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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blog Affiliate Disclosure

I am proud of the success this blog has had over the past few months. Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, recently the postings have become less prolific. In an attempt to reallocate my business duties with LRABooks to a new part-time employee (to give me a few hours a day for the blog), I have tried some revenue generating strategies (see the right side bar). Our original foray into affiliate marketing was, of course, AdSense. Since then we've attempted to support the best independent listings service, Biblio. I've avoided affiliate programs with Amazon and Alibris. After some deliberation, I have decided to add an Alibris ad to our line-up of affiliates. I have been impressed by the changes Alibris has made recently and the support they have given our blog. I will still encourage all online booksellers to make Biblio their primary account, if possible. In addition, we now are offering extremely reasonable ads to our readers and the book industry. Simply find the Advertise Here link on the right side bar for more information. Ads start at 30 cents a day for text and $1 a day for image ads.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

College Textbook Deals

The amount of stories popping into our inbox about ways students can save money on textbooks is phenomenal. The most recent was a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Shave Costs on Textbooks" which featured online purchasing along with other tips. In general, all of these stories mean good news for online sellers, but maybe not immediately. Within the next week most students will have purchased all of their primary books, leaving only a few stragglers. Hopefully these stories will stay fresh in parents and students heads long enough to plan for the Spring semester.

Monday, August 29, 2005

USPS Price Increases

By now, most people have heard that the USPS hopes to raise rates a healthy amount sometime after the turn of the year. I do not particularity see a problem with this, especially considering the amount gas costs these days. Other shippers are dinging consumers with fuel charges, a luxury the USPS cannot flippantly apply. If you a numbers junkie or government watch-dog type, the USPS keeps most of its financial reports online. When these changes do go into effect, booksellers need to fight not only for an increase in shipping reimbursement (which should be a given), but also for listings services to maintain shipping prices for consumers. Bumping their S/H costs will hurt bookseller's sales significantly. Given the large amount of cushion (about 34% on Alibris) these sites already have, it only makes sense to leave consumer shipping charges alone. Of course, this will hurt the bottom line of these sites, but an increase in shipping fees may decrease sales enough to make it unworth the change anyway. Then again, the best alternative, in this regard, may be to reinvest time in those sites which allow you to make these decisions yourself, like Biblio.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New College Book Buying Information

Today's issue of Shelf Awareness shared some new information from two separate studies.

  • 91% of students living on-campus go online every day.
  • Price or word of mouth recommendation encourage students to visit a website most.
  • Students purchase about 16% of their textbooks online.
  • When purchasing online 74% do it from an online store, 31% from the college bookstore's site, and 5% from a student-created site.
The statistics generally follow those we've quoted here. If you take 74 percent of the 16 percent of books bought online, you get 11.84 percent of college textbooks being purchased from a store similar to those where we sell our books.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bookstore Flop Houses

For some time, we have witnessed the flop house-esqe nature of Starbucks: one person sprawled across the biggest table, using three chairs, and talking on his or her cell phone. Over the past year, I have noticed the same thing occurring at Barnes and Noble and other chain bookstores. Given the dearth of Starbucks-esqe seating, however, people flop wherever they can, including the floor. The New York Times printed a great article yesterday discussing this new and disturbing trend and alludes to how it effects independents as well. What makes this trend altogether much more disturbing than Starbucks is that it impedes the natural aim of a bookstore: to sell books. Perhaps, it will begin pushing more customers to buy online....

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Abe's Marketers Show Promise, Then Falter

Laud the Abebooks marketing team one day (see our Abe's Marketing Department Scores Big post), scathe them the next. That's the spirit around here it seems. It is hard to avoid, however, after receiving a copy of Abebooks' most recent press release with today's news leads. Scarred by typos and and an awkward lead sentence (did they miss the first day of Marketing 101?), Abe's attempt to piggyback on the recent GAO report does not improve from there. The example book (to delineate its point about saving money by buying books online) to be quite honest, doesn't impress me as a bookseller or a consumer. In fact, the $89 price quoted by Abe's own PR hardly compares to a copy on Amazon right now offered by lear732000 for $69.99 (which will no doubt be gone soon). Now that $69.99 is a good price, nice... half off... perfect. Finally, Abe, don't come at me with all this American students mumbo jumbo, hooray, hooray for the disdain and then so proudly declare the fact that you are a foreign company, mentioning offices across the globe.... except in the US. Now, with all that said and soap box discarded, we cannot fault them in their goal of increasing online booksales among college students. For this, ALL online booksellers should be thankful.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Alibris and B&N... Ready to Go

Alibris says that Barnes and Noble is ready to launch its new used book system this week with Alibris books included. Rumor has it that the system will begin functioning sometime Tuesday, but really kick into gear later this week. On a related matter, Alibris remains the exclusive partner for B&N used books. Questions were raised after Barnes and Noble wrote it was signing up many more independent dealers.

