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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


The Interview: J. R. McWillians –

From: J. R. McWilliams

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 ????). was launched as a fee-based book listing service on the Fourth of July, 2002, after a long period of development and a month-long beta test. So we are still in our incunabula period. was a response to the desires of many booksellers, ourselves included, to have a book listing site that promoted direct sales between bookseller and customer as its primary purpose. There is no percentage mark-up charged by, no discount from the bookseller’s asking price demanded. is not a reseller. does not interfere in any way in the direct contact and transaction between buyer and seller. We only act as a conduit, bringing customers to the site and thus to the dealer.

To that end, we have kept our site purposefully lean and clean, without a lot of bells and whistles to detract from the main business of the site, that is: the selling of books.

Is this a long-term commitment on your part? Where do you see yourself and your database in 3 years? 5 years?’s intent is to be among the top half dozen book listing sites within three years. Since that would include megasites like ABE and Amazon, we will need to have our bookseller membership base grow exponentially as well as our site traffic.

What lister book database inventory programs do you/will you support?

Presently, we accept uploads from Homebase1, Homebase2, Booktrakker, Booklist, Bookit, Bookminder and all tab-delimited files (such as Bookhound and Filemaker).

If a bookseller has a format that we presently do not support, she/he can send us a sample upload file and we will look at supporting it.

What are your upload procedures? Deletion procedures? Are “wants” listings available? For sale matches? Are any additions/changes planned? has a web-based file upload feature on the Bookseller Main Page available on log in. Our site recognizes the ‘for sale’ and ‘sold’ fields of such programs as Booktrakker, Booklist (UIEE) and Homebase, Bookit listing codes. Such deletions, adding of new listings and updating of old listings can thus take place automatically within the same upload.

Alternately, deletes can be done via the search/browse feature on the Bookseller Main Page. A bookseller can search for and find a specific book and edit or delete that listing. There is also a Purge feature for those who wish to purge their entire listings and reload.

There is also a global Price Adjustment feature whereby the bookseller can adjust all the prices on his/her books up or down by a fixed amount or a percentage.

Additional features include the ability to modify account information and terms of sale, contact information and password.

In the future we will add the ability to upload files via FTP and we will add to the upload formats we support as needed. We will add a bookseller wants feature as well as a want list for the customer side. We will have a listing of member stores searchable for specialty, region, etc. as well.

What customer service (for both sellers and buyers) do you/will you have?

Booksellers can always reach via phone or email and expect a quick, personable response. If there are any questions or suggestions about our site, we stand ready to answer or incorporate them. Many of the features we have added and ‘tweaking’ that has been done to the site were at the behest of member booksellers.

Since it is the intention of to step out of the way of direct seller to customer interaction, the direction of our buyer side customer service is in providing the simplest, cleanest, most straightforward and intuitive path directly to the bookseller.

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 member booksellers must abide by the Terms & Conditions and the Bookseller Agreement they agree to when they sign up.

These include covenants to conduct their sales in a prompt, dignified, professional, courteous manner; to stand by their Terms of Sale including their refund policy; to remove their ‘solds’ in a timely fashion. Book descriptions cannot include any defamatory remarks about/allusions to any person, race, sex, religion, country, business or creed. No pornographic descriptions are allowed, no matter the content of the book. reserves the right to ask the bookseller to remove or alter offensive listings or to have them altered. Removal of listings or of the Bookseller’s membership is a possibility, albeit a drastic step. However, repeat violations will not be looked upon kindly or tolerated.

What are your technical arrangements (in non-technical language, please) to ensure reliability of service? Future growth? Additional services?

Our ISP’s servers sit atop one the main Internet backbone feeds in San Jose (Silicon Valley), and there are back-up feeds if needed. It became evident during beta testing that we needed faster and larger capacity servers, and recently transitioned over to them. The servers are modular and can easily be added to as the need arises for additional RAM, etc.

We are contemplating offering booksellers the ability to host their homepage on our site. If we feel this is desirable after consultation with our member booksellers, we will offer it at some point.

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? has no plans to have a credit card payment system offered through its site. as a listing service is dedicated to direct sales between customer and bookseller. Any credit card transactions are the bailiwick of the bookseller,

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?

