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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Room for Growth?

A recent article discussing internet book sales to college students implies that there is significant room for growth within this niche. Based on most available statistics, less than 1/5 of students purchase their textbooks online. The real key for online booksellers is tapping into the freshman/sophmore classes who may be less aware of textbook options. It could be highly beneficial for some interest group, like IOBA, to run a marketing campaign this August to reach this market.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Multiple ISBN look-up

Well we've finally found it... A multiple ISBN look-up for the new/used bookseller. SkuFlow, owner of MyRemainders (link exchange partner), announced the unveiling of a multiple ISBN look-up website called PocketWatch. At first, the search supported one ISBN, but after the suggestion of one if its sellers (fellow remainder junkie Lucas Ames of LRABooks, another link exchange partner) the service was quickly adapted to allow for up to 10 ISBN's at one time. This service not only works on your home computer, but is also compatible with your PDA and cell phone. Since it scans Amazon only, it is extremely fast and highly efficient (although it does miss out on market prices at Half.com). Nevertheless, it is the perfect alternative as an Amazon scan will still pick out most Abe and Alibris books as well. We're just getting familiar with Skuflow's services, but thus far are impressed with what we've seen, more to come.

Counter Googling

We've all had fun Googling our friends, family, and yes..... even ourselves. Trendwatching newsletter published an article exploring the benefits of "counter-googling." This phenomena seeks to push businesses one step ahead of customers who google your business to learn more about you. This is an interesting marketing technique, if seemingly common-sensical.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Alibris IPO mention... again

An April 25 posting from CFO.com alludes to Alibris IPO experience, marking the second time in less than a week such an article has surfaced. The article discusses the cost of IPO printing costs and is a tad esoteric for the non-market follower. I figured, though, that given the recent article posted here this one was also worth a post.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

To eBay or not to eBay?

EBay, even independent of its subsidiary Half.com, has long been a leader in the online book business. Although, many traditional booksellers scoff at this market (mostly out of a vacuous hubris or an antiquated ideal), it remains a preferred venue for some sellers. The magnanimous volume of consumers browsing the site's contents makes it an appealing outlet for any merchant. However, with a continued slow down in book sales, along with new fee structures, and auction alternatives many sellers find themselves turning away from eBay and as a recent article notes, booksellers are not the only ones reevaluating their options.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Looking Back on the Alibris IPO

The issues surrounding the failed Alibris IPO last year have become infused with rumors and speculation among booksellers (Wiki: IPO). Therefore, I was delighted (and surprised) when Reuters featured Alibris CEO Manley in a recent article about auction vs. traditional IPOs. No mention of future plans of course. I am hoping someone steps up and infuses some practical business knowledge into this company before we lose one of the greats. Perhaps we can reference Mr. Manley to last months post about a self-taught MBA (title: The Useless MBA).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Keep Your Customers Coming Back

I occasionally try and post tips relating to return customers. With the difficulties facing independent small business and web traffic, I think winning return customers is essential to a successful online bookseller. Entrepreneur (publishers of the magazine under the same moniker) now has posted an article with some interesting tips. Some of the things we have already tried, but the article gave us new perspectives on why we should be employing these tactics.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Email Marketing Survey

Online booksellers maintaining their own sites often have trouble with sustained traffic and/or traffic growth. One of the easiest ways to market a site is through email. However, entangled in this approach is the ethical dilemma of spam (what should be considered spam, etc). A study published in April 2005 gives some insight into how e-business sees email marketing, how it uses it, and how successful it is. The article is quite interesting with a multitude of graphs and quantitative data.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Slow Spring Sales

We've received many emails from sellers frustrated with a lack of sales beginning late March and continuing into April. There is not doubt there was some problems with Alibris during their transition to the new fee structure (caused in part by the massive uploads/inventory changes). In addition, this tends to be one of the slowest times of the year annually. We have suffered from the same slowness. On the positive side, though, things seem to be picking up. Fight the urge to banish online bookselling to a perpetual downward spiral. Find new ways to add to your inventory, take calculated risks, and always plan. Most importantly, use the extra time to take extra care of your customers. Slow periods often serve to highlight loyal customers, take time to recognize them - it's worth it.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Unraveling the E-Myth

In general, I have mixed feelings about popular self-improvement and business how-to manuals; however, there is one definite exception to this rule: the E-Myth books. In 1977, Michael Gerber created E-Myth Worldwide to empower "small businesses to overcome the grave challenges threatening their survival." Since then, his company has grown into a virtual empire in business consulting. Gerber spends most of his time doing speaking tours and writing books. In general, these books are phenomenal. In addition, they sell very well. Even the used older ones have relatively high market prices. Not every online seller will appreciate or deem useful his books, but its worth looking at their synopses to see if one catches your eye.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Speaking of an international boost...

I recently posted on the hope of an impending bounce for ChooseBooks sales from its international partner ZVAB. Right on the heels of Michael's update on that project, Biblio sent us a press release announcing a new partnership with one of Australia's leading listings services Biblioz. Similar to Alibris, but unlike Choose, most international sales will be sent to a central receiving center who will then send the item internationally. This could really boost Biblio sales for those enrolling in the program. Between the two rising(?) stars and discontent on their own site Alibris may face a big challenge in the future.

