We've moved to http://www.booksellingonlineblog.com

Friday, January 27, 2006

Alibris celebrates increase in sales, continues to slight its sellers

As press releases and niche articles praised Alibris' success in its venture with Coremetrics, sellers continued to complain about pitiful shipping reimbursements. Most cannot securely ship a 2lb without borrowing money from their book's gross profit to pay for shipping. This is a travesty as most consumers assume that the ridiculously high shipping cost they pay $3.49 (at times around 200% of the actual cost) would certainly trickle down enough to the independent seller shipping their book safely.

From the field: Bookstores unaffected despite online vendors

The UNLV newspaper recently published an article entitled, Bookstores unaffected despite online vendors, quoting the assistant manager of the campus bookstore on sales figures. According to the employee, the bookstore sales have remained stable from last year until this year.

This is good for online sellers, in one sense, because it gives the industry fodder against complaints about us come from these outlets (as you see in the article). However, it also shows, we haven't come far enough. Until all campus bookstores really feel the amount of sales we are taking away from them, we have work to do. However, it also demonstrates a severe problem that I've mentioned time and time again: weak-poor marketing to college campuses. This is especially true in the cases of Alibris and Biblio.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Just who are you competing with?

Online booksellers have long looked to remainder and overstock dealers to expand their inventory. Seemingly, a great idea, these sources provide extensive inventories, low prices, and the ability to buy lower quantities (3-25, compared to 500-10000 as remainder dealers do). [I have a pretty extensive knowledge of this end of online sales given our fledgling operations at Wholesale Remainders.]

What is turning into an increasingly apparent problem, however, is the existence of remainder dealers selling their wholesale titles on retail sites, effectively hurting market value and increasing competition. On my site, we quickly learned how this "double dipping" doesn't pay. While we sell on some listings services (inventory of around 500-1000 titles, depending on the site) still, we keep our wholesale books exclusively on our own site.

Unfortunately, for all remainder dealers, the fact is that it is purely within their rights to "double dip." This is frustrating for many online booksellers, but not necessarily outraging - one can simply take their business elsewhere. The problem comes when the remainder dealers begin using aliases to sell the books online and do not inform their reps or inform them to deny such accounts. This is a rampant problem, I was not aware of for some time. In fact, I often proclaimed to sellers bringing me this problem, that these dealer do not do this - I was wrong.

We encourage remainder dealers to do the same and implore online booksellers to demand of them compliance with this fair business practice.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Review: The Home-Based Bookstore

The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Website, by: Steve Weber (Falls Church, VA: Weber Books, 2006).

Bookselling online is becoming recognized one of the fast growing sectors of the publishing industry. There is no doubt that sales are booming. Relative to other industries, this trade has an incredibly low barrier to entry, making competition incredibly cut-throat. New sellers will embrace this book as a comprehensive manual that further erodes this barrier, older and professional sellers may have their reservations.

No matter what your beginning apprehensions, one cannot doubt the clarity and comprehensiveness with which Weber's book is written. While anecdotes and narratives are sparse, the book moves quickly given its informational nature. Weber's writing style is simple and to the point - a perfect technique for this type of book.

On the negative side, I would say the book is too focused on Amazon. It is clear this is where Weber's expertise is, and on that level the book is comprehensive. Regarding alternative sites, one might be searching for a little more depth. In addition, the book fails to mention this humble blog. Of course, I think this is a faux pas, but that is just my humble opinion.

I am not sure the experienced online bookseller will find more than a few new pieces of information in here, but nascent sellers would be well advised to wrangle up a copy and I highly encourage them to do so.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Book Burro - The Firefox Book Agent

For those of you who are part of the Firefox revolution, you may be interested in trying a new extension: Book Burro. The extension "senses" when you are viewing a book and will automatically find the price of the book at Abe, Alibris, Amazon, Half, and other non-listings services sites. You can also choose to deselect a site if you would prefer not to shop their or see their price. This is a cute little tool and worth downloading. (Via Lifehacker)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Rare book collecting article

A great article discussing rare book collecting and featuring ABE was posted online over the weekend from an Irish news agency. Those both deeply involved in the antiquarian trade and involved not at all can enjoy this piece. (Article Link)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Big Surprise: BN Holiday Sales Stagnate

Barnes and Noble online sales demonstrated almost no growth in 2005, despite a 25% increase in holiday ecommerce sales in general. This is hardly surprising. One of the main reasons for this is the growing popularity of Amazon. One of the major reasons for this is their strong used marketplace listings service. This allows customers to find "deals" on the site, meaning they are more likely to return to Amazon for all of their book purchases. Barnes and Noble offers used books through Alibris sellers, but does not highlight these copies and prints no pricing information unless you click their "Used copies available..." link. Seems like a no-brainer to me...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

