Wednesday, March 7, 2018

40 days and 40 nights left til the next Book Fair! Here's what's on this Saturday-

Carl Mario Nudi, Letterpress Coordinator at the Tampa Book Arts Studio, discusses the printing action of their Kelsey tabletop press with Allen Singleton and Amber Shehan of the rare book online website at last year's Book Fair. Allen holds the bookmark he just printed. (Photo by T. Allan Smith, Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.)

There may be snow on the ground- and in the air as the third nor'easter in a fortnight forms- March 10 in Asheville, North Carolina, but we’re gonna fight to clear a path through the stormy airwaves to bring you our guest, Allen Singleton. He's COO / Minister of Finance, for, a sponsor of this year’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, April 20-22 in St. Petersburg!

Allen is an ex-academic (Ph.D. University of Chicago) with abiding interests in the world of books, computers, and Daoism. He has a Ph.D. in comparative philosophy of religions from the University of Chicago. He left academics over fifteen years ago and decided to pursue a career in IT. He has extensive experience both as an IT administrator and as a manager. At Biblio, he has found the ideal opportunity to marry his interests and help nurture a dynamic and rapidly growing business.

Allen and his wife, Cassie, have three daughters (“wonderful” ones, Biblio adds). Allen enjoys playing guitar and likes to keep his hand in his field of study by reading odd bits of Daoist texts. Favorite books and authors: Don Quixote, Neal Stephenson, and Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zi).

We’ll be talking with Allen- and trying to keep Cafe producer Allan Smith from taxing Allen Singleton about spelling his name wrong- about all things Biblio-logical and -graphic; who’s coming to the Book Fair and why, and many other things we haven’t even thought of yet. Because, as we learned talking with Allen in last year’s live Book Fair broadcasts, one thing sorta leads to another. 

What’s a Biblio? Ask Founder Brendan Sherar, who ends his story of the company with this:

We've grown, but we've proudly maintained our original vision, becoming a local bookstore on a global scale. Every day we enable our customers - over a million book lovers from every country on earth - to find high-quality books. We've helped people get books they've spent years trying to find, and in the process, we've helped forge lasting relationships between book lovers and independent booksellers. Our technology bridges geographies to help customers form old-fashioned relationships with small corner bookstores around the world.

Every day, we help small businesses in 45 countries develop and grow their businesses. We provide them with technology and tools that allow them to establish and strengthen their identity. We enable them to connect with their customers and form new relationships.

We love what we do. We love it because we have a chance to do something positive for the world around us. Every day we strive to do a little something more in addition to our jobs. Some days we create strategies for reducing our consumption in our office, reusing and recycling more, composting what we can. Some days we collect, sort, and distribute free books to those in need.

We're fortunate to do work we love while making the world a little better along the way. We're proud of our achievements, but we're even more proud of who we've become as a company.

In an epic story, that's called character development.

The story of is constantly moving forward and changing, while our triple bottom line remains constant. We don't know the end of this tale, but we can't wait to find out!

In a 2013 profile, Mountain Xpress added,

The present-day incarnation of Biblio officially launched in 2003. Sherar says the initial growth period was fast-paced. “There was a lot of room out there on the horizon, I guess, available for the picking. That was also during a pretty heady growth period for the Internet and e-commerce in particular,” he says.

Since then, the company has grown to include a catalogue of 85 million books from 5,000 booksellers worldwide. Biblio employs 11 people, who all work at the company’s headquarters on South Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville. Although their sales are nowhere near book behemoth Amazon, Biblio has carved a niche market in rare, collectible and out-of-print books. Chief Operating Officer Allen Singleton says this specialization has given them an edge.

“We’re competing with the likes of Amazon, [which] outpaces us in sales by several orders of magnitude. But we’ve got a strong position in the hearts and minds of booksellers because our business practices aren’t competing with them; we’re trying to get them in contact with customers,” says Singleton.

Sherar reports that the company grosses about $8 million in sales annually, with most of those profits going back into the pockets of the bookstores. Although experiencing steady growth for the majority of the decade, even during the Great Recession, Biblio stumbled in 2010 after making some changes to its site.

“We made a lot of changes at once,” explains Singleton. “We did an overall redesign of the site, did a refactoring of the search architecture, changed the URL structure. … We changed three or four very core things about the site, then we saw a drop-off from the search engines, not immediately, but a pretty steady drop-off from there.”

Like most Internet companies, Biblio relies on steady traffic from Google, whose highly secretive search algorithms make it hard to gauge what making a change might do to a company’s search rankings. “It is kind of a conundrum with Google. … In some ways that stifles innovation. You’re kind of afraid to make a big radical change because you don’t know how that will affect your business. Our approach with Google these days is benign neglect,” says Sherar.

Biblio has also won fame for building over a dozen libraries in Bolivia through its nonprofit charitable arm.

Rare Book Cafe is streamed every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT. We feature interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page, and remain there after the show.

The program’s regular guests include Miami book dealer, appraiser and’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein;  and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.

We enjoy the support and encouragement of these booksellers:A Bric-A-Brac in Miami;  Little Sages Books in Hollywood, Florida; Liberty Books in Palm Beach Gardens; As Time Goes By, in Marion, Alabama; Quill & Brush in Dickerson, Maryland; Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg; The Ridge Books in Calhoun, Georgia; A-Bric-A-Brac in Miami Beach; and Henry Bemis Books in Charlotte.

 Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtual live studio audience for the program, write us at

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