American University Law Library
As the new editors of the Acquisitions column, we would like to thank Jean Eisenhauer for being such a hard act to follow. In her last TSLL column (v. 22, no. 4, June 1997), Jean alerted us to Amazon.com <http://www.amazon.com> as a verification tool potentially more useful than Books in Print. This was one of the hot topics at the Acquisitions Roundtable during the Baltimore Convention. In this column, Rachel Pergament, Collection Development - Acquisitions Librarian, the University of Southern California Law Library, further expands this topic and discusses her use of Amazon for both searching and ordering.
We thank Rachel for her contribution and encourage any of you to contact either one of us if you would like to contribute an article for the column.
University of Southern California
How often are you confronted with the following scenario?
Subject: Book I want now
Recently, I saw this book review on . . . (pick your topic). I'm not sure of the title of the book or the author's name. I really think that the library needs to buy a copy of this now. Before you send it to the shelf, could you send it to me?
Signed: Anxiously awaiting some good news
As the Acquisitions Librarian at the University of Southern California Law Library, I shudder when these requests show up in my e-mail. Because I have worked with attorneys in various settings for the past ten years, I always think silently to myself, "Hey, you know better than that! Who's the author? What is the date you think this was published? A clue to where you saw this, please!" After I finish my silent tirade, I begin my search. Past experience has taught me that specific forms of Internet searching utilizing publisher websites are not possible with this type of request. Because of the broad nature of this request, the first place I begin to search for clues about recently published monographs is Amazon.com <http://www.amazon.com> Amazon.com is great because it is easy to use and I can search by title, author, or ISBN. Boolean searching is also available. Amazon.com provides the name of the book, author, ISBN, date of publication, price, and availability. Sometimes there are short reviews from the New York Times Book Review, Publisher's Weekly or individuals who have read the book and want to express their opinion about it. Often there are related topics to search which help to expand on subjects I might not have considered. I am often able to generate a list of titles which match the topic for which I am searching and which I can show to the faculty member who originated the request. The faculty member may be able to recognize the title of the book or provide me with additional information from this list.
Another reason I have come to depend on Amazon.com has been the changes that have taken place in the Accounts Payable (A/P) department at the University of Southern California. In 1996, the A/P department searched for a way to cut down on the amount of paper and work that was generated from all invoices submitted by all the departments on the U.S.C. campus. The solution that the A/P department adopted was to issue, on a trial basis, university procurement cards to certain selected departments. A procurement card is a credit card issued to a faculty or staff member at U.S.C. which the cardholder may use to purchase items. The university is solely responsible for the payment of the monthly statement. The card is used in place of purchase orders and invoices. The A/P department has placed certain restrictions on what may be purchased with the cards; for instance, I cannot use the procurement card issued in my name to pay for restaurant meals, airline tickets, or, surprisingly, government documents.
In 1997, the A/P department discovered that the procurement cards substantially reduced the amount of paperwork that was previously generated by purchase orders and invoices. As a result, the department began to encourage many university departments, including the Law Library, to use the procurement card for library purchases whenever possible.
Because the A/P department did not place a limit on the number of procurement cards issued to the librarians in our library, we were able to request three separate cards and designate those cards to three separate accounting funds: monographs, continuations, and computing. The card that is issued in my name is tied to the fund that is maintained only for purchase of monographs. By assigning a specific fund to a specific procurement card, we are able to identify and organize the invoices and payments easily.
Since the only way to purchase books through Amazon.com is to utilize a credit card, U.S.C.'s policy of encouraging the use of the procurement card meshed very well with my increasing reliance on Amazon.com. Amazon.com allows the book buyer to set up an account which specifies shipment address, payment method, and type of delivery needed (standard or rush). After an order is placed, Amazon.com acknowledges the order by sending an e-mail confirming the book order, requested delivery method, and price. Because the A/P department never established guidelines on how to manage the paperwork associated with purchases made using the procurement card, the Law Library has adopted many of the methods and procedures used for managing invoices and purchase orders to the paper work generated by credit card purchases. Through trial and error, we devised a system of collecting and organizing Amazon.com invoices as well as copies of e-mail confirmation of orders. We have adjusted to the fact that the bank which issues the procurement card sends only one statement to U.S.C.'s A/P department. This has forced us to rely on the monthly statements prepared by the A/P department as a way to ensure that the books we have ordered are in fact the books the university is paying for.
Another reason that we have come to depend on Amazon.com is the discounts that Amazon.com offers on books. Amazon.com discounts many books by as much as 30 percent off the retail price. Another area where we save money is on sales tax. Amazon.com is located in Washington state; because we are located in California, we pay no state sales tax on the books we purchase.
Amazon.com is a helpful way to obtain information on authors, titles, ISBN, prices and availability quickly and easily. Amazon.com also offers great service. For example, if a book is ordered but the price is not available, Amazon.com will hold the order until the price is available and e-mail with price information and a request to confirm the order. This allows me to cancel the order if the book is too expensive or no longer needed.
I feel that Amazon.com is not only one of the best Internet resources available, but also is just a great bibliograhic resource.
Subject: Book request
Dear Professor Anxious:
The following book titles were found on Amazon.com and match the topic that you requested I search. Let me know if one of these titles is the book you are looking for and I will order a copy for the library and route it to your office.
*Disclaimer: Although I admit that I am an enthusiastic Amazon.com user, no money, favors, or books were exchanged for writing this article.