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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

An Alibris Without Amazon

Alibris' loss of Amazon was a complete shock. I know it wasn't just Alibris that Amazon ditched, but it only really surprised me for this site. In any event, I would argue that Alibris alone will eventually be able to return to Amazon-level sales for its sellers. Their obvious advantage over other listings services is the affiliation with Barnes and Noble and this will be my point of departure for today. While the B&N partnership is great, there is a major problem. When a user goes to the site and searches for a book, used book listings on Barnes and Noble are almost hidden from the user's view. In addition, they neglect displaying the low price for used books, a la Amazon. We would like to see them switch from simply saying "Used copies available...." to "Buy used from $x.xx." Moreover, the way they word it "available from our Authorized Sellers", makes it sound as if the user will be taken away from the B&N site, something for which they may be wary. A further improvement would be to remove the line separating their own new priced stock from the line announcing that there are used copies available.

I believe B&N online underperforms because all of its books sell for list price. They never consistently offer their users a "deal." If they highlight the deals on used books, they will find an increase in traffic and in sales for their own new books. If I am a user and I decide to try B&N once or twice and both times they offer only full-list prices, what makes me ever return again....? I may be a full-list price buyer for some books, but you need to keep me coming to the site, B&N doesn't do that currently. It would be worth the change.
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