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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Shipping International

International sales are an important part of online bookselling. The declension of geographical boundaries and the exponentially expanding global market can only increase the amount of these sales in the future. That said, are all listings services equal in this regard? Obviously not. One of the most egregious hindrances to international sales is imposed by Alibris. Alibris asks that nearly all international orders be shipped to their warehouse in Sparks, NV to be then sent to the international customer. In addition, Alibris implores its sellers not to send books immediately, but to collect all books being sent to Sparks, say for a few days, and then release them in one shipment. Certainly, this policy saves the online bookseller some time by avoiding the extra work shipping internationally. You can determine yourself how this policy effects your sales, but take a look at one international customers experience ... it may typify the problem with Alibris.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Yale's Independent Book Alternative Changes Hands

Book Haven has long provided Yale students with an independent alternative to their school's bookstore. Now its owners are turning over the store... but not to the type of corporate entity one would assume in today's industry climate. No, the Schwabs' have sold their store to Labyrinth Books, an independent alternative for Columbia University books. Labyrinth will expand on their current Book Haven store and remain committed to scholarly texts. Maintaining a Book Haven's lower price commitment will keep the students coming, but if not expect a whole lot more orders from New Haven, CT come late August.

Best Business Books

Library Journal recently wrote an article discussing the best business books in 2004. Books are given in a variety of categories including: Biography, Communication, Economy, Ethics, Globalization, Investing, Leadership, Marketing, Organizational Change, and Entrepreneurship. This is a great resource for the small business owner and/or the online bookseller hoping to stay on top of hot/popular business titles.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Bloggers Books

Blogger website extraordinaire, Technorati, offers a great service (in beta testing) the catalogs blog articles on specific books. BookTalk synthesizes all recent blog postings by books into one location. For example John Stewart's America shows 139 links from 124 different sources. This is great resource for the book lover and bookseller alike.

Bookstore sales in 2004

Preliminary estimates from the US Census Bureau show that bookstore sales decreased slightly in 2004. The 0.8% decrease estimate surprised few in the industry or on Wall Street.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Here Comes the Tax Man

As April 15 approaches, Business Week recently published an article discussing the reporting of taxable revenue from eBay. This has always been a gray area for online booksellers and casual internet sellers. This article is worth a look. One clear way to alleviate any angst regarding this issue: visit your local CPA. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Looking for a booming genre of books?

Religious / faith-based books for children is one of the few growing sectors of the publishing industry. Estimates range 2003 sales in this genre anywhere from $70m-$150m. On Easter, the New York Post published an article discussing this trend. It should never be far from the booksellers mind that the US is one of the most religious countries in the developed world. For better or worse religion is one of the most pervasive aspects of American society. Of course, just like any genre, faith-based books geared toward children has some really weak selling and market-flooded titles. With minor research and a keen eye, though, this could become the next strong segment of your online sales.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Enhance Your Website Content - Legally!

Need a photograph, song, an article or "pretty much any form of expression" to enhance your website? Find it nearly impossible to find quality material with clearly delineated rights and reservations? A solution for bookstore webmasters is finally here. The Creative Commons project began in 2002 as a way of both protecting author's work and providing a site for sharing it. Yahoo! has made it easy to search this content with its Yahoo Search Creative Commons.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Boycott Alibris

Boycott Alibris.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Useless MBA

Think getting an MBA is a massive waste of time and money? Think perhaps you could educate yourself through personal enrichment and practical experience? Blogger John Kaufman agrees. In his March 16 posting Kaufman argues that "you can educate yourself effectively for less than a quarter of the time and money spent in most current MBA programs." In any case, the article is worth your time, even if only for the reading lists he provides.

Agoracart for ecommerce

One of the top free programs offering shopping cart templates and code is Agoracart. For those small-medium sized booksellers gutsy (or crazy) enough to build their own website it can be a great tool. The free version is fully functional, but some additional features can be accessed by becoming a lifetime member of the Agoracart community for $55USD. The do have a handful of booksellers listed as using the software whose pages would be worth looking at before playing with the program.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

OT: Yahoo! Blogging

Yahoo has introduced a beta version of "360" its latest attempt to keep up with the services offered by rival Google. 360 will do much more than blogging, it seeks to be a complete social networking service.

