One of the comments left in response to our posting of Guy Weller’s talk about bookseller’s empowerment was by Chris Hartmann. Chris mentioned that Tom Folio has been doing what Guy is talking about for years now. I replied with an invitation to anyone in the know at Tom Folio to share with us what they are all about. Lee Kirk from The Prints & Paper offers us this…
Hi – Chris Hartman passed along an invitation for a Tomfolio member to
indicate what the cooperative has to offer. Having read the discussion, I
submit that the opportunity for bookseller independence has been at hand for
the last eight years.
As the dot-com fantasy began to escalate, AbookCoOp, with a website dubbed
Tomfolio, was created precisely in response to the awareness that
corporations would be taking over the major bookselling sites and that
corporations would, of necessity, have to impose more and more on their
source of income – their booksellers.
A cooperative was the model chosen to insure that there could be no
corporate buy-out and no sudden changes in fee structure, business
practices, etc. The booksellers that started it wanted a site where the
owners – the booksellers themselves – could determine how the site would be
operated. Tomfolio went online in November of 2000 and has been in
uninterrupted operation since. The fee structure (clearly stated on the
website) covers operating expenses and has not changed since the site went
online. In fact, the hope has always been to lower fees, should
participation generate sufficient funds. Tomfolio is a not-for-profit
cooperative with offices held by volunteers.
Since the site and the operations were designed by booksellers, they fill
many bookseller needs that larger sites cannot. A unique category system
allows book dealers to position their wares in a system that is eagerly
visited by customers and that is readily searched by webcrawlers. Daily
uploads to Google result in many “hits” for our dealers.
In addition to a website dealer page, our book sellers are also offered a
FREE stand-alone website (for the cost of a domain name) that uses the
Tomfolio search engine and shopping cart. Book dealers can use website tools
to create their websites to their own color and organizational preferences,
and can include featured items, specialties, and other variations.
Tomfolio dealers set their own shipping terms. Many have their own credit
card merchant accounts, although the site does offer a credit card service
to those who do not. This service is charged strictly at operating cost.
Dealers who do not offer AmEx are required to process such orders through
the website. That is the only “imposition” and it ensures that customers
ordering from several dealers will not have problems when using an AmEx
Tomfolio dealers are required to adhere to a basic Code of Ethics that
includes standard business practices. Otherwise, their independence is
Booksellers can participate in the listing site for a monthly listing fee.
Those truly interested in seeing this model thrive can purchase a member
share for $500 (which can be paid at $50 per month over a period of 10
months). Ownership allows participation in business decisions, annual voting
for the Board of Directors. etc. Shareholders are also encouraged to
participate in various activities, adding to site content, and other
Unfortunately, many booksellers don’t seem to want independence that they
have to work for, or they don’t understand the cooperative model. When
asked, they want free listings, automated category entry, guaranteed sales,
etc., none of which is consistent with the “independent” model. Tomfolio
allows booksellers to work for what they want, the way they want.
Cats are composed of Matter, Anti-Matter, and It Doesn’t Matter
The Prints & The Paper
PO Box 5432
Eugene OR 97405
See TOMFOLIO’s WIKI: http://tomfolio.pbwiki.com/FrontPage
VISA, MASTERCARD, AMEX, DISCOVER, Paypal, Checks, and Money Orders accepted.
Member Ephemera Society of America, AAPA, and ABookCoOp (Tomfolio) – an
international cooperative of independent used booksellers.
Shop Co-Op! at www.tomfolio.com