Please see answer above.

Do you have any plans for programs associated with your database which would involve anything other than direct contact between seller and buyer? has no plans for reseller programs or the like.

Do you have or do you plan to have an “all word search” capability? What is planned for the future?

We are planning a full Boolean search. The customer who chooses the advanced search option will have the ability to make his/her own Boolean strings or choose options similar to those on Google advanced search.

What search capabilities does your database have now?

A customer can search by Author, Title, Keywords, Sort Order (price ascending, price descending), First Edition, Signed, Number of Returns Displayed, or any combination of these.

Our Keywords search all fields except for Author and Price. So if you are looking for a specific publisher, year or binding, enter it in the Keywords field.

A bookseller can, on the Bookseller Main Page, search his/her own listings by Title or Author, or browse through the listings. We will add the ability to search by book number in the future.

On what will you base your listing fees? What fees do you have now or plan to have? has special introductory Rates for those who sign up for six month or a year in advance. Sign up for six months and get one month free (six months for the cost of five). Sign up for one year and get three months free (twelve months for the price of nine).

Our Rates are very competitive:

UP TO 20,000 LISTINGS…………. $20 PER MONTH 20,001 TO 50,000 LISTINGS……..$28 PER MONTH 51,001 TO 75,000 LISTINGS……..$36 PER MONTH 75,001 TO 100,000 LISTINGS…….$40 PER MONTH 100,001 TO 130,000 LISTINGS…..$50 PER MONTH OVER 130,000, PLEASE CALL. will not change the basic rates for the foreseeable future, although the introductory rates may change over time. If we ever change our rate structure, members will be notified well in advance, and comments will be solicited. The first fifty or a hundred booksellers who sign-up may always have a better rate if any such changes do occur, as a gesture of our gratitude to those who, in our early days, helped us grow.

Do you plan to have or now have your database searched by Addall or Bookfinder or any other mega-search site?

One of’s top priorities is to have our listings searched by the mega search engines as Addall, SearchBiblio, and Bookfinder.

Since there are a good number of book listing services on-line, the mega search engines now generally set a threshold of the number of listings and member booksellers a site must have before consideration of inclusion in their search queues. This is understandable from a financial standpoint, since most of these sites charge a fee or per click-through, and they want some assurance of the listing service’s viability.

When reaches that threshold, you will see our listings on such sites.

How do you plan to advertise your database (both to draw listers and buyers)?

It is rather difficult to discuss the specifics of our marketing strategy without giving away our game plan to the competition. Suffice it to say that on-line placements and links will be a major part of our advertising budget, as will targeted print and other media.

We also have plans for promotions that will bring a good bit of publicity to our site.’s intent is to designate a portion of each bookseller’s fee for advertising. In this way, booksellers will know how their fees are utilized. As the number of member sellers grows, this proportional fund will grow as well.

Do you or are you planning to have professional management, bookseller management, or???? is owned by professional booksellers with many years experience in bookselling in a brick and mortar store, at book fairs, and on-line. In addition, our principal owner, J. R. McWilliams has management experience, not just in his own bookstore, but also previously as a Museum Director, as an Art Director in Hollywood, and as an owner/operator of an art gallery.

What markets (geographical and/or demographic) are you aiming at?

We aim for all. Certain language barriers come into play, and we are, at the present time, primarily an English-language site, although we have listings in many languages from many dealers overseas. At some time we wish to have a multi-language site, so that we can reach an even larger book-buying public.

What services/features does your database have that you feel sets you apart and/or will ensure the success of your database? Please tell us anything you’d like about yourself and/or your database, and thank you for participating.

We are, as stated above, strictly a fee-based service. We do not add a mark-up, or take a percentage of the bookseller’s sale. All sales are directly between the seller and the buyer. Ours is a very straightforward, no-nonsense site dedicated to bringing customers directly to the bookseller.

We at see ourselves as serving an ever-growing on-line community of old, rare and out-of-print booksellers and collectors. As booksellers ourselves, we feel a kinship with and obligation to that community to supply a direct, unfettered, efficient link between buyer and seller.



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