Tools for Serious Readers

Restoration Hardware for book lovers. That is how I classify the Levenger the online marketplace whose slogan is "Tools for Serious Readers." Some of our favorites include the Stevenson leather reading chair, the Suspension lamp, and the Bookstop. This site is great, but don't go looking for a bargain!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Stay On Top of Those "Dead-Beat" Bidders

Sellathon has added a tool for eBay sellers that will inform them of a possible "dead-beat bidder" prior to the end of an auction. The software simply informs the seller of a possible NPB (non-paying bidder) and then lets them "choose if and how to respond." Read more about the new tool.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Trying to Gauge the Book Market? Look to the news.

Newsday recently published an article which beautifully delineates the possible volatility of the online book market. Trying to gauge these changes would be nothing more than speculative divination. On the other hand, nothing is more exhilarating than finding one of these phoenixes in your collection or at a sale. Happy hunting.

Abebooks gets a plug in Israel weekly

Harratz International recently posted an interesting article about a Tel Aviv bookseller. I loved this article ... it really shows the power of the internet and how the bookselling can be effected by world politics (see anecdote at end of story).

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Evolving mass-market paperback

Mass market paperbacks, virtually worthless to all but the Amazon penny-seller, are undergoing a transformation. Publishers are beginning to introduce a new, larger format for their mass market titles. Penguin has already introduced its "Premium" version, taller and easier to read. It seems unlikely that these changes will dramatically alter the place of mass market titles in the online marketplace. While this new category will cost slightly more than the mass-market (but less than the trade), it is unlikely that these books will have the same success as large print books in the used marketplace.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Online Book Sales Help Students

The massive cost of textbook sales for university studies is abhorrent. With all of the improvement in equality of education, through financial aid and private scholarships, a major gauntlet still facing many students is the cost of books each semester. The competitive market of online used books has helped lower the market price of many titles. This discussion has reemerged with vigor on college campuses with the publication of "Rip-Off 101: How the Current Practices of the Textbook Industry Drive Up the Cost of College Textbooks." The study is worth reading including any spin-off articles from college campuses.

Dust Jacket / Cover Repair

At some point, especially at library sales or thrift stores, booksellers will find an great title in poor condition. Many are dissuaded from purchasing the title, even more purchase it and sell it at a discount because of its condition. There are alternatives however. In IOBA's industry magazine Bern Marcowitz discusses "Beautifying the Tattered Book Jacket Cover."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Books-a-Million Grows Significantly

Books-a-Million posted impressive income results for the fiscal year ending in January 2005. Net income increased by over 20 percent. The company owns 207 stores in 19 states and also sells online. The official wire release on their earnings statement can be found here. The site has seen increasing net sales through its new Bargain and B2B sections. They also offer a "hard to find" section, but I could not find any information on becoming an affiliate of this service. If anyone has any information on this, let me know.

Donate a Book

First Book is a great organization created to help put new books in the hands of children from limited means. I do not need to laud the powers a book can have to children to booksellers, but it is clearly an important endeavor. Take a look at their site and see if you can make a donation.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Yahoo Launches New Service

Yahoo! has recently launched a Small Business Resource Center. This resource will provide informative articles from Inc. and Entrepreneur will also serve as a marketplace for Yahoo's many small business services. Read the Reuters press release.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Network at BISG's Market Information Pay 2005

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) will offer a unique networking opportunity on 7 April at the Yale Club in NYC. Its "Market Information Pay" will bring in some of the biggest players in the industry to discuss the strategies of their success. Speakers include men and women from the upper-echelon of Barnes and Noble, Booksamillion, Baker and Taylor, and more. The cost is $45/$95 depending on your membership status with BISG. This is a great business opportunity for the professional bookseller.

Looking to Target a Local/Regional Niche?

For those booksellers with a local and/or regional niche, a new service launched by Kanoodle will provide advertising targeted to specific cities/regions. With the new "LocalTarget" Kanoodle will attempt to compete with search engine powerhouses Google/AdWords and Yahoo/Overture. (Reuters press release on launch of LocalTarget)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Here's to the Listings Services

After a recent comment regarding the negative postings on this blog, I wanted to take a moment to laud the listings services on the internet, especially ABE and Alibris. This venues provide an amazing opportunity for the independent and online seller. In some cases, these services have helped keep independent B&M stores in business. Moreover, by increasing competition and offering used books they are an important outlet for the consumer (especially the struggling grad student). Like any of man's creations, they are not without flaws, but we should all be thankful they exist. As an aside as of the Alibris article we counted (subjective of course) 4 positive articles, 5 negative, and 5 neutral. Sometimes just reading the titles can be misleading....

