The Internet and Electronic Commerce
Barber, David, Library Technology Reports
The Internet is having, and will continue to have, a profound impact on electronic commerce, including online ordering by libraries. It is creating both new ways for existing vendors to sell to libraries and opportunities for new vendors from which libraries buy their books. Books and serials can be bought online from publishers, book and serial vendors, and from new online bookstores. They can be purchased through WWW-based ordering systems or through secure EDI on the Internet. Technologies have been created both to secure the Internet and to create mechanisms to allow for electronic payment. All of these factors are shaping the environment in which libraries find themselves when they evaluate their alternatives for using electronic methods of commerce to acquire library materials.
The relatively inexpensive and widespread access to Internet, which is available to businesses, public institutions, and to the general public is making it the focus for the development of new mechanisms for electronic commerce. Unlike VANs and other types of private networks, there are no fees per use and there are also many more people and groups who can be reached via the network. Electronic commerce mechanisms which utilize the Internet have the potential for reaching far larger markets and resulting in lower costs/barriers to entry than older communications networks and the electronic commerce mechanisms which utilize those networks.
This change is shifting attention to electronic commerce involving individuals. The general public is a largely untapped market for electronic commerce and a potentially larger market than presented by businesses alone. This potential is also forcing Internet software companies and electronic commerce organizations to deal with issues of security and payment. While VANs are already secured, the Internet is not at all a safe place for commerce, and while deferred payment may be expected from companies with whom a business has an existing relationship, immediate payment is desired from individuals who are ordering online.
In addition, the increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for interaction with customers that are being created by companies like Netscape allow better and better means for creating online ordering systems. Libraries, publishers, and others on the Internet can enhance their ability to effectively provide program menus, graphical materials, and other information. JAVA in particular is creating a revolution by how it interacts with a remote user over the Internet. It makes it possible to send an application to a library similar to those currently sent by vendors for loading on a local PC but which may be run anywhere by someone who can access Netscape or other JAVA-capable browsers.
Like many other industries, the book and serials industry has taken to the Internet to exploit its developing commercial role, resulting in the development of several phenomena. First, the Internet is becoming a place for publishers to distribute information about their titles and sometimes to take orders. Second, it has become a home for online bookstores. Small libraries who utilize bookstores for some of their purchasing can take advantage of the stock and services of electronic bookstores located remotely on the Internet. Third, jobbers and subscription agents can take orders or allow users to search their databases via the Internet.
This section of this report describes who is selling materials on the Internet. It then explains how ordering systems on the WWW currently work, and how they can change because of the development of JAVA. From there it proceeds to describe how the Internet is being developed to address security issues and to support electronic payment.
Who Will Be Selling?
As the Internet leads to new modes of bookselling, several futures can be imagined. Three potential agents, the online bookstore, the publisher, and the book/serial vendor could take on more or less important roles. The first two may take advantage of lower costs to obtain a larger share of the market. The third may be tempted to increase the range of its clientele and tap the vast market emerging on the Internet. What will evolve is unclear since it is impossible to be certain of who will be favored by the economics of doing business on the Internet.
The online bookstore is a new resource for libraries. Well-known bookstores around the world are making their holdings available through the web. For example, it is possible to order from Blackwell's Oxford bookstore over the web. (See below for an example of how the Blackwell bookstore service works.) It is also possible to order from U.C. Irvine's store. Other stores can also be used.
These stores may have, but do not need, any retail premises. Consequently, they can have a very low overhead. They can also be located anywhere provided they are close to a transportation system. Existing stores can also use online bookstores to take advantage of their existing inventories, selling out of their warehouses. This would tend to favor existing large bookstores over smaller merchants. At the same time, a large number of specialized bookstores are beginning to appear on the WWW.
Bookwire (http://www.bookwire.com) has links to 150 booksellers on the Internet. A number of these bookstores are listed below:
* Atomic Books Alternative books, comics, and zines
* Aztec Books Ancient history
* Barnes and Noble Offers a select list of popular books
* Basement Full of Books A list of books available by mail
directly from their authors. Most are science fiction.
Any writer with extra books is invited to join
* BiblioBytes Hopes to offer the best and most complete
selection of electronic books available on the Internet,
which you can buy and read instantly-right now-without
needing any extra equipment or time for your credit card
* Beasley Books Black studies, jazz and blues, literature,
radicalism, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, psychology
* Black Sun Books Antiquarian, first editions, fine
printing, arts, manuscripts, signed books
* Blackwell's Bookshops U.K. bookseller with over 150,000
titles. Searchable database
* Blue Peter Books Travel and maritime sport
These bookstores vary considerably in the level of service they offer. Some only provide a page describing their stock. Others have a small enough stock that they provide a list of all the items they currently own, together with an ability to contact the store and reserve an item. This has been particularly popular with specialized and antiquarian booksellers. A larger operation, Blackwell's (http://www.blackwell. co.uk/bookshops/), provides access to a database of its current stock of over 150,000 titles. The database can be searched to identify specific titles or browsed. It is also possible to set up accounts, order by e-mail, publicize unwanted items on an electronic notice board, and keep up on news about Blackwell.
Publishers have been no less active than booksellers in the move to use the Internet for electronic commerce. Bookwire also has more than 200 links to publishers accessible through gopher, the web, or telnet. There are many other sites with links to publishers, including Acqweb, a web site intended for acquisitions librarians (http://www.library.vanderbilt. edu/law/acqs/acqs.html).
Among the publishers on the Internet are:
Random House Raven Press Red Oak Media
The Reference Press Rodale Press Routledge Online
SAGE Publications Sapphire Press Scholastic, Inc.
These and other publishers mirror the activities of booksellers on the web. Some merely have basic phone and mail contact information together with blurbs about their books and an image of the cover. The online ordering capability may amount to no more than a page which is a form that could be printed, filled out, and faxed to the publisher. Others offer full ordering and searching capabilities like that offered by the Blackwell bookstore.
Library Book and Serial Vendors
The WWW presence and services of these vendors are noted in the profiles of their …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Internet and Electronic Commerce. Contributors: Barber, David - Author. Journal title: Library Technology Reports. Volume: 31. Issue: 5 Publication date: September-October 1995. Page number: 514+. © 2003 American Library Association. COPYRIGHT 1995 Gale Group.
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