, such as illness or accident, financial loss due to fire or other disaster, etc.
Applying for membership
If you would like to apply for membership in the ABAA, please write the ABAA at:
ABAA 20 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036-6604
You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org.