It was a pleasant surprise yesterday when I discovered that one of our customers was using viaLibri in a clever way that had not previously occurred to me. The user, Denis Gouey, is a well-known bookbinder from Connecticut. Naturally, he is interested in promoting his skills on the internet. You can find him on Facebook where, on Friday, he published a post that links to a viaLibri search result listing all the books on viaLibri that match on the keyword “Denis Gouey”. As a result, anyone visiting him on facebook can click on this link and see pictures of lots of books bound by him and currently for sale online.
This was actually a fairly simple thing for him to do, since the booksellers who are offering examples of his work are happy to mention Denis in their descriptions and should be eager to do anything that might increase exposure for items they are offering for sale.
One interesting thing to note is that when I first saw Denis’s post yesterday there were 79 items, or “puppies” as he called them, that appeared on his list. Now there are only 70. I would be very curious to know what happened to those books.
Anyone with an interest in the role of antiquarian bookselling in relation to the broader study of rare books, bibliography, and early printing will want to read an article recently published by Fabrizio Govi in the Italian scholarly journal TECA entitled “Online Bibliographical Tools for the Antiquarian Book Trade. Their History, Use and Impact.”
A well established and highly respected Italian bookseller from Modena, Govi explores his subject broadly from both economical and historical perspectives. As the origins of online antiquarian bookselling slip further into memory the latter of these has become increasingly of interest, at least to me.
Sharing that interest, Govi began his research by identifying 17 different international websites that have focused primarily on the used and rare book market. He then attempted to contact all of them to request information about how they started and what information they might offer about the online book market as it exists today. Only three of these chose to respond. Nevertheless, Govi was able to dig through a variety of primary and secondary sources to compile a significant amount of interesting data on the origins of the antiquarian market and how it became what it is today. He tells me that what he has just published is only a preliminary study. I’m encouraged that there could be even more to come.
You will find the article here:
It’s been almost a year since we launched the redesigned version of viaLibri! Time has flown by, but rest assured that we’ve been constantly working behind the scenes on improvements to viaLibri.
One of the new features that we added when we redesigned the site was the ability to filter search results by the location of the seller. This can be very useful for those wanting to avoid costly international shipping charges, among other uses.
Today we are making this feature available in Libribot, our saved search system. Your wants can now make use of the seller location filter too.
If you’d like to add the seller’s location filter to a large number of wants then please get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to update your wants in bulk for you.
It’s been on our to-do list for a long time, so we are now especially pleased to be able to announce the addition of a paperback filter to our advanced search form.
Over the years since our launch in 2006 there have been few added features that have been more often requested than the ability to exclude paperbacks from our search results. The delay was not due to a failure to understand how valuable this feature would be. Our hesitancy was due chiefly to the difficulties involved in implementing it in a way that did not create more problems that it solved.
What we have done is different from anything similar you might find on other sites. Many other sites present you with an option for limiting your results to either hardcovers or paperbacks. This would seem like a logical choice if it were not for the fact that a significant number of the books that are offered on antiquarian book sites are not described by their sellers as either. Binding type is not binary, so many sellers will leave this information blank and give a proper binding description in the full text of their cataloging comments.
This is fine, except for the fact that many of our users only want first or early editions and are seriously annoyed by the quantity of cheap paperbacks that are returned in their search results. If they try to avoid them by checking a binding option for hardcovers only then there is a real chance they may miss something they would want.
My assumption is that the customers who choose “hardcover” as a binding option are really doing so because they want to filter out all the cheap paperbacks that they would get otherwise. So we give them an option that does that instead. It filters out what they don’t want and leaves everything else. It’s not perfect. There will always be a few paperbacks that slip through the cracks, but most of the junk will be removed.
Of course, there may be those who search on other sites for paperbacks only because they want the cheapest copy available of an ordinary book. In that case all you need to do is sort your results with the least expensive first. That should give you the best choice of what you want. And you might even find a hardcover copy selling for less than all the others. Stranger things have happened.
There is one new feature we have added to our redesign that appears to have gone unnoticed by most of our users. I hope that many of them will find it useful once they know that it is there.
