Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

Keywords and the Future of Book Collecting

Kissofdeath

Now you have something to visualize for the Kiss of Death!


By Tom McKinney

For those not familiar with Matchmaker, it is a service that lets Americana Exchange members input keywords & phrases, and authors, titles & dates, into our system. We then take your interests on a daily basis, and look for new matches on ABEBooks, eBay, ILAB, ZVAB (choosebooks.com), and both Americana Exchange Books for Sale and Upcoming Auctions.

Over the years, my father has used the service, and has adapted it to his experiences using it. One feature that was brought along after the service launched is the Kiss of Death. This was created for one reason: to combat the thousand-keyword bookseller.

It's easy to see why people are inclined to include long lists of keywords. Listing sites and sellers equate large numbers of matches with a proportionally larger number of sales. My father and I have our own experience selling periodicals on eBay, and our thinking was, "the more keywords we have, the more likely they are to be found." The chances are better. And that methodology remains true for buyers who continue to find material the old-fashioned Internet way: manually searching various keywords, authors, titles, dates, etc., on one or more book-listing sites. This also remains the way most people find their books - using inefficient and luck-necessitating individual searches on individual sites.

But for the minority of AE members who have begun to use the collecting tools of the future, these large number of keyword matches are a major negative. Matchmaker takes the labor out of searching, and it does it on a daily basis on multiple sites; not a feat possible by a single person. Instead of hoping to find an item by searching days on end, Matchmaker allows you to plug in your interests, and forget about them - forget about them, that is, until the match you want appears. But Matchmaker isn't impervious to keywords - the listing sites decide what fields can be matched, and it was first on eBay that this problem arose.

My father had the Kiss of Death coded into the website because he occasionally found specific eBay sellers who appeared to have copied an encyclopedic amount of information into each of their listings. Matchmaker is about saving collectors time, and about helping obscure material find its way into the right hands. Having to sort through long lists of irrelevant matches began to erode some of Matchmaker's benefits. Thus the Kiss of Death was born.

Rare Book Monthly

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