Libraries as Entrepreneurial Booksellers: Counterintuitive Cha-Ching


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Libraries as Entrepreneurial Booksellers: Counterintuitive Cha-Ching

Bill Kane, Alibris

Walter Sears, Better World Books

Libraries have actually been selling books for centuries, but only with the advent of Internet technologies in the past decade have libraries been able to easily reach a worldwide audience of motivated book buyers. With just a few clicks, libraries are turning leftover booksale books, discards, de-accessions, and unwanted donations into real money – money which can be relatively seamlessly converted back into acquisitions/collection development funds, extending otherwise shrinking budgets.

Among other such bookselling sites, has created real-time turnkey user interfaces for both buyers and sellers, enabling libraries to upload listings very quickly, at nominal cost. Literally millions of local, regional, national, and international book buyers can thus peruse libraries’ for-sale inventory (alongside millions of other books, granted), ideally resulting in quick sales, almost all of which is almost always pure profit.

In addition, and likewise among other organizations of their ilk, Better World Books has devised mutually profitable services allowing libraries to off-load not only their books, but also most of the work involved in selling, as well as — via its donation programs — any latent guilt involved in exchanging unwanted books for money.

Finally, there are still other innovative ways for libraries to earn some per-click commissions by pointing patrons from a book on the library’s shelf (or just in the catalog) to another copy of the book on a bookseller’s for-sale shelves – and by “selling” books thus, affiliate links may pay off in more ways than just mutual goodwill.

Two speakers – librarians from both and Better World Books – will have 20 minutes each to discuss their respective programs and services, including real-time online demonstrations of bookselling and donation operations and metrics, leaving time for questions and/or testimonials. Download the first presentation and second presentation.

William P. Kane is Account Manager for Alibris for Libraries

Walter Sears is Director of Library Division for Better World Books Libraries as Entrepreneurial Booksellers: Counterintuitive Cha-Ching

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Libraries as Entrepreneurial Booksellers: Counterintuitive Cha-Ching

  1. 1. Libraries as Booksellers: Counterintuitive Cha-Ching INSPIRATION, INNOVATION, CELEBRATION an entrepreneurial conference for librarians June 4, 2009 1
  2. 2. Introductions, Agenda, etc.  Bill Kane Alibris for Libraries 877-893-9102  Roselle Agner Better World Books 800-894-0242 ext. 791  Then questions… Page 2.
  3. 3. If reading is at risk… Page 3.
  4. 4. …then why are there so many books? Page 4.
  5. 5. …with fewer places to put/store/keep them? Page 5.
  6. 6. Become a seller Page 6.
  7. 7. Alibris Overview  Online source for used, new and hard-to-find books  Sell to consumers, libraries and through business partners • Strong commitment to the library market  Libraries use Alibris for OP, older in-print titles, unfilled and cancelled orders  Many libraries now using Alibris as primary secondary vendor  Alibris for Libraries includes: • flexible payment options, • consolidated shipping, • free UPS shipping on orders of 10+ books • toll-free customer service, • tools for managing replacement and collection development projects  Over 75 million books including hundreds of thousands in Alibris warehouse  Sellers from around the world  Over 750,000 new book titles  Over 7000 library customers  Most major library distributors as partners Page 7.
  8. 8. Page 8.
  9. 9. Highlights from previous years’ User Group Meetings… Page 9.
  10. 10. Highlights from previous years’ User Group Meetings…(cont.)  Loyalty rewards program offering discounts  Seller rating considerations • Default sort is best condition, then lowest price, then higher seller rating • Option to sort by seller rating • Results in lower cancellations  Quantity ordering on selected titles of Used and New books • If condition and price the same, option to order multiple copies from same seller/publisher  Add titles to wishlist without having to choose specific copy  Inter-library loan program • Orders via OCLC (and accounting via IFM) • 3 million titles set as holdings Page 10.
  11. 11. Page 11.
  12. 12. This year’s developments include…  Collection Reports enhancements • More parameters and searching criteria added • Great tool to easily build new collections and fill in holes in existing collections  New Regional Sales Manager hired • Renee Chastain; based in Houston, TX • Central region • TX,OK,NE, KS, CO, NM, UT, AZ. MO, AR. LA, KY, TN, MS, AL, GA, FL  Alibris Advisory Board • 18 respected library colleagues • Solicit feedback for new ideas, improvements, etc.  Alibris Wiki • Forms, suggestion box, case studies, bibliographies, etc • Page 12.
  13. 13. Collection Reports Page 13.
  14. 14. Alibris Collection Award  Fifth Annual Alibris Collection Development Award • Announced at previous ALA Summer  Applications invited for $3000 grant to build collection  Previous years’ winners announced at previous ALA Midwinters: • 2007 winners – YWCA, Metropolitan Chicago, Illinois: books for survivors of sexual assault – Bahia Street, Brazil: books for girls in Brazil, fighting poverty – Granby Public Library, Colorado: books for replacement project • 2006 winners – Flower Mound Public Library (Texas): beginning reading books, matching reluctant readers with "pet partners" – Golden Gate School (Alaska): anti-bullying books and multi-cultural biographies • 2005 winners – Cincinnati Children's Hospital (Ohio): books about development disabilities for patient library – Baxter County Public Library (Arkansas): books about Japanese-American internment camps during World War II • 2004 winners – Andrews Elementary School (TX): Spanish-language children's books – SW Missouri State University (Missouri): theatrical monologues Page 14.
  15. 15. Alibris Collection Award (cont.)  Hundreds of submissions • from academic, special, public, K-12, international libraries  Reviewed by distinguished panel • Toni Garvey, Director, Phoenix Public Library • Dr. Lynn Sutton, Library Director, Wake Forest University • Jack Walsdorf, retired bookseller and book scholar • Dr. Richard Weatherford, Co-Founder of Alibris. • Dr. Mark Sandler, Committee for Institutional Cooperation • Alibris Advisory Board  And this year’s winner is…. Page 15.
  16. 16. Alibris Collection Award (cont.)  International Community School, in Decatur, Georgia, whose wishlist of books will help children and adults at the school to understand what it means to be a refugee, and will better enable their parents, teachers, and volunteers to nurture and assist all those who flee their homelands with the hopes of having a better life in America.  Katrina Research Center, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, whose wishlist of books will further the research of students and educators across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and will support educational outreach projects in local elementary, middle, and secondary schools. Page 16.
  17. 17. Future Development  Music and Movies • New catalog available on retail site • Migrate to library site • Big effort underway to recruit more sellers  New website design planned • Better UI  Additional distributor partners; more integration  More holdings in OCLC  Collection Analysis and Resources for College Libraries • Report comparison • Links from databases Page 17.
  18. 18. Future development (cont.)  Cancel emails • Cancellations just mean the specific copy is not available; often additional copies available from other sellers • New email will contain link to additional copies for easy re-order  Regional outreach approach • Cooperative collection development • Lunches and presentations at regional meetings • Consortia, networks, regional meetings Page 18.
  19. 19. Not to mention, selling/providing POD copies, prompted by…  The Google: • • ~5M titles?  Internet Archive: • • ~3M titles?  ebrary, netlibrary, aggregators, publishers, etc. • ~tens of thousands of titles and/or:       etc. • potentially countless/limitless patron- and/or library-produced titles Page 19.
  20. 20. Which is why libraries should/can/will…  …spend/invest any/all entrepreneurial dollars/profits on: • The Long Tail ( • POD machines ( • The Golden Age of Weeding ( – Or, if all else fails: (meaning, give ‘em away)  …smoke ‘em if they got ‘em. Page 20.
  21. 21. Thank you. For more information: Page 21.