Back in 1995 when I first started selling books on the internet my assumption was that the easiest way would be to photograph the 1,000 or so shelves of books in my bookshop, publish the roughly 2,000 photos – one for each end of a shelf of books – on the internet in some sort of order, and people would look at the pictures of the books, email me about the they book they wanted, and I would email them back with the p&p cost plus the cost of the book.
Looking back twenty years from now when the vast majority of secondhand books are available online for a price including postage that is less than it would cost you or me to post them, let alone pay for the packing materials or pay the fees to list them on the internet, this naïve approach seems humorous.
Now when a customer buys a book from us it is likely that the internet will be involved, either to make sure they are paying a fair price, to find out something about the book – is it the next one in the series? – or to check if they have already got it.
I had a non internet book disaster in the Oxfam Bookshop in Deal recently, I piled up about two or three hundred pounds worth of books with the intention of looking them up on the internt to see if I could sell them at a profit. I guess if things had worked out I would have bought about half of them. I couldn’t get a signal, so no internet connection and therefore no sale.
So what can I get out of a website for my bookshop?
Well from a sales point of view I can produce something where you the customer can decide whether or not it’s worth bothering to come here to the town centre in Ramsgate.
Obviously I can say that I have about 25,000 books in stock, but this wouldn’t be difficult to achieve with the dregs of a few big jumble sales or boot fairs, so I have to have some way of showing that the books are a bit better than this.
Obviously I can keep on saying that our prices are competitive with the online price and usually a fair bit cheaper, which helps if we have the right book in stock.
From my own point of view I now find I need to know whether we have a particular book in stock before buying it, which means that I need to be able to look on my smartphone at any particular shelf in my bookshop, so I don’t buy the Martina Cole books I already have in stock and I do buy the ones I haven’t got.
So by using a mixture of, Blogger, seat of the pants timewarp web publishing, a smartphone that automatically publishes photos to Picasa, I am developing a new website for the bookshop.
Using Blogger overcomes the really difficult bit which is getting it to work fast on a phone without having to make up different sized images.
So lots of posts on http://michaelsbookshop.blogspot.co.uk/ which actually link to the browse our books part of the main bookshop website http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/id10.htm so far I have done the military book section and the first three letters of the fiction alphabets.
The pictures of books illustrating this post are on sale in my bookshop today, I don’t have them listed on any of the internet book sites.