Koen Wholesalers Fold

In today's newsletter, Shelf Awareness reports that Koen Book Distributors will not make it out of Chapter 11 and will be folding. This marks the end of a sad story, that saw some glimmer of hope this past month after the wholesaler filed for Chapter 11. It is no secret that independent sellers on the East Coast loved Koen for its commitment to their stores and an independent voice within the book industry. I went digging on Google News for any further stories about Koen and could not find any as of 10:20EST today, the Shelf Awareness article does a pretty good job anyway.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Indictment Against Former Interloc Exec Revived

Thankfully, the indictment against former Interloc (now a part of Alibris) executive Bradford Councilman has been revived. The case involves crucial Internet privacy issues. In seems that, back in the day, Interloc systematically spied on all emails sent from Amazon to users of its mail service. Alibris has already paid $250,000 USD in fines for the guilty pleas of two other Interloc defendants. To get the full scope, check out the Forbes article.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On Amazon Sales Rankings

We've had a lot of customers from our wholesale site call us and ask about Amazon sales rankings recently. I did some informal research on this "tool" last year and wanted to share what I found. The most important thing, which most booksellers already know, is to purchase books based on title and content. That is to say, AZ sales rank should be an peripheral factor at best. The problem with referencing a book's sales ranking on one random day is that it does not take into account cyclical or seasonal bounces. For example, we sell many academic books. Some of these titles sell every January without fail (someone obviously has an annual Spring class using the book), but remain dormant for the rest of the year killing its sales rank. Another example is a book we previewed with a sales rank of 1.5 million+. I am all about researching trends and news bits so I had a hunch this book would begin selling again despite its low ranking. Indeed when a piece of news with similar content became "the big story", sales of that book rebounded. One solid way of using AZ sales ranking is to do so in conjunction with Jungle Scan. This free service allows you to track a book's ranking over time and may even have data already stored for that title (if someone else has requested it). Basically, my point is, weigh Amazon Sales Rankings lightly - rely on your own expertise above all.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Chicago Tribune Misrepresents Used Book Sales

We recently posted a link to a New York Times article that discussed a scholarly study (a NYU/Carnegie Mellon collaboration) of the used book market. The jist of the article was that publishers and authors are not severely devastated by used book sales. In fact, if they are even hurt at all, it is only marginally. The article(s) did establish enough credibility to be at least alluded to in any attack or defense of internet used book sales. Judy Artunian of the Chicago Tribune, however, seems to disagree. Her article title, "Like New Books: Instant Used Books Sad Story for Authors" gives the impression used books are the bane of authors' existence. While she does allude to the possibility of benefits coming from used book sales at the very end of her article, her true beliefs are already cemented in the reader's mind. Ms. Artunian's omission of the very recent study is proof of her sloppy research and poor fact checking. The most basic research on used book markets (a basic news search of the last two weeks who have given you the NYT article) would have revealed both the NYT article and the citation for the academic study. (Link: Academic study abstract)

Abe's Marketing Department Scores Big

Finally an online bookseller hits the university market... and hits it hard. We've been thinking a lot about this Fall's GET SMART program for the past few weeks and have only grown more impressed. This Fall Abebooks will look to emerge as the premiere alternative to Amazon and the college bookstore. I've posted on here multiple times at how meek revenues are for online sellers of the textbook market (a mere 10%) . Abe's promotion will target two million college students and hand-out 400,000 coupon booklets. In addition, with support from Sony and Microsoft, Abe builds legitimacy within a market where its name goes largely unrecognized. Excellent move Abe and... thank you.

Friday, August 05, 2005

B&N Disappointment, Hope

Alibris sellers were pretty happy with their new-found monopoly on Barnes and Noble used book sales. Little did they know they'd be without B&N for two weeks this month. Any way you cut it, it is a rough time to go down. Back-to-school sales are revving up and, after the summer doldrums, sellers definitely need every opportunity to sell books. Despite this temporary set back, the Alibris faithful have to be cautiously optimistic about the potential for increased sales through B&N. We're talking NEW customers which means ADDITIONAL sales. Many people have argued that the only change for booksellers will be a swing in the market share for affiliate sites. This overlooks a key fact: B&N serves thousands of faithful customers and now these faithful represent a new customer base for online booksellers. The potential is there for a big increase. We're not talking about an immediate impact, but if B&N remains committed to this project it could be a huge boon for Alibris sellers.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Increase Online Sales

Entrepreneur recently posted a great article entitled 12 Ways to Increase Online Sales. While not all are relevant, there are some really good tips for sellers who manage their own website. As an aside, for those sellers who do not, we highly recommend using, at least as one of your seller venues, a listings service that offers a direct and static link to your listings, like our preferred site Biblio.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Trend Watch: Spanish Language Books

We've been posting a bit on the exponential growth of the Spanish-language books market. Another California newspaper has chosen to pick up this topic. It is an interesting article with some empirical data and background for you (free subscription required).

Monday, August 01, 2005

Biblio Featured, Praised in Article

Biblio.com continues to receive positive reviews from the press. The most recent article is a gushing feature on Biblio. The article discusses its charity work, unique commission program, and out-of-print books. (Link)