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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Making a company finding hard to find books, music, movies

There are only a handful of things I can think of that my husband is extremely “in to”. One of those things is the book “Napkin Notes: On the Art of Living” by Michael Durst. He feels the book changed his life. His copy of the book has about twenty markings and underlinings on every page, and several of the pages are coming out because he’s read the book so many times.

Needless to say, he’s given the book to a dozen or more people, most of whom have yet to read it. The latest victim, er, recipient was our babysitter when she graduated college a month ago. He knew immediately this was the book he wanted to give her.

Unfortunately, at the time, the book was nearly impossible to obtain, as it’s been out of print for a while. There are very few copies anyone is willing to give up. I spent hours trying to find a copy at a decent price. Of course today, a month later, I came across a very cool website that exclusively sells hard to find books, movies, and music. The site is called Alibris.com.

The company was started by Richard Weatherford, a bookseller with a PhD in English from UCLA, who sold old books through catalogs from his home in Seattle. In 1982, he wrote a business plan for a company he called Interloc to build an online database for old, hard to find books. Talk about cutting edge. However, Richard had a problem finding startup capital so he put the idea on hold.

In 1991, Richard was hired by a company to help keep Bookquest alive. This company had a similar concept to Interloc. Bookquest failed, but Richard learned from the experience and he couldn’t stop thinking about his Interloc idea. The idea now seemed timely, now that computer usage was becoming widespread. He was able to raise $50,000 and started the company in 1993, before the internet was mainstream.

Interloc was initially not open to the public. It was only used by professional bookstores.
Four years later, Marty Manley, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton, asked an author he knew to find a copy of his book. This author suggested he use Interloc to find the book. Marty fell in love with Interloc and immediately went on the hunt to find Richard Weatherford. The two met, and discussed how they could grow the business to independent booksellers. They spent three weeks touring the country, asking booksellers what they liked and disliked with their online booksales. At the end of their journey, Manley and Weatherford decided to found a new company using the technology of Interloc. This company, Alibris, has five new approaches to bookselling:

  1. they have developed a partnership with independent bookstores

  2. they sell to businesses, libraries, and end consumers.

  3. they have specialized logistics which allow efficiencies in shipping

  4. they offer superior market intelligence

  5. it’s a great place to work.

Alibras has plans for expansion in overseas markets and hopes to connect people worldwide to the books they wish to locate.


Mommy Meryl said...

Wow!! Very cool find! Of course, to be honest, I'm really interested on hearing more about a book that changed your husband's life. . .