Editor: 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 ????).
When one of the best of these, www.bibliocity.com, was absorbed by Alibris, the net was full of messages of anger, gloom and general bru-ha-ha. Well, we participated in those messages and then decided to do something about it!
We set out to create an independent book site, with the most sophisticated search modes, where independent booksellers could sell online and get to know their customers in an informative and secure environment. Thus http://www.bibliology.com was born.
While we were developing http://www.bibliology.com, other small independent sites appeared on the net, www.bibliofind.com disappeared into ABE, and the whole internet market scene cooled down to a profound sense of realism.
The disappearance of Bibliocity and Bibliofind brought closer the danger that booksellers — and book-buyers — would have terms of trade imposed upon them by the large, dominant players in the market. Some of these large anonymous booksites are also building their own inventories and the time may not be far away when they will have no use for the small, independent bookseller.
Our concerns would appear to have been accurate. One can see the self-same book listed on the internet at different prices — the lower price on a site which lists the dealer by name, based on a subscription, the higher price on sites which demand that the dealer become an anonymous stockholder and pay a high commission for the privilege of having her/his books listed under the name of the site! Today it is also clear that ABE are in the process of changing their rules — yet again.
Editor: Is this a long-term commitment on your part? Where do you see yourself and your database in 3 years? 5 years?
A: We are certainly in the business for the long term. We have worked long and hard over the last two years developing a book site for the independent bookseller, with one of the most sophisticated search engines of any of the on-line book sites. This is not an ego-trip, nor a search for quick returns. A great deal of time and our own hard-earned money has been invested in site development. We are looking towards much greater market recognition during the next few years, not only for the benefit of our subscribing members but for the book-buying public as well.
We made many more good friends amongst booksellers and book buyers during the development stage of http://www.bibliology.com — people whom we might never have come to know otherwise, and we are grateful for their help and advice. We are also indebted to the booksellers who, having joined us during the free membership period of 2001 when the site was in final development, have given us their continuing support — in many cases taking out a year’s subscription. We don’t intend to let these people, nor any future members, down!
Editor: What lister book database inventory programs do you/will you support?
A: We aim is to serve the interests of our subscribing members and their customers. We are happy to accept our members’ favourite upload formats, in any delimited text format, from any cataloguing software.
In parallel with the site development, Bibliology has created an excellent Inventory Management System [IMS], which is available free to all subscribing members. Data from most other inventory programs can be imported into IMS.
Editor: What are your upload procedures? Deletion procedures? Are “wants” listings available? For sale matches? Are any additions/changes planned?
A: When a subscriber uploads for the first time a ‘reception file’ is set to that subscriber’s chosen format and all subsequent uploads are handled automatically.
To a large extent our members decide on their own upload procedures. Using a conventional upload method they may edit individual records, send us full uploads or add or delete files. FTP uploads are also supported.
Customers are encouraged to register their wants if a book is not available on site. When a bookseller member uploads the ‘wanted’ book, the customer receives an email, with a link to the particular book, inviting her/him to return to http://www.bibliology.com.
Further developments will be announced during the coming months.
Editor: What customer service (for both sellers and buyers) do you/will you have?
A: In the Information area of http://www.bibliology.com there are Links to a range of important reference sites, ‘What’s New’ news items, and Contact emails to Bibliology. There are also small adverts for book-related Services and a member’s ‘news forum’.
Editor: 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?
A: Bibliology will not interfere in the bookseller/customer relationship! We hope that good relations will be fostered between our subscribing members and their customers, in the secure ordering environment offered by Bibliology. Nevertheless, we reserve the right to terminate the membership of any bookseller who does not conform with the terms clearly set out in the Terms and Conditions they signed up to when joining Bibliology.
With the hoped-for direct vendor/buyer relationship in mind, we will not accept listings by ‘consolidators’.
The general Terms and Conditions relating to the site are accessible from the footer of any page.
Editor: What are your technical arrangements (in non-technical language, please) to ensure reliability of service? Future growth? Additional services?
A: We believe our resident technician is one of the best in the business and our server is hosted by perhaps the UK’s most reliable service provider. Beyond that, as far as the reliability of any service is concerned, it is a question of optimism, fingers crossed and not stepping on the cracks in the pavement. Unavoidably, things will go wrong and we have to be ready to mend them as quickly as possible, keeping our subscribing members informed of the problem and its expected resolution.
Our future growth is dependent on the satisfaction of our members and their customers. Our aim is to ensure that the service we offer will continue to be second to none.
As far as additional services are concerned, our members may link their home pages to Bibliology’s powerful search facility. The resulting returns may be presented in the dealer’s own preferred colour scheme.