2005 Sales Numbers Strong

According to Nielsen BookScan, purchases increased by just over 9 percent. This is a strong statement for the book industry. It confirms, what I've been echoing all year, regarding the inability of the e-book industry to really take hold. Moreover, it has to debase publishers' (and especially the Authors' Guild) complaints that online sales are having a devastating effect on bookstore sales (especially given the strong year we had as well). Link: Full news article

Monday, January 09, 2006

Not perfect, but an attempt

I do not think Half.com's new shipping reimbursement policy (see below) is perfect, but it does show an appreciation for the site's sellers. One concern that, I believe, many have failed to comprehend is the fact that many non-professional sellers (hobbyists if you will), will begin shipping books with less than sufficient packing material to save on costs. This will be a continuing problem and the negative customer experience will in turn reflect poorly on the site itself. With more than their share of nonprofessional dealers, Half made a very wise move here.

Half.com will change reimbursement rates for sellers.

Media Mail Rates
Hardcover Books will increase from $2.33 to $2.78
Softcover Books and Audiobooks will increase from $1.94 to $2.40
CDs and DVDs will increase from $1.89 to $2.09
Video Games will increase from $1.89 to $2.65
VHS Movies will not increase, remaining at $1.94

Priority Mail Rates
All product categories will increase to $5.01 from $4.70 with the exception of Hardcover Books which will increase to $5.04

Buyer rates will also change. The new rate schedule for buyers will be as follows:

Media Mail
Hardcover Books: $3.70
Softcover Books and Audiobooks: $3.25
CDs and DVDs: $2.69
Video Games: $3.25
VHS Movies will remain unchanged at $2.79

Priority Mail
Hardcover Books: $5.79
All other product categories: $5.30

These changes will go into effect on Monday, January 9th (just after midnight). All help text will be updated with the new values and complete details by approximately 7am Pacific Time on Monday.

Thanks to all of the people who emailed with their thoughts on this important topic. We take any change in shipping rates very seriously and only make these changes after careful consideration. We feel these changes will help our loyal selling community stay profitable while continuing to provide great value for buyers.

BSOB drops Alibris affiliation

If a site cannot figure out to pay its sellers equitably for their shipping costs, it does not deserve the backing of this blog. Not really much else to say except continue to support Biblio. And even despite some shady dealings and lackluster sales, ABE may be worth considering.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Thanks Students

A couple of college newspapers, already publishing again after the holiday vacation, have given the online bookselling industry props in recent articles.

Internet lets students avoid book racket, Ohio University
WWWords of thanks for the World Wide Web, University of Washington

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Alibris affiliation in question

Many of you may already know that Amazon will not be altering its shipping credit to sellers when the USPS increases its rates this weekend. I have never really endorsed Amazon on this blog and am, quite frankly, not surprised. Alibris on the other hand I did choose to add as an affiliate (see relavent blog posting) after a great deal of consideration. Recently, I removed the Alibris search banner from this blog. I have retained them as an affiliate in text links, but will most definitely remove this affiliation and our endorsement should they choose not to increase the shipping reimbursement for its sellers.

As a seller, I have obvious reasons for disagreeing with underpaying shipping, but from a consumer standpoint, it is equally bad. As a consumer, I understand I am paying shipping and handling for the product purchased. I trust that reputable sites are not gouging me in handling fees. As it is right now, the Alibris shipping charges can represent as much as DOUBLE what it actually costs to ship the product. Just as bad, if I were to learn that the seller actually lost money when shipping my book (just in postage remember- we're not even talking about proper packaging) I would be equally inflammed.

Cheers to Biblio and Abebooks for implementing sensable moldules for shipping charges.

At ABE all sellers are NOT created equal

I have done additional research on this topic and have received further documentation of ABE offering special commission arrangements to certain sellers. As we've amassed more and more documentation the ABE community has done from vehement denials to noncommuncation with this blog on this issue. The last email left the ball in the court of Sue Connors, Director of Sales and Account Management. It read, "If ABE denies arranging a 5% commission for certain sellers, after the commission rates were changed, please make your statement clear. You are being rather vague." We have received no response to this email from 3 January. I've given this issue enough play it is clear what is going on here. All sellers are ABE are NOT created equal.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Free Service From LRABooks

We are now offering a free multi-ISBN look up. This site is compatible with mobile devices and accepts up to 100 ISBNs at a time. The results are also exportable into Excel which makes it easy to sort/store information. Because it takes so many ISBNs, give it some time to run its course, it'll still be way faster than entering ten at a time.

Site runs free courtesy of Wholesale Remainders/LRABooks.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Follow-up to posting on Abe/Follett

I appreciate the attention that has been given to the blog regarding my posting, Are All Sellers Created Equal? I wanted to confirm that, at this point, I stand behind the posting with increasing evidence to back it up. I received an official response from Abe yesterday and will post that by the end of the day should their position remain the same. I hope to follow-up on this posting further in the coming week. Happy New Year!