Booksellers on the go

Summer is coming and despite obscenely high gasoline prices, most people will hit the road at some point for a break from home. As I mentioned earlier, one of our favorite stops in a new town is the local independent bookstore. Well our habit is now enhanced by Larry Portzline's great new blog on Bookstore Tourism. Our favorite part is the special position granted to independents in the blog's summary.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Let There Be Light... At Choosebooks?

After months of quiet from ChooseBooks administration, its former owner Michael, sent out an email (4/11/05) regarding the merger with European book giant ZVAB. Many sellers at Choose have been complaining about poor sales, or more precisely, poorer sales than usual. After Michael's elucidation, sellers learned that the merger is currently still in its nascent phase in terms of sharing sales and sellers inventory. As it stands now, only small banner ads advertise each's sister site. For many, this gives some hope that after credit card and database synchronization sales through Choosebooks may still increase. In any event, I highly recommend giving the site a chance (or a second chance),it may pay off in the near future.

The Future of ABE

The Book Standard recently published an article about the future of ABE. This article's point of departure compares the site and its planned growth to Amazon. The comparison alone is enough to scare its independent sellers, however, some of their plans scare us even more.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Buy Independent

When traveling, one place we always stop is the local independent bookstore. It means a lot that these stores still exist and we encourage everyone to patronize them when possible. As an online seller we often see these courageous men and women selling online. Online sales have kept many stores a float in an attempt to supplement in store sales. Indeed, their lot is a dying breed, but recently featured in the news was a Portsmouth, NH store which is doing quite well and boldly predicts a long term existence. Read the article from the Portsmouth Herald. Oh, and we have been and it is definitely worth stopping by.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Conflict of Interest at Alibris

Alibris again has left its booksellers scratching their heads. In a recent effort to clearance some of their warehouse inventory, the company has repriced books below their standard minimum of $2.95. The move seems egregious on a few levels. Primarily, they never told their sellers about such a move. An email expressing sincere motives probably would be enough to placate most of their sellers. Secondly, they are lowering the minimum price on select titles without giving sellers the opportunity to do the same. This seems to be a conflict of interest that goes beyond Alibris' normal selling tactics (placing their items first, etc). This new development, in the shadow of recent fee structure changes, has really left even its loyal sellers wondering what the hell is going on in Sparks.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Need a Fake Email Address?

Spam got you down? I've been there. I almost became "one of those" who filters their email by having a service confirm your existence with an extra click. But I just couldn't do it. I have scored some significant victories in the fight against spam by setting up a junk mail account. Over time this greatly decreased the amount of spam in my box. Even this method can be tedious with having one more username and password to remember. Lifehacker, however, today shared with the world PookMail, an extremely easy way to set-up a disposable email account.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Amazon Expands at its Roots

Amazon recently announced the acquisition of BookSurge, a print-on-demand company. This is an interesting move in terms of how it will play of for online booksellers. On one hand, printing those classics that have been mass produced over and over (like Barnes does) will not have a huge impact. However, this new service may effect more than a few out-of-print titles which still hold solid market prices. In addition, those booksellers supporting foreign language titles may find this new competition less than welcome. On a positive note, this new service will bring additional traffic to the site and therefore increase the visibility of those booksellers who choose to compete. Read the Motley Fool's take on the acquisition in general.

Finding YOU on eBay

Too many eBay sellers out there do not do enough to cash in on return customers. However, with good customer service, low prices, and a quality books sellers can win over eBayers as return customers. These buyers may return to browse your listings, search your store before searching everyone, or even give you a referral. EBay realizes this and has recently changed the way you can search for members listings. In addition, you can do small things yourself. One of my favorites is sharing your story. Some buyers out there are looking to buy from certain types of stores (e.g. small town bookstore or last independent left in Boise, etc). Tell your story in an unobtrusive, not overbearing way in (3 words ... or 20!) on your invoice, correspondence, follow-up, etc. You may be surprised at the results.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Give A Blog Some Love!

Through the wonderfully voyeuristic technology of the 21st century anyone can keep a pretty good track on who visits their website. In most cases I see this as one of those extremely scary things downfalls of the technology revolution. Recently though I have noticed a number of leads posted here showing up on other blogs. Initially this was an exciting revelation, until it occurred over and over with no attribution given to us (even occurring on very heavy traffic sites). Perhaps this is pure coincidence. These great webtools that we mentioned, however, tend to reveal some awfully curious IP coincidences. Don't get me wrong, I think that it is awesome for other blogs to use our leads - just give us some credit for bringing it to your attention.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Did we say religion books?

A few posts back I pointed out the strong genre of religion books in today's online market. Obviously, current events have increased this strength of this trend. Keep a special eye out for books on John Paul, they are exceptionally hot right now. The boon on this one may be quick so be wise in your purchases - you just may find these same books in the bargain bin 6 months from now.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Online booksellers in the news


Friday, April 01, 2005

Dell Axim PDA as a bookselling tool

I recently purchased the Dell Axim x50 and I absolutely love it. It is perfect for the bookseller on the go. I got annoyed with typing in clunky cell phones and excessive amounts of pens and paper littered throughout my jackets. With Bluetooth and a wireless card I have even priced books at a library sale with it without paying for any service. It also keeps my huge list of wanted books which is a major plus. It is definitely a splurge, but if you are a bookseller and a technie this may be the best purchase you make this year. Looking for a bargain? The slightly older x30 with 64mg of RAM also has these components with less memory.