Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2006 Issue

A Step Toward More Efficient Catalogues

Web.catalogues

Remaking the book catalogue web friendly


By Bruce McKinney

Catalogues have been an essential tool for both buyers and sellers for fully two hundred years. For generations book dealers issued catalogues to provide organized perspective and galvanize buyers. They did this to make sales and in the process educated generations of collectors. They organized material in the ways they thought appropriate grouped by subject, era, price, provenance and bibliographic reference and in this way conveyed their conceptual logic.

In recent years online listings have overtaken traditional book selling in its various forms as the principal way books are sold. The web's rise has not been without a price. The selling efficiency of the printed catalogue has suffered as material once set aside for catalogues now often sells on line before the catalogue goes to press. Production costs too have increased and material is of course ever more difficult to acquire. At the margin, book catalogues are relentlessly under pressure, an investment that is ever evaluated against adding more listing sites and doing more shows. Hence fewer catalogues are issued and collectors are left with diminished options for conceptualizing their fields of interest. To help resolve this need AE now provides tools to create catalogues within a member's listings both to provide broad categories of material for the interested to graze but also to allow sellers to quickly create customized catalogues for current and potential clients. This is an important step because catalogues remain important.

Michael Utt of Fort Worth, Texas, a dealer and Octavo member, has created a group of sub-catalogues that illustrate how this works. He has created five:
Literature
Colonial Americas
Exploration, Voyages and Travel
Anthropology, Archaeology and Ethnology
Chess
These catalogues are accessible in various places. They are listed in the International Bookseller's Directory as direct links, as links in the Books for Sale database within each related listing, listed in the description of the seller with every item offered, and of course accessible in searches across the net on the major search engines. These catalogues are also email-able links to individuals, client lists, libraries and others. And when items are sold they seamlessly disappear from a catalogue. And when new items are added they simply line up in whatever order the dealer selects. These catalogues are alive.

For the collector this is an opportunity to see material in its logical combinations and relationships. For the dealer it's a way to put years of experience to work in ways that make sales, build relationships and encourage book collecting. It's a win all around.

Rare Book Monthly

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