Our members’ suggestions for further improvements to the site are welcome, always remembering the principles we laid down at the conception of Bibliology.
Editor: 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?
A: The Bibliology secure ordering system is there to inspire confidence. Apart from authorised Bibliology staff, payment details such as the credit card information are only accessible by the dealer concerned, using her/his unique username and password. These details are then deleted from the site by the dealer.
Editor: 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?
A: No we will not interfere in any way in the conclusion of a sale. The customer’s relationship with the dealer is private and confidential. We believe that our members will want to build on that relationship.
Editor: Do you have any plans for programs associated with your database which would involve anything other than direct contact between seller and buyer?
A: No! As already stated, Bibliology is simply an excellent listing service where buyers and sellers come together in an informative and secure environment.
Editor: Do you have or do you plan to have an “all word search” capability?
A: Absolutely! All ‘keyword’ searches on Bibliology are “all word searches” and the search terms are highlighted in the results.
Editor: What search capabilities does your database have now? What is planned for the future?
A: Searches on Bibliology can be as simple or as complex as the customer wishes, starting from a simple Author or Title search or a Keyword search (this is an all-word search). Other boxes in the search panel allow searches to be limited: by price (Price Greater Than, Price Less Than); by currency (Search in Which Currency – choose from drop-down box); by when books were added (Books Added Anytime or choose 24 hours, 48 hours, 7 days); by Dealer (All Dealers or select an individual dealer from a drop-down box); First editions only; Signed/inscribed only; Date of Publication (complete the After Before boxes); specify how the results are listed using Sort – (choose from Unsorted, Author, Title, Price, Publication Date) and specify Ascending or Descending order.
Editor: On what will you base your listing fees? What fees do you have now or plan to have?
A: Membership fees are based solely on the number of titles listed. A table of fees is clearly displayed in the ‘new member sign up’ area. There is a reduction for paying an annual subscription 12 months for the price of 10 and currently the first month is free after joining. There are no additional charges nor commissions on sales.
Editor: Do you plan to have or now have your database searched by Addall or Bookfinder or any other mega-search site?
Editor: How do you plan to advertise your database (both to draw listers and buyers)?
A: Throughout 2001 we ran adverts in relevant trade and literary magazines. We, and our members, have also distributed thousands of flyers and bookmarks.
Our PR and marketing efforts will continue throughout 2002 with the aim of gaining greater market recognition.
Editor: 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?
A: My wife Sue and I have been in the antiquarian book business for many years, under the Collectable Books banner. Our son Andy, Managing Director of Bibliology Limited, is a customer relations and computer systems specialist, with years of experience in the City of London.
Editor: Do you or are you planning to have professional management, bookseller management, or ????
A: If I understand your question correctly, I have to say that all the directors of Bibliology Ltd are skilled, experienced, professional managers.
Our cataloguing software, the Bibliology Inventory Management System (IMS), is designed as a tool, to enable booksellers to manage their stock and report on costs and results within any given period. In other words it is designed to enable the bookseller to manage his/her business.
Editor: What markets (geographical and/or demographic) are you aiming at?
A: We believe in the true meaning of the World Wide Web. Visitors to http://www.bibliology.com may be in the UK, Croatia, Japan, France, the USA, or Singapore. The same customer may be looking for a beautifully illustrated, hand-coloured Bible one day, a book of scientific reference the next, and some inexpensive reading matter to take on holiday after that. Why should Bibliology’s member bookdealers not be able to fulfil any of these requirements?
Editor: What services/features does your database have that you feel sets you apart and/or will ensure the success of your database?
A: Searches on http://www.bibliology.com can be as simple as you like or refined to satisfy a very specific requirement. They can also be limited to books uploaded within a particular period, with prices set in most major currencies.
We believe we also carry more useful information on events, links to useful sites, library catalogues, etc., than any of the other booksites. This packet of information is growing constantly.
We try to give personal service wherever possible. We speak to our subscribers on the phone and most emails are personal ones, typos and all! We like to get feedback — critical and laudatory. If you like what we do tell your friends, if you don’t like what we do tell us!
Editor: Please tell us anything you’d like about yourself or your database, and thank you for participating.
A: Recently, someone compared our marketing and PR efforts with featherbedding! Nothing could be further from the truth (unfortunately). Working 16 to 18 hours a day seven days a week, financed by our own efforts, doesn’t strike us as a soft, cosy number. But, it’s great! We enjoy every minute of it.
We have discovered hidden talents and resources within ourselves, learned new skills and technologies and, most of all, we made a lot of great new friends!