Rare Book Monthly
Biblio and Biblion Form Alliance
By Michael Stillman
Biblio.com has announced it will be working with British online bookseller Biblion to redevelop the latter's current selling strategy. Biblio is the third largest used book website and is in the midst of a rapid growth spurt. Biblion, according to Biblio, is the largest U.K. based book site with over 500 British dealers and numerous others in Europe. However, according to Biblio's Director of Sales and Marketing, Kevin Donaldson, this is not a takeover of Biblion. Biblio's role is to provide software and technical support to the independent site, such as it now provides for IOBA's IOBABooks website and Australia's BiblioQuest. At least for now, Biblio is only focusing on Biblion's listing service and not on its auction services. Donaldson sees such cooperative ventures with other sites as part of Biblio's growth plan, along with increasing sales on their own site.
Through its community of websites, Biblio now offers 35 million titles from 4,900 booksellers in 36 countries. Asked the key question, have sales increases kept up with increased listings, Donaldson noted that there is a "dilution period" as more sellers are added, but that sales have been growing rapidly nonetheless. On a month to comparable month basis, he stated that sales on Biblio over the past year have grown by 120%. However, Biblio has not been promiscuous in allowing anyone to sign up as a bookseller. "What needs to be made clear is that even though there has been a tremendous influx of sellers applying on Biblio.com, we have approved less than 60% of the applications submitted in the last 4 months," Donaldson reports.
We asked Mr. Donaldson if he saw a place for small sites such as Biblion in a market dominated by a few, mega-sites. He responded that he did see such a role. He felt that a UK based site might have an advantage selling in its market, while a partnership could help Biblio sellers reach more customers in England, and help Biblion dealers reach more buyers in North America. In explaining Biblio's more cautious means of advancing into new markets, Donaldson says, "Trying to move into other markets too fast is not in the direction of Biblio.com. It may generate more sales faster, but unfortunately leaves companies chasing their own tales a majority of the time, as well as becoming hardly capable of providing the best support and customer experience that they can."
Still, we wondered how a small site could provide enough sales to keep their dealers satisfied, considering how unhappy many dealers have become with even the large listing sites. Donaldson perceptively observed, "there really are never enough sales," but he cautioned dealers not to get too hung up on the sell-through rates of any one site. He recommended dealers concentrate on current customers in particular, as these are not the easiest times to find new buyers. "Many consumers are probably much more worried about how to pay for their next outrageous gallon of gas than where they will find their next good read," Donaldson points out. This is "another reason for the independent seller to truly focus on the customer that is buying books right now. Times could get tougher. I think many sellers get caught up in the quantity and not the quality of the sale. Developing customer relationships, creating a positive customer experience, these are all basic tenants of small business that still work. You can build a customer for life through the web."
Finally, returning specifically to Biblion's role in the market, Mr. Donaldson notes, "I think there is a space for a small site, and with 500+ independent dealers in the UK and many more in Europe, who says Biblion has to remain small?"