Dealer Catalogues: Future Shock
Such catalogues will exist in the Americana Exchange Database as current offerings. One can expect the major selling sites, whose members provide materials for such catalogues, to at least provide access directly to participants’ web listings. And organizations such as ILAB and the ABAA may simply, in time, issue collaborative catalogues that are limited to member materials. Theme presentations from ABE, Alibris and other book sites also seem very logical. br>
Such catalogues will be searchable as well on the major search engines. Every single book and term in the item descriptions will be searchable on most if not all of the search engines.
So exactly what will such catalogues look like? I’m sure there will be artwork relating to the catalogue’s theme. A Lewis and Clark catalogue may have book images but also related painted images. They will add visual interest and complexity to the material and these images may also be for sale. Expect that catalogue descriptions will be extensive. Both a single paragraph precis and an extensive one or two page description and explanation are quite possible. As many images as are necessary to convey the quality of the book, its binding, illustrations and provenance will be provided. Buyers may be able to detach complete files of single books to download for research or to establish purchase files. After all, when they decide to resell they should be able to simply add their provenance to the material and re-offer it. The purchaser should have the right to all descriptive material provided to induce purchase and this right should follow the book, not the owner, into the future.
For those, be they dealers, libraries or collectors, with extensive materials in specific fields, it will be possible to issue single owner catalogues. For collectors there may be specialists who prepare such catalogues. For dealer organizations it is a way to issue collaborative catalogues along the lines of the collaborative catalogues the ABAA issued years ago. Listing sites may provide such services to members and very logically, libraries may issue deaccession catalogues alone or in combination with other libraries for purposes as diverse as raising money, creating space and/or supporting particular educational and library objectives. Library catalogues, many of which will be mile stones in their fields, will earn collaborating institutions significant revenue.
Such catalogues will live in a way that printed catalogues can not. Items will be marked sold as transactions occur and prices adjusted. Let’s assume that a catalogue is issued and its selling life is announced as 18 months. All material unsold after 90 days can be reduced by 10% and another 10% at six and nine months. At one year the prices of unsold material may fall to 50% of the original listed prices and perhaps, after another 3 or 6 months the balance may be sold in a single bid auction format. The market will ultimately set the prices and that is as it should be.
Such catalogues will encourage the emerging trend in the book world on the net – toward intense specialization. There was a time, not long past, when collecting narrowly meant almost not collecting because being narrow meant having to constantly say no. This has already changed although the book world has not really begun to adjust to or accept what this means. In time highly focused electronic catalogues, from a variety of venues, will begin to emerge. With their arrival we’ll be stepping into a very different future, even as we would like to retain some aspects of traditional bookselling such as the printed catalogues.
It will happen. That much is certain.