They might not have discovered it because it is invisible until invoked. When not being used it hides on the search results page. You may already have noticed the checkbox that sits unobtrusively in the lower left corner of each description. When you click on it and that book becomes “selected.” At the same time a rectangular tool tray will appear on the lower right side of the screen. It shows a set of 5 icons which indicate various things you can do with the books you have selected. The first of these lets you select ALL the books on that page with just a single click . (Why that’s useful I explain further down). Clicking the second icon will put all your selected items onto your clipboard. The third icon creates and populates a separate page that displays all your selected items (useful for printing). The last icon can be used for sharing with social media.
For many, however, the most useful icon will be the one that looks like a tiny trash bin. Clicking on that tool lets you remove from your search results all the items that you have selected using the checkboxes. This is not a completely new feature. Our previous version was also able to do this, only with a few different steps.
The new version was delayed because of a few backend improvements that proved to be more complicated than expected. We also told ourselves that it was a minor feature that only a handful of power users would be looking for while we worked to finish it off. On that we were definitely mistaken. In all the feedback we have had so far during beta testing nothing has received more requests or comments than this feature and its omission. I’m glad we finally have it enabled again and wish it had not been delayed for so long.
I hope you will have a chance to use it and the other tool tray features soon. More feedback is welcome, as always.
No, we haven’t finished yet. It was more than three weeks ago that we first announced the public launch of the beta version of the redesigned viaLibri website, but it was still a work in progress. The new site had already been under development for over 3 years and in that time had undergone a substantial update in both features and appearance. We knew that change is always dangerous when attempting to update a website that already had a loyal and contented following. We also knew that over the years our regular users have always been generous with suggestions and feedback. Their observations had always been a valuable guide to our evolving design. For those reasons we were eager to know how they would react to the changes we were preparing to show to them. We were also eager to receive their feedback and make sure that the website we were trying to build for them would still be the tool they actually wanted to use.
We were thus very gratified by the initial response from our bookselling colleagues and other long time users. We were happy to hear several of them describe the new design as “modern” (which they liked) and that they were pleased that we are at last mobile-friendly, a step which had been long overdue.
But the most useful responses were the ones we received from many of our long-standing and regular users, some of whom we had never heard from before, who waited for several days before sending their long and carefully described verdicts. From these we learned many useful things. The first thing we learned was how much our users liked viaLibri as it already was and how unhappy many of them were to see it change. For some it was just a matter, readily acknowledged, of annoyance at needing to replace old habits with new. But there were also some whose habits were natural and productive. We did not want to replace them with others that would not serve as well. Fortunately, in most cases, updates and redesigns were possible and we were able to incorporate them into the new version in ways that generally made the site better than it would otherwise have been.
One complaint that was especially frequent and strongly felt was a factor in many of the latest changes we have made. We now know that our customers very much prefer a compact site. They don’t like to scroll and prefer a cramped page to a spacious one if that is the price for minimising the number of screens that must be scrolled. And they don’t like empty white space for similar reasons.
This is just a sampling of some of the things we learned and have incorporated into this latest version of our redesign. I don’t doubt that there will be even more helpful feedback following this latest release. We look forward to receiving it, because we haven’t finished yet.
We are finally ready to launch our newly redesigned website. It’s time to celebrate at last.
We hope you will like our new look and feel, but appearance is probably among the least important changes we have made. Alasdair has added many useful and unique features that I’m sure will make your book hunting both easier and more productive. Among them we hope you will be pleased to discover the following:
- Our site is now mobile friendly and easy to navigate across the full range of devices from smart phones to desktops.
- We have added a sidebar to the left-hand column of the search results page that lets you examine and filter the data received in your search results. This provides a distribution breakdown for location; sources; first editions; signed, and dust jacketed copies; PODs; ISBNs and illustrated items. Use these to create refined and targeted results when initial results are too numerous to read to the end.
- Searches can be limited to books shipped from specific countries only. Multiple countries can be selected, but if only a limited number of satisfactory results are returned from your home country you can try looking elsewhere guided by the totals shown in the sidebar .
- Our popular library search tool has been updated to allow users to mark their most frequently used catalogues and automatically group them at the top of the list.
- Browsers can limit their searches to illustrated items only.
- Timed online book auctions are now also being included in searches. At present this is limited to eBay and Catawiki, but we expect to be adding other auctions in the future. Libribot will start searching those auctions soon.
- We can now block from all your search results any booksellers you may wish to exclude. Clicking on the round “stop” symbol next to the dealer’s name is all you need to do. We are also often able to recognise when one bookseller is listing the same books using different names. In that case we will consolidate the multiple listings under a single name, and if you choose to exclude one of those sellers then we will exclude them all.
