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Thursday, September 29, 2005

New York Times Does Some Research

Today, the New York Times ran just about the same article as the Washington Post did yesterday. It is comforting to note, however, that finally a major newspaper (after the Chicago Tribune bungled it, then yesterday's WP article) writes about online/used bookselling and mentions the academic study we've posted many times. Again, this study demonstrates that these sales do not "devastate" new book sales, thereby hurting publishers and authors. It is good to see the writers of one major newspaper are doing their homework.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Washington Post on used book sales

An interesting article on the used book industry with much attention paid to online sales. Unfortunately, the article repeats the misguided notion that used book sales drastically cut into new book sales. As we reported before (see: Academic study's abstract) a study from some top academic institutions has demonstrated this is not the case.

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.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Representing the internet selling community

Another panel at the Book Standard Summit featured a top listings service executive. Abebooks COO Boris Wertz defended the online booksellers system and encouraged brick and mortar sellers recently in a session discussing the future of book retailing. "It is not either [online sellers or brick and mortar stores]," said Wertz, "I believe that technologies that increase visibility and sales of books will have an overall positive effect [on booksellers] that will be much, much bigger."” (Read more about the session)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Manley "Stoned" at Tech Summit

Sorry, but you can scratch visions of a giddy Manley (CEO, Alibris) peering out from behind a smoky podium at the The Book Standard Summit technology session... No this posting has to do with an outrageous comment by John Sargent, CEO of megapublisher and corporate giant Holtzbrinck Publishers. After Manley said that by 2015 used booksellers will claim 20 percent of book sales, Sargent quipped, "I am hoping that [by 2015] Marty is stoned out of business." Oh boy, look out internet sellers... Sargent is on the prowl. I think the German "blood and iron" culture is seeping down from Stuttgart to Holtzbrinck USA offices. (Article link).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Amazon: Goodbye to you all

Abebooks was the first to come out and say it, but it is definite: Amazon has informed all of its multiple partner sellers (like Alibris' network of independent sellers) that they will no longer be accepting their titles for list. This will be a huge blow for many sellers. Amazon generates a plurality of total sales for our Alibris used book inventory (under 1,000) . Nevertheless, Alibris has confirmed to us they will continue to target new outlets for their sellers' books. The actions in the past few months seem to prove this statement. Abebooks, on the other hand seems to be turning inward, already the #5 site for book sales (Amazon, Half, BN, Alibris, Abe) one has to wonder... can they generate enough sales to make it a viable outlet for their sellers?

Abe- No response

We attempted to contact Abebooks for a few questions regarding the changes occuring at the site and within listings services in general. To this we received no response. Unfortunately, I feel this typifies the company's approach to seller's concerns and is a good indicator that they don't really have any good answers for us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Abe's Standing Eight

The world of online listings services has evolved rapidly in the past 6 months. The unprecedented growth of Biblio, the fee structure change at Alibris, the exclusive Alibris-BN agreement all have changed the face of online bookseller immensely. I think everyone was surprised to hear about, what may be, a cataclysmic change for Abebooks. In an email sent on 20 September Abebooks CEO Hannes Blum did his best to put a good face on an awful change at Abe- sellers' listings will no longer be cross-listed on Amazon. This has the potential to be a big windfall for both Biblio and Alibris if they play their cards right. Alibris' changes have placed it in a strong pouncing position already and Biblio seems to offer the best seller services, but will its sales ever catch-up to its hype...? - I hope so. Also, don't disregard the possibility of Abe eventually getting sucked up by another (Alibris seems to have a penchant for doing so) listings service as it teeters.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Abe Hires New Technical Director

"Abebooks Inc. recently hired John Davis as the online book retailer's director of technical operations. Before joining Abebooks, Davis was in charge of business continuity operations at Research in Motion, an Ontario-based designer, manufacturer and marketer of wireless applications. Davis also spent four years at Datawest Solutions Inc. (Open Solutions Canada) in Vancouver as operations manager. At Abebooks.com, Davis is responsible for the business processes and technical resources for a network of five e-commerce sites, the company says. Abebooks had 2004 web sales of about $130 million." (Courtesy of Internet Retailer)


Monday, September 19, 2005

Biblio Grows 25% in Three Months

About three months ago we passed along a press release from Biblio that stated the site had reached 20 million book listings. Now, we have a similar release to share stating Biblio has reached 25 million listings. The release also reports it has enrolled 600 new independent booksellers during this time. As an aside, I am still befuddled as to the double entendre strategy in the headline, but that's just me, I mean an allusion to the "size" debate from our listings service....? Press release link.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Off We Go

We are off this morning to the New England Booksellers Association Trade Show in Providence. Stop by and see us, working in LRABooks capacity, if you are attending.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Alibris and Web Analytics

Internet Retailer has a decent article discussing the nuts and bolts behind Alibris' marketing approaches - well, not your standard marketing approaches, but approaches of the 21st century. Keyword analysis, multichannel selling, and the like. Kind of interesting for those of us dweebs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Gas Too Expensive? Buy Holiday Gifts Online!

