The Internet and Electronic Commerce

By Barber, David | Library Technology Reports, September-October 1995 | Go to article overview

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. …

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