Probably the biggest news at CIROBE 2004 was the first-time presence of two leading Internet used book sites, Abebooks and Alibris. "The significance of their presence," said CIROBE cofounder Marshall Smith, "is that we know there are a lot of booksellers out there who don't necessarily buy remainders or, more specifically, perhaps, attend CIROBE. Now they have access to a new world of bargain books that they may not have previously recognized. In addition, we have a potential way to bring more customers to the show."
According to Sue Connors, Abebooks' director, bookselling community, about 12,800 booksellers from 48 countries list their books on the Abebooks sites (8,500 in North America and 4,300 in Europe and the U.K.). The company currently has 100 employees in Canada, Germany and Spain. Connors told PW that CIROBE was her first opportunity "to meet face to face with many of our long-term booksellers whom I've spoken with often over the years." In addition, she said, many new sellers joined Abebooks at the show: "Being an international exhibition, CIROBE was a perfect complement to the Abebooks marketplace. We spoke with sellers from around the world, from such countries as Egypt, Australia and India."
Her favorite story, Connors said, was from one of Abebooks' top sellers, "whose excitement and enthusiasm prompted him to play our recent TV commercial as a permanent looping demo in their customer service area. Many of the sellers who approached us were booklovers who had always purchased on our sites but until meeting us at CIROBE, had not considered that they could also sell more books through Abebooks."
Alibris, in the words of sales and direct marketing manager Oliver Chin, "connects customers with thousands of independent sellers around the world. We are both a retailer through our own consumer and library Web sites and a distributor to North America's leading online and traditional book retailers and wholesalers." Though the company has attended CIROBE in the past, Chin said, this was its first year as an exhibitor. Chin explained, "This partly came out of discussions with the folks who run CIROBE; we have a mutually beneficial relationship in that we advertise CIROBE to our current sellers—it's a great place for our sellers to find inventory—and CIROBE is a good place for us to recruit new sellers. It is also an opportunity to make face-to-face contact with some current sellers."
The Alibris booth, Chin reported, "was even busier than we had expected. We spoke with many companies who were eager to work with us or were already doing so." Chin "answered a rainbow of questions," he said, and educated booksellers on the ways in which Alibris could help increase their sales. "We got good feedback on the tools we've built to help sellers manage their inventory, prices and orders. We look forward to this becoming another regular event for Alibris."