While it is absolutely freightening that people are actually holiday shopping already, it is an undeniable fact. The Tuscon Citizen even ran a column tieing your present-shopping to high gas prices. Their answer- buy online! Half and Alibris both get mentions (if misleading) as two places to find books.

VA Law Helps Students Buy Online

This year, the Virginia State Legislature passed a law requiring all public universities to post students' book lists online. This law, intended to give students greater flexibility when choosing which market to buy their books (essentially to undercut the bookstore's inherent competitive advantage) has helped both students and online sellers. Moreover, according one article, it seems university bookstores aren't doing so bad themselves as total sales revenue continues to increase.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Amazon Makes it "Clearer"

Yesterday afternoon Amazon announced that it would be restructuring its order notices to sellers. They have created an image to help sellers understand the change. Basically, the change is purely cosmetic and informs sellers of their total fee paid to Amazon (including shipping hold-back) on one line. I am not sure which is more confusing the actual change itself or why they did it.

Price War: Buy vs. Amazon

Buy.com recently announced that it will be undercutting Amazon prices on all books by 10%. Company brass seem to indicate that the move is indefinite, possibly permanent. Little good news here for online sellers. Consequences may include a diminished market share for Amazon (which also means less impressions for used sellers) and a further slash at already cut throat book prices. (reference link)

Monday, September 12, 2005

A New Listings Service for Textbooks

Three young entrepreneurs/web developers have begun a journey into the exciting world of online textbook sales. Starvingscholars.com will offer a Craigslist-esqe website connecting buyers and sellers of textbooks. This article from a local newspaper, gives some insight into a site still its infancy, but wide-eyed with optimism.

Part of me wanted to take this post and turn it into a diatribe on textbook websites, but my Upstate NY roots won over and I shall simply pass this along. And well... if Richard Davies (of Abebooks) opening the floodgates, well who am I to stand in the way... Ahem...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Generating Sales Through Referrals

Based on my experience, I believe that online booksellers are not doing enough to help themselves when it comes to earning return customers and benefiting from referrals. Most companies, especially small ones, bank on these two types of sales as a major, and consistent, part of their total sales revenue. If you are a bookseller who HAS NOT developed a solid referral program, now is the time to do so. Do not neglect this part of sales because typical methods of executing such a program are not necessarily available to sellers using book listing service websites. You may have to think outside the box on this one, but it will be worth it. Entrepreneur has an article offering some "Smart Ways to Win Referrals." Some of these may or may not be relevant to your business, but it will help you get the creative juices flowing.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Prescription Drugs and Books

We all know by now that prescription drugs are much cheaper abroad than they are in the United States. But books? A recent article in the Boston Herald, bemoaning textbook costs, also discusses the price setting by publishers based on country (for example, Amazon.com vs Amazon.uk). Keep in mind that this is a commentary (written by a higher education professional), not a news article. However, if reporters begin taking on this story, it may create the same stir as the drug stories have done in the past year or so. These stories pop-up at the beginning of every semester, but especially so in the Fall. When we see a sustained movement, it will be time to seriously consider the consequences of these arguments. Nevertheless, we shall do a cursory tiptoe around some of the issues. The consequences of a strong movement in the spirit of this article, could be both bad and good for online booksellers. One the one hand, high list prices hurt the book industry in general and increase calls for exclusively ebook courses. High list prices, though, give students added incentive to find used books online. It also gives new (online) booksellers more room to squeeze below bookstore prices and yields stronger per unit revenue on all fronts.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Collectibles Sales Data

Slightly off topic, but still of some relevance... Auctionbytes recently posted an article on a website called Smart Collector. This site analyzes up to 120 days of eBay sales data to help you find pricing and other information about your item. I played around a little with this site and it seems like both a lot of fun and of some value to the lay antiquer and dealer alike. Registration is required but the service is free.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Try Amazon at Half Price

If you have never tried selling on Amazon directly, this may be a good time to try it. They have been offering new sellers 1/2 price (only $19.99/mo) Promerchant accounts for two months. Not a bad price for some good exposure and direct access to you AZ listings.

Gas and Shipping Costs

Man, it has to be a rough time for the accountants over at USPS. Different from the other major package carriers, the post office is stuck both with their current rates and no immediate possibility of a fuel surcharge. As online booksellers we can be thankful. One newspaper even mentions an Amazon used book seller in regards to being isolated from shipping increases. In any event, do not breath a sign of relief yet... Expect to see USPS losses from the last two quarters of this year to be tacked onto rate increases next year.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Alibris Sales Zoom Ahead

Alibris recently reported booming sales. Basically a boost from textbooks it seems, although numbers are significantly up from last year as well. Read the press release here.