A CASE STUDY
An online second hand bookseller
A PINEAPPLE TEAM
Curtin University of Technology
a journey from Bricks and Mortar to Search
Engines – a timeline
how Internet Commerce works today
the power of the Network
some Fundamentals of online Commerce
an Introduction to the Knowledge Economy
what the Attention Economy means
A Journey …
from Bricks and Mortar to Search Engines
– a timeline
Lots of books!
between 9,000 and
Customers came from the
local area to buy them.
In the 1990s they started
Because they found a
better way to shop.
changed the way
people buy and sell.
Not long ago …
Sherar‟s started a bookstore in the early
They were passionate about books and
providing great service.
But … use of the
internet was growi ng
Products and hits!
Books became PRODUCTS
Booksellers were VENDORS
Customers turned into PAGE HITS
The value and experience of
customers began to “dry up.” 3
“Life is becoming more and more commodified …
communication … and commerce are becoming
in the year 2000, Biblio launched an online
database to find and compare prices of second
This was “famous for several years as the
fastest „metasearch‟ site for books.” 5
Online market places …
such as Amazon and EBay were becoming
Realising that there was a market need for
buying used books, the Sherars gave up their
work on the search database and in 2003,
developed a marketplace – Biblio.com.5
Over the next five years,
they grew – expanding
their networks both on
the Internet and through
The librarian in Sopachuy, Bolivia, shows off
some of her books.
Image from Biblio website – http://www.biblio.com/
Jun-03 Dec-03 Jun-04 Dec-04 Jun-05 Dec-05 Jun-06 Dec-06 Jun-07 Dec-07 Jun-08 Dec-08
Number of Independent Booksellers with Inventory on Biblio
A timeline –
bricks & mortar to search engines
Our case study, is a unique
example of how the owner of a
traditional store developed an online
marketplace for used books.
This market place has become one of the
most successful Internet Commerce
What is Internet Commerce?
Internet Commerce “is a very broad area which
is entwined with the Knowledge Economy”, 6
along with the Network and Attention
This is where you find experience, education
and skills all come together to create the
fundamentals behind e-commerce. 6
The fundamentals of e-commerce is all about
looking after the customer‟s online experience
and making it user friendly. 6
Biblio.com is wholly an e-commerce business
with intangible items.
Its sellers stock tangible items.
Its buyers receive the tangible items.
Biblio.com can be classed as the „broker‟
between its sellers and the buyers.
of this e-commerce business include …
Biblio.com is one of the world‟s largest online
search engines for finding used, rare and out-
This caters to online sellers and customers.
Biblio.com continually adapted the business to
suit customers and sellers online needs.6
Biblio.com makes shopping experience safe by
providing PayPal payment options, which covers
their customers if a product is not delivered.
Biblio.com provides E-mail, phone and online
are required to detail their online books for
sale, to ensure that customers
know what they are buying. 8
For more information on book conditions
and details click here.
This is a point of differentiation between Biblio
and Amazon (along with other companies),
where Biblio.com are “... maintaining
transparency in the transactional process,
so the customer knows
who is really selling
them the book they
are interested in.” 8
No mark up
Biblio.com does not „mark up‟ the price of their
seller‟s listed books. 9
Pricing is very important to both the seller and
If prices are too high, the online stock will not
For more information on e-commerce fundamentals click here.
Unfortunately for the buyer, “... there is no set
pricing structure for selling books online.
Therefore, economic competitiveness plays a
huge part between competing online vendors
through companies such as AbeBooks, Amazon,
Biblio, Seekbooks, in setting book prices”.1
Read how the pricing works by clicking here.
Earlier we mentioned that Biblio.com
can be classed as a „broker‟ between
the buyer and seller.
To be successful as a broker, businesses
such as this one, survive by being part of
This is also called the „Network
The hard stuff
Networks are powerful.
Many successful businesses rely on
networks to further their business,
increase profit and more.
Biblio.com made use of their networks.
How did this affect them?
they began by “Forming relationships the
old fashioned way”, and recruited other
They realised how more networking
could help them
2005 2008 2003 – 2009
Enhance online book Agreement with Affiliated with
data via Agreement with Bibliopolis to offer Thousands of
“MUZE” (provide book affiliates free inventory independent
cover images, synopses, management software Booksellers
2005 Worlds largest
Outsourcing agreement DB of books
with LinkConnector to held in libraries
manage affiliate program
Agreement with Australian 2005
To provide Booksellers
Outsourcing agreement Agreement with UK
with Intrapromote. SEO company Biblion to
company to improve affilate with UK
ranking and drive traffic booksellers
1. Biblio.com, 2003 - 2009
Biblio.com during its time of beta-testing,
offered free service to sellers willing to
help with the testing phase.12
This aided them with the radical
knowledge creation. These sellers then
became part of Biblio‟s network.
