Biblio: Number Three Tries Much Harder
At the other end of the spectrum, if you list over 100,000 books, the commission rate does not drop to 7.5% until you reach $900 in sales. However, the maximum commission Biblio will take on any single book is $40 (same as Abe) so that commission rates on expensive books are very small. Biblio offers one other, unusual discount: a discount for high fulfillment. Biblio does not want its customers to be disappointed. So, they will discount the commissions you owe as much as 18% if you have a 100% fulfillment rate. It slides down to a low of 6% for a fulfillment rate of 85%.
We asked whether Biblio would increase its fees if it succeeds in increasing its market share. Some sites have done this as they became stronger, and it antagonizes sellers no end. Mr. Donaldson's response was, "I won't say that we will never change fees. If it costs us more to do business, then we will inevitably see changes in our fees. Will we increase fees because we are doing better in the market and we think our services are somehow more valuable? No!"
Next we turned to an issue that has been particularly important to the rare and antiquarian bookseller, or those with other higher priced items. These sellers rely on their expertise to sell books, but this necessitates direct contact between seller and buyer. Unfortunately, direct contact allows transactions to take place outside of the site, thereby depriving Biblio of its just commission. How can Biblio continue to foster this contact without hurting its own financial interests?
Mr. Donaldson's response was somewhat surprising. They rely on trust. Mr. Donaldson responded, "This is a fantastic question - one that we ask ourselves at every turn in creating policy and procedure for the independent dealers on our site. We are often contacted by sellers that have in some way worked with a customer and the process has taken them off of our site, and the transaction is simply easier to conduct between buyer and seller directly. They then email us and ask us how to pay us our commission for the lead. That is the kind of bookseller we like to work with. Personally, it makes me feel comforted to know that there are business people out there that have phenomenal ethical standards, and a genuine interest in seeing sites like ours succeed. If we do better, they will do better. We are committed to this."
As we noted, Biblio has achieved impressive growth despite a difficult, competitive environment. They have kept their site free from major technical problems, a source of enormous seller irritation, while some others have been plagued with problems. They have also avoided coming across to their dealers as imperial and uncaring, a trap a few of the larger sites have fallen into. They appear, for the most part, to be genuinely liked by their sellers, which cannot be said for all of their competitors. No one knows the future, but their strategy for now is to win more dealers over by maintaining these dealer friendly attributes. In other words, it is to remember what brought them their initial success, even if they become big enough that some might think this is no longer necessary. Many businesses become aloof and even arrogant when they become large. Biblio's plan is not to let this happen.