Biblio: Number Three Tries Much Harder

- by Michael Stillman

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Nevertheless, popularity, technical expertise, and respectful treatment of booksellers are all trumped by the most important factor of all: sales. Dealers may love a site, but ultimately, it must make sales to survive. Otherwise, it is irrelevant. This is the challenge that Biblio must meet in the years ahead. Few dealers who sell across multiple sites list Biblio as their top seller. Abe and Amazon may have antagonized a fair number of their dealers of late, but they sell more books. So does Alibris. Biblio has raised itself from the lower tier of sites that can go months on end without making a sale for a member. They make sales, but for the typical Biblio seller, it appears to be gravy, not the meat of their businesses. They depend on the larger sites.

We posed this question to Biblio, and it is clear from Mr. Donaldson's answer that they both recognize that this is their major challenge and realize there is no easy answer. Here is his response to the question of what Biblio is doing to increase sales from its site:

"This topic tends to be the most important question on most bookseller's minds, and I don't blame them. Sales are important to us since it quite obviously affects our bottom line as well. I joined Biblio.com in the summer of 2004 to begin the focus toward a more customer-centric site. We have made a number of improvements to our site and experience, and though it is not prevalent to each and every seller, our growth is outpacing the used book industry as a whole by a substantial margin, so we must be heading in the right direction.

"One thing that might be hard for a lot of dealers to understand is that we operate a business where we do not control the product itself. Thus we can't discount it, offer it to be shipped free, or offer quantity. Some of these have become the tenets of selling online in the last few years. When one of our competitors offers a customer incentive that we can't replicate then those sites get more sales. That is just the way it is. But we won't do it. Not at the risk of losing a good seller. The quality of the books and the sellers is the most important aspect of selling used books online.

"The customer doesn't see any of this. Most of them don't understand the business process. They just want their book, and at a reasonable price in a reasonable time. We are in a challenging role of educating the seller on best practices for successful online selling, and making sure the customer is ultimately satisfied with minimal confusion. This is not always an easy task.

"In the near term, we will be continuing to build upon our growing network of affiliate sites, and partner search sites. We have an ongoing public relations campaign to get the word out to customers about Biblio.com. And most importantly, we are working on multiple strategic partnerships to provide other selling venues and new tools for booksellers to, again, have a more vested interest in Biblio.com. Better quality books, quality booksellers, better pricing. This is a team effort, truly between the independent dealer and Biblio.com. That said, it is a two-way street, and both players are going to have to strive to make this work.

"Does Biblio.com want to be the biggest? No. Just the best. There really is a difference."