Alibris, Meet Half-Price Books

There's a business-section piece today about Half-Price Books' new online marketplace, which coincides with the Dallas-based used-bookseller's own release this morning announcing the virtual shoppe. Says Kathy Doyle Thomas, Half-Price's exec veep, in the official announcement: "Half-Price Books is pleased to offer an online shopping option to our customers, both in our markets and around the world. HPB.com will allow our customers to track down a specific book they may not find in our brick and mortar locations."

Mentioned in both: the company's partnership with Monsoon Commerce Solutions, which already runs Alibris's invaluable website. No surprise, then, that both sites offer the exact same results: I ran a few searches this morning for, oh, Jim's The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City and Dallas Rediscovered: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion 1870-1925 and a few other local titles and came up each time with the same results displayed in the exact same order, most of which were offerings from out-of-town booksellers. (Which reminds me: Hey, Schutze, somebody in Florida thinks your book's worth $242.06.)

So I called Emily Bruce, the PR coordinator at HPB HQ, to ask: What's the difference between the two sites? Her answer -- and a look into Half-Price's online future -- follows.

"With our site, it's branded with our name, and we do have the books posted on there you can find in our stores," she says. "Not all of our books in our stores are online. We're working on that, but it's taking some time. But select stores in various markets are putting them online."

She points out: Using the "find a seller" option, you can type in "HPB," and the outposts in various markets will pop up with a list of their offerings. HPB-Dallas, for instance, currently offers 23,705 books, 577 movies and 873 music titles -- a fraction of a fraction of a fraction its offerings, but, still, better than nothing. Still, Bruce acknowledges, getting all of the local product online will take a good long while.

"That is the ultimate goal," she says. "As far as the time line, I can't tell you, but that is something we're working toward. I think it says somewhere on the website that we're on the cutting edge of the '90s, so we're working toward it."

Besides, nothing beats the brick-and-mortar browsing. Which is how went in last week looking for one thing and came out with Friend of Unfair Park PeterK's 1991 Dallas Then & Now, published on behalf of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library. Which I really must share with you. Later.

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