viaLibri now searches Shopify and WooCommerce websites.

Over the last several years much of our energy has been focused on trying to find new and better ways to connect viaLibri directly with the websites of individual booksellers.  Our ultimate goal is to provide a place where all the world’s diverse antiquarian bookselling websites can be searched as one from a single online form. Today we are happy to announce another bit of progress towards that goal: we are now able to search websites built using either Shopify or WordPress/wooCommerce.

The popularity of these two platforms with booksellers has been apparent to us for a while now.  Shopify has been especially attractive to that brave cohort of sellers who are at home with digital technology and unintimidated by the idea of building a website on their own.  It is easy to use and remarkably affordable. There are lots of attractive templates available and a strong support community offers advice not just on technical issues but also on useful topics like marketing and analytics.

And now, if you own a Shopify site, viaLibri is ready to search it.  A few tweaks are all that it needs.

We have also been long time fans of WordPress as a platform for building attractive and flexible bookselling sites.  It is now the tool of choice for many commercial website developers. We know many booksellers who have gone this route and been very pleased the results.  Until recently, the one big challenge for these sites was finding a reliable ecommerce plugin with a full-featured shopping cart and the ability to handle credit card sales.  The wooCommerce plugin now fills that bill and many dealers are putting it to use.  Those that do now have one additional benefit: installing wooCommerce allows viaLibri to search their site.

Either option provides an excellent way to get your website connected to viaLibri and Libribot.  Once you have been set up the rest will happen automatically, without any additional effort on your part.  Whatever is for sale on your website will also be for sale through viaLibri with a link directly to you.  The monthly fee is only $25 ($250/year) including up to 10,000 books and all the other standard benefits of a Premium Services subscription. There is no set-up fee and you can cancel at any time with a full refund for whatever period remains on your subscription.

Get in touch with us for more information

Of course, there are still other ways to have us search your website. Most custom-built sites can be easily modified to allow harvesting.  For this purpose we have created a special protocol and will be happy to supply the details and answer any questions about installation. It is also possible that your existing site has already been designed to allow viaLibri harvesting, in which case all we need is your access information.

But if you do not yet have your own website perhaps now is the time to take the plunge. We will be happy to build, manage and host your new website whenever you are ready.  If you would like to learn more about our LibriDirect websites you can start here:

Websites by viaLibri

Whatever option you might choose is fine with us.  We just hope you will join us someday soon, one way or another.

 

 

 

 

Follow Us Now On Instagram

We are now posting regularly to Instagram. You will find us there as Insta_glyph@vialibri. The main focus of our postings will be photos of unusual or graphically interesting early books and related items that have been found by visitors searching on our site. We hope to do this daily, and if we fail to keep that pace it will not be due to a lack of suitable material.

If you are not yet familiar with Instagram you may want to try visiting it now. There is already a large and active group of bibliophiles from around the world sharing interesting images there. The community of rare book librarians on Instagram is particularly active and eager to pull from their vaults many treasures that would otherwise be rarely seen. @americanantiquarian is a particular favourite of ours, but they are just one of many. The number of booksellers with interesting feeds is also impressive, although we must resist having favourites there.

viaLibri now also has a new feature created specifically for the benefit of our Instagram followers. You can now go to www.vialibri.net/instagram and find a graphic grid showing all the photos we have recently posted, with the most recent ones at the top. These photos are all linked to individual pages where the complete descriptions of the pictured items are given exactly as provided by the bookseller who offered them for sale. There is even a link for purchasing the item if it has not already been sold. A link to our photo grid is also included as part of our Instagram profile, or “bio,” page so that detailed bibliographic descriptions can be found only three clicks away from your feed.

Of course, you can also check out our most recent postings just by going to the page mentioned above. That would save you from ever having to actually go to the Instagram site itself; but then you would be missing out on all the fun.

Bob Fleck (1947 – 2016)

We learned this morning that our colleague and friend Bob Fleck passed away yesterday.  It is news whose sadness will be felt by a large number of the people that I know. In many ways he stood alone. I am quite sure that there is no one I have met who has made a greater practical contribution to the study of books in all their many aspects.  The world of bibliophiles is greatly in his debt, myself among them.