- On our home page we now have a simple search form (author, title, keyword) as well as our usual advanced form that includes over 20+ filtering options.
- We now have a flexible selection tool that simplifies several bulk operations including Libribot and clipboard management, special list creation, social media sharing, search result pruning and social media sharing.
This is only a partial list of the new features and improvements that are being introduced today. If you want to explore even further how to make the most of viaLibri we suggest that you try reading the lengthy search help pages that have also been updated to accompany our redesign. You will find them here:
And more exciting things are on the way. In the future we plan to continue adding new features as they are developed rather than waiting to group them together in a single major update, as we are doing today. Going forward, we plan to always have some new feature or upgrade in the works. The “beta” badge you see next to our logo reflects that. We will probably remove the badge before too long, but the condition it refers to should be perpetual. And for the substance of that future content we hope that the valuable suggestions and feedback we have always received from our users in the past will also be perpetual. The newly redesigned website you see today has come from there.
For at least a couple of years now we have been hard at work building a new and improved version of viaLibri. That task is now nearly done.
A section of the home page can be seen above. All that remains is a bit more “beta testing” as we track down any elusive bugs and gather still more helpful feedback from our valued customers, colleagues and friends.
So, if you are at all curious to see what the new incarnation of viaLibri looks like then please visit our beta site and have a look for yourself.
Finishing touches are still being worked on, so please forgive any faults you discover. If you do notice anything buggy we hope you will alert us to it.
You will find a contact link among the other features now gathered at the bottom of each page.
Likewise, if you find that there are new features whose behaviour you believe could be improved then we will be happy to hear from you about them. There may not be time enough to include them in the current release, but the next to-do list list has already been started.
You don’t need to do anything special when you arrive, but if you want to try out all our new features we recommend that you start by logging in to your existing account. Your clipboard, Libribot matches, want lists, and other personalised data and settings will still be available as they are now. For the immediate future you will be free to switch back and forth between the old and the new. Nothing will be lost. But once you have become comfortable with our changes we hope you won’t want to stay in the past any longer than necessary. But don’t worry. The final transition will be finished very soon.
The sad but generally expected cancellation of the ILAB Congress in Amsterdam was announced yesterday, along with similar news for the book fair that would have accompanied it. That news was followed today by cancellation of the September York fair, Europe’s largest.
The status of other future book fairs, or at least those scheduled for sometime in 2020, is now an open question.
The most notable response, so far, has been a quick scheduling of the alternative online events now generally referred to as “virtual” book fairs. At least a couple of these have already taken place and another 3 that we know of are planned for the next three weeks.
Everyone is hopeful that these virtual fairs will find enough real buyers to help sustain booksellers and collectors until they are ready to emerge from lock down. If you are interested in doing a bit of virtual book hunting we list below 3 events already on out calendar. If there are others you know of please let me know.
A few weeks ago we quietly released an exciting new feature for viaLibri. You can now sort results by the date they were put up for sale. This is a change that a lot of people have asked for in the past, and we think it will be very useful for a lot of people.
Under the surface this has required quite a bit of work to get right, and it’s not without its limitations. The amount of information we get about a listing varies greatly depending on what site it’s listed on. For some sites we know exactly when an item was put up for sale, while for others we can pin it down to a 24 hour period. There are three sites (Amazon, Booklooker and Buchfreund) for which we don’t have enough information to even take a guess at when an item was added. As a result items from these sites will be shown right at the end of the results when you’re sorting by “date added”.
The results may also be a bit patchy if your search returns a large number of results. This is a result of how we fetch data from some websites. For example, we can fetch up to 50 results from antiquariat.de, but those will either be the most expensive 50 items that match your criteria, or the least expensive 50 items that match your criteria. We have no way of requesting the most recently added 50 items that match your criteria. So if your criteria are broad enough to match more than 50 items from antiquariat.de then they will be either the most or least expensive items. They will be shown in the order that they were put up for sale, but there’s no guarantee that they’re the most recent items put up for sale. As a result of this you’ll always get more useful results by using the most specific search criteria you can.
One further thing to note is that this new feature is only available when you start your search from our homepage. You won’t be able to pick “date added” as an option when reordering a search that’s already been completed.