Millions of books …
Biblio book U Europe
search - USA K
– Australia &
By June 2003, Biblio had signed up 350 NZ
Booksellers with 2 million books.2
Within the next five years …
Up to 2008, Biblio had “an inventory of
about 50 million titles from a network of
5,500 independent booksellers.” 11
Image from Biblio website – http://www.biblio.com/
“With traditional constraints of geography and
scale being eliminated, it is niche content that
accounts for a rapidly growing proportion of
total online sales, meaning that „popularity no
longer has a monopoly on profitability.”13
From this we can all see Biblio is not running on
popularity, but they are giving a niche service to
the consumer market which makes them stand
out as being different in the
Biblio connects many businesses to its
“We take pride in bringing together over 5500
professional, independent booksellers from
around the world.”14
These booksellers create part of Biblio‟s
Biblio is …
“… an economy with heightened levels of
connectedness and relationships that are
mutually beneficial to sellers and customers
For more details about the Network economy, click here.
Using the concepts of the Network Economy,
entwined with the Attention Economy,
Biblio.com – as we have seen – continued to
encourage their own growth.
The Attention Economy
With millions of web sites and businesses
competing for a limited market, how did any of
them make money and continue to do so?
How do sellers and buyers connect – is it just by
Perhaps in some cases yes
But more likely by a carefully constructed
network of strategically placed ads, links and
offers „too good to pass by‟ which gain our
attention – a commodity now more valuable
A lonely place?
David Gauntlett states that
“… without attention, on the Web, you‟re
grabs the attention
from multiple buyers
and sellers in a variety
Some of these include: 19
• Biblio offers free bookmarks for friends,
family, relatives and more.
• They “... rely on fellow book lovers and book
sellers in telling their friends or family ...”
about Biblio.com and what they‟re trying to
• They promote their buyers to visit local
bookstores, and of course, tell them about
• They provide an assortment of banners and
links that can be placed on anyone‟s website,
not just booksellers.
If business like Biblio.com, which relies on
commissions through sales to earn money, did
not get attention through their networks, then it
is quite likely that their business would not have
Thus, Biblio.com has made an impressive use of
their Network and Attention economies for
profit. Much of this success, was actually
through the Knowledge Economy.
For more information on the Attention Economy
Image from Biblio website – http://www.biblio.com/
As stated before, there is one more economy type
that both of the previous economies rely on.
So let us now begin a journey through the …
that cannot be touched or are not solid are
Biblio.com‟s database of used books, along with
databases such as: Amazon, EBay, iTunes,
Facebook, are all intermediaries for Internet
Commerce between the buyer and the seller.
Flew states that Knowledge “... is one where ideas and
intangible assets rather than tangible physical assets are
increasingly the central sources of new wealth creation ...” 20
we cannot walk into Biblio.com‟s online
and we cannot physically hold the cash and buy
This system of commerce is becoming more
popular as it shares with the concept of
concepts can be
Explicit – that
which is written,
seen and can be
Knowledge Tacit – learned
used to adapt to
which is a
basic for an
How do these types of
Knowledge fit with
Radical – Adapted the
business to suit their
customers and sellers
During its time of beta-
testing, offered free
service to sellers willing to
help with the testing
phase, who then then
became part of Biblio‟s
network. 12 Tacit – Creating the
Explicit – Forming online presence
relationships the Listening to
old fashioned way. professionals and
Reviewing research Biblio’s customers feedback
reports to learn
how to increase
Knowledge Gained trust and
their networking. customers and
Knowledge Economy …
is the ability to manage and diffuse knowledge,
which are very important factors when
companies are competing with each other. 21
This is also known as a shift in the economy,
which is referred to as an economic transition
(Flew, 2008). Knowledge economy does not only
refer to technology. 21
So to sum up …
For Biblio, Internet Commerce is more than just
buying and selling an item online.
It involves vast networking skills.
It involves gaining the interest of an audience
and keeping it long enough for them to react in
a positive manner.
They need to be versatile and creative with
newly acquired knowledge.
Internet commerce encapsulates much more than
just offering things for sale online.
A successful business must also understand and
harness the many facets of the internet economy
– networks, knowledge and attention in order to
build relationships, survive and grow.
If you would like to see more of our research,
please explore the topics under „Research
Articles‟ on the left sidebar of this website.
And to summarise