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Bob was the founder and determined force behind Oak Knoll Books, the world’s most important specialist in the broad subject generally referred to as “books on books.” He served his customers both as an expert in old and rare books and as a publisher and distributor of new ones. The publishing house he built became the first and last resort for bibliographic publications of all sorts.  There are many important titles that would never have reached a printing press without Bob’s backing and help.

There can be few serious bibliophiles or booksellers whose reference shelves do not include numerous books that have passed through Bob’s office or shop in some form or another.

But the contributions to his colleagues were far from limited to the books he sold. He was continuously giving his time to the bookselling organisations he belonged to and supported.  He served both the ABAA and the ILAB with terms as treasurer and president.  It is interesting to note that, even though his speciality was focused almost entirely on items related to the printed book, Bob also oversaw the creation of three ILAB websites. He was instrumental in establishing the first ILAB book search engine and then was later active in helping establish the current metasearch which later replaced it. That was a project we worked on together and which might not have succeeded without his insights and support.

Beyond that, he also gave early and much appreciated help to viaLibri, becoming the first of our users to try advertising on our site.  It was a very characteristic thing for him to do: looking to the future and supporting a colleague.

Bob’s accomplishments and generosity of spirit were appreciated across the full spectrum of bibliophiles, including librarians, scholars, collectors and, of course, his fellow booksellers.  I expect to see a stream of tributes over the next days and weeks.  As they are brought to my attention I will link to them here.  For now, the first tribute appears, appropriately, on the ILAB website he did so much to create and sustain.  You can read it below.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are now with Bob’s wife Millie and son Rob.

Bob Fleck – Book of Condolence

Searching for books in the digital age.

Anyone who managed to struggle to the end of my recent post on  “Searching For Books In Days Of Yore” may recall my reckless promise to continue on that topic at a later date.  It was not an idle threat. So, ignoring the fact that I am probably the only person who actually finds this subject of interest, I will keep my promise and now pick up where I left off two weeks ago.

In case you hadn’t noticed, a lot of things about book searching have changed since the days I was describing in my previous post.  Out of all of them, one fundamental change in particular needs to be mentioned first:  before the internet came along, if you wanted a specific book that was out-of-print you almost always needed a bookseller to find it for you.  There were no real options for doing it yourself.  The periodicals which carried the necessary “books wanted” lists were all trade publications. Private buyers did not advertise in them. The search process was effectively closed to the retail customer. This meant that if a sought-after book was available somewhere the buyer who wanted it never actually came in contact with the dealer who had it in stock.  At least two booksellers were required for every sale.

The internet made one of those booksellers superfluous.

Needless to say, this innovation did not generate enthusiasm from the booksellers who had once derived income from the inefficient system it destroyed.   I have enormous sympathy for them, as I do for all the travel agents, encyclopedia salesmen, music store owners, directory publishers, newspaper delivery boys and members of any other occupations whose lives were similarly upended by the internet.   The current popular term for this is “disruption.” It is a very Big Thing and has many people excited.  Venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs worship in the temple of disruption. They spend a good portion of their working day trying to cook up new ways to render useless the existing skills and practices that provide a living for the rest of us.   Thus, when disruption came to the book searching business about 15 years ago there was no cheering from the trade. It is easy to understand why.  For many of them it was the end of the world as they knew it.

As for myself, there is definitely a part of me that would be quite content if they called a halt to all this disruption and just let everyone go on with their business doing things as they had always done them before.   I especially feel this way when I think about all my fellow booksellers who once made a living helping their customers find books in the pre-digital age.  In fact, I must confess that I ran a book search service myself once upon a time.  It was how I got my start in the book business, even before my wife and I opened our first shop. I did not know then that I was a dinosaur, and was happy not to know it.  Things seemed just fine the way they were.

But today, for better or worse, I have to count myself among the disrupters.  It would be pointless to pretend otherwise.  And if I stand in that camp and consider the question of book searching I feel compelled to do it from the perspective of the buyer rather than the seller.  When I do that, this is what I see:

-Before the internet, if you discovered an out-of-print book that you thought might be of interest it generally took at least a week or two just to find out if there might be a copy available somewhere for sale.

