Site search for Biblio.com, an online retailer that sells rare, used and out-of-print books from independent book sellers, poses unique problems that require a customized solution, says Kevin Donaldson, director of sales and marketing.
“The criteria for listing someone else’s product that you don’t necessarily have control over is a bit of a complicated thing,” he says. “You can’t just buy a product off the shelf without adapting it to heck and back and spending a lot of money or just building it yourself.”
Because independent book sellers change their inventory constantly, Biblio has to be able to re-index books on the site fairly rapidly, Donaldson says. Biblio, one of the world’s largest suppliers of used, rare and out-of-print books, lists more than 25 million titles.
“There may be certain titles on our site that we have only one existing copy of and that copy can go fairly quickly,” he says. “The platform we’ve had to build has had to be extremely dynamic.”
Biblio recently set up a feature that allows students to search for textbooks using ISBNs (International Standard Book Number), a unique identifier for marking books. Students can plug in multiple ISBNs, which are usually listed on class syllabuses handed out by professors, and search for the books en masse. “They don’t have to type in a title, an author and other information and do book searches one at a time,” Donaldson says.
Customers can use the ISBN feature to search for other types of books as well, although buyers don’t always know those numbers, Donaldson says. In addition, ISBNs weren’t created until 1971, so books published before that date won’t have a number. “We have a large number of rare, hard-to-find, out-of-print books on our site that don’t carry an ISBN number, so they can’t be searched in such a way,” he says.