Talis working in partnership with Amazon
As the press release underlines the Venice project was about offering more profitable ways for libraries to dispose of their stock. In this case, we worked with Amazon to enable our library customers to connect with Amazon Marketplace.
We have to thank East Renfrewshire who really went for the idea from the outset, and were willing to devote their time and staff resource to testing the concept. They initially loaded 500 titles using a batch process developed by Talis and sold 20% of the stock within a 12 week timescale. The return they got from selling the books on Amazon's marketplace, far outstripped the revenues they would have made had they pursued the more conventional approach of a booksale AND I would go as far as saying the additional staff resource required to run the process was more than recovered. Well, East Renfrewshire certainly seem to think so because even though the project itself has now ended, they will continue to run the software.
One of the really neat features about Venice was that we used Amazon's Web Services to pull data into our application. A library could view for the first time:
- the item's list price (as new)
- the second-hand list price (lowest and highest)
- the number of used copies on sale for that particular item
just by scanning the barcode of the book with a reader.
Armed with this information East Renfrewshire could make sound decisions on what was worth selling through Marketplace, and what they could dispense with more effectively elsewhere ie. via booksales etc. It also allowed them to "play the market". Their sales strategy was to undercut other vendors on the site, in order to get the books out of the door as quickly as possible.
The project raised many interesting points, which are worthy of further consideration:
- Purchasing Behaviour - East Renfrewshire found that by adopting the Venice approach to stock disposal they began to start analysing their front-end acquisition process. Dare I say it, they could consider the idea that the speed in which stock via Marketplace got sold might influence their future purchasing decisions. ie. let's buy more of those kinds of books because we can dispose of them more quickly, efficiently and profitably at the end of their shelf-life.
- Visibility of Value - the data we pulled in to the application via Amazon's Web Services, for the first time gave East Renfrewshire a real true sense of the market value for their holdings. It went some way to dispelling the notion that a book ceases to have a pecuniary value, once it has been used. More than that, it has highlighted to the library that some of their older stock has more than held its value. It has actually become in the eyes of the marketplace "rare" and the price reflects this. We have to ask, would so many of the public libraries' stock of First Edition Harry Potters have disappeared, if the stock manager had a tool like Venice to keep them informed?
- Optimisation - As car owners we make a point of knowing when in our car's life it has reached its optimum resale value - whether we act on it or not is a different matter. Venice has offered the same optimisation opportunity to libraries for their books. Over time, a library using the Venice approach could understand that a book's resale value is optimised at a given point, and adjust their withdrawal policies accordingly. Potentially, the shelf life of a library item could be shortened, but the revenues used to replenish stock with more current materials.
Venice has come at a really interesting time for libraries. Politically, we have the Department for Culture, Media and Sport questioning the efficiency of the supply chain and whether libraries are getting enough "books for the buck". By focussing on the creation of a resale opportunity for libraries' stock, we are demonstrating a fantastic opportunity for libraries to derive additional revenue from stock which can be ploughed back into new items.
Anyway, long blog, but lots to say. We are currently genericising the app that East Renfrewshire used and will be shortly be making it available via the Talis Developer Network.