AE Monthly

Articles - February - 2006 Issue

Web Catalogue: Premium Subscription Pt. II

Mcfeb06

Web Catalogue reads like a catalogue, works as a research document.


By Bruce McKinney

The printed paper catalogue is perhaps, next to book dealers themselves, the most resilient element in book selling. Of course it's true today that perhaps 1,000 times as many books are displayed electronically as are ever catalogued in printed catalogues but this does not accurately reflect the relative importance of the printed presentation. Literally, for centuries, the cognoscenti have tucked themselves into bed at night with the great catalogues by the bedstead, their minds freed to consider the pleasure and significance of owning material that comes to life as it is described by the great book sellers of the era. To read such material is to share in the significance. Even today, with the dealer under subtle pressure from ever higher printing and distribution costs on the one side and the always improving and the expanding internet instant-and-everywhere-at-once presentation model on the other, great catalogues continue to be produced. Succinctly stated, the bedsteads are still piled high.

This month we offer an alternative to the paper catalogue: an electronic version we call Web Catalogue that is a part of any AE Premium Subscription. It provides an appealing presentation with links to sophisticated visual and historical data that help both seller highlight significance and collector organize, display and share material as it is acquired. It represents a softening of the line between catalogue and collection and is explicit recognition that a new selling - collecting model is emerging. For the seller it is a significant advance in presentation that carries, embedded in its DNA, recognition that the collector will be an active participant rather than simply a passive purchaser. Interest is a function of involvement and this approach encourages participation by providing collectors the tools to challenge their imaginations. In this way the next generation of great collectors will emerge. Say it this way. Information is the bedrock of the new collecting and the underlying rule is "Push the envelope. Pursue information to its ever-extending limits." A seller provides it; the collector researches it and in some cases buys the material.

What exactly is Web Catalogue? It is at first glance an electronic catalogue that can be read in the form and format of paper catalogues. [Link to catalogue]. It is of course more flexible than paper. Text can be revised and errors corrected. Distribution is essentially free. Each traditional description links to a more detailed record. Here there are images and footnotes. Each element is a pop-up screen that allows, even encourages comparison. [Link to detail page] The seller of course controls the presentation. When the buyer is also a Premium member the full selling presentation including images and footnotes can be transferred to the collector's collection. Then only the seller's name, date and price paid need be added to create a complete and permanent record. In time all collections are sold or gifted and reconstructing purchase records then becomes essential. Here, as you build a collection or an inventory using Web Catalogue your dollar basis is captured. At the end of the year you can run reports. How much did you spend? What did you sell? It's here.

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