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Friday, March 31, 2006

Follow-up on Better World Books

Back when I discussed the Alibris/Better World Books deal, Mr. Helgesen from Better World Books, agreed to send us a 100-word piece on his organization. Regrettably, we have yet to hear from him. This is one of those irksome stories that I want to keep discussing out of principle, but feel it would be better to let rest. Sorry.

Welcome, Tower Records

Tower Records, the struggling CD joint, has just opened up an online bookstore. Tower, which once represented the "hip" place in cities to find new music and browse CDs, has continued to struggle since its bankruptcy in 2004. This represents an interesting move given its previous foray into bookselling in its B&M stores. The key for the company, if it wants true success, is successfully rebranding itself as a place for more than "records" - something it has yet to be able to to do - can anyone say, overdue for a name change? (Article link, Press release)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Alibris: 1 year later

It was one year ago this month that Alibris masked its new fee structure as a positive for its sellers. Since that time a series of sales crushing events have occurred at the site. Now in 2006, sellers are still wondering about Half.com and remain preoccupied about what new fee may come next.

Space and books

I would venture to say that most people reading this blog absolutely love books. If not for the content inside them, then at least for the earning potential provided by them. However, books make-up a high space consuming product. Given the obscene rate of real estate these days, that constitutes a significant concern.... but not just for businesses, but also for "bibliophiles." A great article was recently compiled by the Washington Post that discusses this dilemma for a few "bibliophiles." (Article link)

Paypal warning

Paypal phishing has been extremely prolific recently and now there is an explanation of why. It seems the eBay owned website has a security flaw that allows criminals to determine Paypal users' full names, giving an added layer of legitimacy to phishing emails. (Via Auction Bytes/Derek@LughnassadhBooks)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Paypal on the go

Paypal recently announced that you can send money using your mobile phone. It is as simple as sending a text message. I am not sure if people are looking for another vulnerability in their personal security. (News release)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Alibris Makes Me Gag (Again)

Oh boy, this one is so rife with problems, I do not even know where to begin. In case you missed it, Alibris cheered today its new partnership with Better World Books.

"Libraries...BWB will accept your castoffs, even pay for the outbound freight to their warehouse, and then turn around and list the books on Alibris (and elsewhere), splitting the sales proceeds with you and a charity of your choosing. And since small commission checks sometimes do not wind up back at the library, let alone back in acquisitions budgets, once your sales have reached a $100 quarterly threshold, these monies can now be turned into an Alibris "store credit," allowing you the freedom to choose valuable books from our database to add to your collection."

First of all, LIBRARIES BEWARE, this is NOT a great option for you. I do not even want to know how your accountant is going to feel about your partnership with this new for-profit, quasi non-profit, organization... Besides that, however, I am probably not the only one who is concerned that two of the three founders of BWB, now run a definitely FOR PROFIT online book industry related Indaba. (By the way, in case the pipeline from BWB ever runs out, Indaba is currently looking for "angel investors" - just in case you were wondering). There's no conflict of interest there.... right? I mean just because Indaba was developed FOR BWB (assumedly WITH BWB money), it is slightly shady. It seems like these three young men who (in their own words) were dissatisfied with the corporate world, certainly don't mind dipping back into that realm on the backs of their socially aware for profit company.

Libraries, do yourself and your patrons a favor. Hold onto those "castoffs" and donations and sell them locally. Sure some of us online resellers will come and scoop some up, but so will your own borrowers. The cost-benefit for distributing these books locally is clearly much stronger than contracting out this service to BWB. Let BWB go non-profit, let see their financial statements and accounting records even, then maybe we'll step off of this soap box.

Another personal aside

Only tangentially relevant to this blog, Columbia University announced winners of the Bancroft prize for history. Among the three winners is the tireless Sean Wilentz, whose The Rise of American Democracy, is a remarkable feat in historical scholarship and well-deserving of the designation.

Enjoy the madness

It's my favorite times of the year: March Madness. I have to take a moment out to wish my beloved Georgetown Hoyas the best of luck in their first trip to the tournament in five years. As an alumnus and die hard fan, it's been all to long since the Hoyas have made some waves. Go GU!

Better (and cheaper) Second Time Around

I finally am making in through my secondary news leads and found a fun little article from a New Jersey newspaper that, in essence, lauds the advent of the internet's used marketplaces.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Politicians encroachment

I am keeping a sharp eye on the growing movements by state legislators across the country to pass laws lowering textbook costs. This could have major ramifications for the online book industry. Of all the players in the textbook game, we are the only ones without a strong political voice or established position. It may be worth reviewing current legislation to stay one step ahead of the game. (Via Shelf Awareness)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Newsletter magic

Maintaining your own website? If so, let's face it your probably never going to draw 10,000 visitors a day as an independent. Therefore, the key aspect to your site's success will be obtaining and retaining a core group of loyal customers. One of the best ways to continually reach out to customers is through an e-newsletter.

Constructing a newsletter is a bit of a science. In fact, it is a science that I am often quite poor at. In any event, I found a great resource at the Inc. magazine website. (see: The News is in the Mail)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

USNEWS Extended Piece

I really try to avoid publishing industry general news on the blog, but I thought given the scope of USNEWS' circulation and the length of the article, this was worth sharing: Publish or Panic.

Online Sellers the Bogeyman?


“The biggest challenge today for independents - even more than the Borders and Barnes & Nobles of the world - is competing with Internet sales.” -
East Bay Business Times

Main Street merchants have been looking for someone to blame because their sales volume is down. They have blamed the big chains, they have blamed the Internet and the merchants that do business there, they have blamed grocery and drug stores along with other non-typical sales outlets, they have complained to the manufactures and publishers that prices are too high, and they have even tried to blame the consumers (for not reading enough).

People buy from remote sellers when their local merchants don't have what they want. So, instead of looking for somebody to point fingers at, Main Street merchants really need to look to their own shelves to see what they can do better.

Meanwhile, there is a PR war going on here, folks! Most merchants and customers who repeat that “Level Playing Field” slogan don't even realize how they are being used. Nobody is really trying to level anybody's playing field here. The state tax collection agencies and the National Governors Association are trying to get the Supreme Court's Quill decision overturned because of the money they are losing in sales taxes on remote sales. Only, they are trying to do that without making themselves look bad.

So they're making online merchants out to be the bad guys.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Why is Alibris Pricing Service So Off?

I was wondering last night, as I tried to pare down my Alibris inventory (gasp-to below 500!) why the pricing service is so poor.

Competitive prices and Amazon minimums are usually a week behind- that is to say the competitive price I see today, is in many cases the competitive price from last week (relative to Amazon).

Given the great open source information that is available from Amazon web services, I wonder why this reporting is so poor. My main concern is both for sellers who continue to rely on this service (yes-many do!) and for the competitive of Alibris across the net.

Inc.'s Ecommerce Starter Kit

One of my favorite business magazines, Inc., has a great E-Commerce Starter Kit free reference. This would be good for new online booksellers or for anyone who started their business on the fly and didn't have a lot of time to research some of these issues.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

10 tips for a successful web business

Entrepreneur has posted ten tips to help your online business succeed. I found most of these were relevant for online booksellers, even if they do not have their own site.

Ebay item listings page to change

Ebay announced that the format of item pages will change. Preview the new look.