After the internet you could find this out in seconds.

– Before the internet you might learn about a book that you thought could be of interest to you, but have no idea of what it might cost you if a copy were found.  The only way to find out would be to put a friendly bookseller to the expense and trouble of searching for it for you. Since there was always good chance it might cost more than you could afford or want to pay, it was likely that you would only decide to do this if it were a book you absolutely had to have it.

After the internet you could quickly check the price and availability of any book without expense, embarrassment or commercial engagement.

-Before the internet, the pool of available books to search from was limited to the available stock of those booksellers who took the time and trouble to quote from published want lists.  This was only a tiny fraction of the total books available in the marketplace.

After the internet, the pool of findable books exploded as it became possible for booksellers to upload their entire inventory online and leave it there until sold.  At the same time, the actual quoting of a book became unnecessary to sell it.  These two things made it dramatically easier to locate a reasonable copy of a wanted book.

– Before the internet  the reach of want lists rarely went beyond national or linguistic boundaries. The periodicals that carried them had limited distribution beyond the countries they were published in, and quoters rarely saw profit in mailing out quotes at international postage rates.  This made searching for books published in other countries or languages especially difficult.

After the internet the marketplace became international.  Metasearch sites brought books together from booksellers around the world.  Customers were no longer limited to looking for foreign books primarily from the stocks of booksellers in their own country.

– Before the internet, most of the book descriptions offered to search services provided little more than a coded description of format and condition. Things like “8vo, v.g./dj.” were often all you knew about the copy you were offered to buy,

After the internet descriptions became fuller and more useful. Many copies were even illustrated with photos, and if photos were necessary and not already displayed online it was always possible to ask for them to be sent as email attachments. 

Of course, the most significant change of all was in the price of books. Before the internet, common books purchased through search services were usually quite expensive relative to what they would normally sell for anywhere else.

After the internet, common books became cheap.

I could go on, but there is no need.  The point is made.  Disruption came to the world of book searching and the result, for the consumers at least, was a dramatic change for the better.  What was once impossible became possible. What was once difficult became simple.  What was once costly became cheap.  And the vast availability of books online, coupled with new and powerful tools to search for them, enabled serious bibliophiles to pursue their interests in ways that were unimaginable two decades before.

Collectors, of course, already know this – the younger ones in particular. I hear it from them often. They are happy. Many of them have come to realize that they are living in a golden age. The booksellers of my generation, however,  are not all convinced.  I still hear many of them complaining about how heavy and shiny everything has become.  I try to argue with them sometimes, but I never win.

Book collecting conference in Cambridge this weekend. We will be there.

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This weekend (June 18-19) we will be attending a conference in Cambridge with the promising title of: Mania and Imagination: Perils and pleasures of the private collector, present and future. Odd though it may seem, I am actually excited by the idea of spending two days discussing the current and future state of book collecting.  Especially the future bit. The conversations I am most often engaged in along these lines generally trend towards irritation and despair.  Things like PODs, kindles, robopricing and the relentless decline in the value of books once thought to be rare have put a sour taste in the mouths of many who first entered the world of book collecting in the pre-digital age.  Optimism about the future of collecting books seems to be a scarce commodity among the bibliophiles of my generation.

But I’m expecting that the conference in Cambridge will reflect a more hopeful outlook. I find it hard to imagine that many participants would pay a fee and travel all the way to King’s College, for two days, just to grumble about how the current and future prospects for collectors have been ruined by the internet.

I do, I admit,  wonder what the perils referred to in the conference title might actually be referring to.  Mania?  That, of course, would be nothing new.  But perhaps it is changing its form. That could be interesting.  And there is a session devoted, simply, to Dilemmas. I am eager to learn what those might be. (I think it must be the problem of how to adjust to a world where the digitally-driven flood of collecting opportunities exceeds our capacity to evaluate or purchase them. Could it possibly be anything else?)

So I am looking forward to seeing old friends, perhaps meeting a few new ones, and having a generally stimulating weekend talking about old books.  And I will also be taking notes, which means you may hear more about this again in the future. The glorious future.

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