Ever think of going B&M?

I think that most online booksellers have dreamed of opening a brick and mortar store at some point. Despite the negative climate surrounding such an ambition, independent bookstores are both highly desirous and viable under the right management. To be successful, however, requires a large amount of knowledge, experience, and data.

The Little Professor group out of Michigan has been assisting independent bookstores since 2001. The information and start-up services provided by this organization can save new bookstores a lot of headaches and time. Its market analysis and support with the legal intricacies of small business are valuable assets. The group is worth taking a look at, if only for research purposes, if you are considering opening a B&M store. A new store in Plymouth just opened as an affiliate of Little Professor. We wish it all the luck.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Is Alibris Doomed?

Another down weekend at Alibris. It makes you wonder just how much longer this great site will be around. The fee structure and general organization for sellers makes it one of the most popular places to sell books online. The idea, using higher commissions (20%) instead of charging a monthly fee seems to make sense on paper, but for some reason the company remains in murky financial water.

As a nonactive follower of the Alibris message boards, it is clear the natives are getting restless. Complaints about the warehouse, seller support, and down time emerge multiple times a week. In fact, the sense is if it were not for one overbearing and belligerent pro-Alibris poster (planted?) chopping down the "whiners" the complaints would be much greater. It is obvious that the success of the site will depend on the amount of sellers they draw. In addition, the better the sellers do and the happier they are the less likely they are to cross-list (leads to cancelled orders) or completely leave the site altogether. Rumor has it that Alibris employees do not read the bookseller forum. Any semi-competent businessman would find this hard to believe, but if they do not perhaps that is their mistake. Alibris sellers need to step up and fight for their rights - and in so doing the longevity of Alibris itself. Perhaps they should follow the lead of eBay's "powersellers" who have had some success in voicing their opinion.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

eBay Open to Attack

Recently, eBay discovered a software glitch that left open the possibility for hackers to scam consumers through an authentic eBay link. These "phishing" attempts have grown exponentially recently. This attempt, however, is unique because of its use of a legitimate URL to "hook victims."

A Threat to the Industry?

Does the electronic age pose a threat to the book industry? Can the most sophisticated ebook viewer replace the worn-in recliner as a means of inducing hours of quality reading? In the humble opinion of this blogger, the industry faces less of a threat than a challenge. Recently, in England, Caroline Michel (Harpers) discussed this very problem. According to Michel, a "mix of wild optimism and gloomy dispair" encompass the industry now. Michel's speech, reprinted in full, eloquently speaks to the "threat" from a vaunted position in the industry. A worthwhile read.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Are You Ready? The New 13-digit ISBN

Think typing in those 10-digit ISBN's can be tedious? Just wait until 2007 when the number will expand to thirteen digits! The US ISBN agency will be joining the international community to add the extra numbers to book IDs. Existing 10-digit ISBNs will have the prefix "978" added to covert to the new standard. The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) offers an informative look at the change as well as links to other pertinent websites.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Merits of Used Books

The used book portion of the industry is on the rise. Depending on who you ask this can be a wonderful trend or a industry threat. Without a doubt independent online sellers are pushing this trend. The internet and these independent sellers combine forces fostering a market with intense competition and low prices. If the consumer is willing to purchase a used book he or she should both be offered one on the market and offered it at a fair price. The ultimate winner is not just the consumer, but also the used bookseller (usually an independent) who offers these books. Mainstream news is beginning to highlight this trend and delineate the merits of used books. One of the most recent articles from the Mercury News does just that.

Independents Benefit from "Booksense"

Increasing name recognition and web traffic for independent booksellers' website can be a daunting task. The cost of a full-fleged media campaign can be expensive and/or inappropriate for some booksellers. Booksense.com, a cooperative of independent bookstores, is a great attempt to solve these problems. Booksense offers a national marketing, gift card programs, bestseller lists, store locator service, and other great features for the independent bookseller online.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Harvard Study Looks at Auction Snipers

Harvard economist Alvin E. Roth recently completed a study of the online auction buying technique known as "sniping." Roth found that 37% of auctions have bids in the last minute and 12% in the last 10 seconds. The B School's Working Knowledge recently interviewed Roth and printed a concise article that delineates some of his methodology and findings.