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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ebay Express

Now live, eBay Express, is a new attempt at eBay to take a bigger slice of the instant purchase online market. According to the site, "With eBay Express it's faster and easier than ever to breeze through all your shopping. Find the best deals on everything from designer jeans to a complete home theater system." Will a successful eBay Express finally deal a death blow to Half.com? Perhaps, but it doesn't seem to be coming anytime soon. If it did, it would be a major blow to booksellers favoring the eBay network of sites. A quick review of the "Books" section of Express, reveals a pretty uninspired layout.

Articles about Express:
It's Express Time (Ecommerce-guide)

Whitman's eBay Launches 'Express' Service (Forbes)

A Shopper's First Impressions of eBay Express (AuctionBytes)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Questionable e-text review

Today, Shelf Awareness printed the following statement: "For our money, based on conversations with students and comments by student debaters on the subject at CAMEX in Houston, economics are key [to the success of e-texts]. If e-texts are significantly cheaper than traditional textbooks, students will load up on them."

As we've posted here many times, there is not much evidence (if any) to back that up (most recently: E-books flop at Ivy institution). The merely anecdotal remarks from SA doesn't really hold much weight.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Alibris lets sellers down...

I, personally, have been encouraging sellers to stick it out with Alibris at least through the Half.com integration scheduled for the first quarter of 2006. Now I feel like a fool. In April's (isn't it almost May?) seller news the company began managing expectations on this one... Something the must be a prerequisite for all marketing staff working there... The end result is that, for sellers focusing on mainly newer titles, the site is becoming increasingly not viable.

"In December, we told you we'd launch a Half.com program in 2006. Alibris remains committed to this goal. However, we‚’ve discovered unanticipated work during our technical assessment of this project. While we still believe a Half.com program is viable, it may be preceded by an eBay program which presents a more stable technical integration and greater benefit for sellers. We‚’ll provide updates on these initiatives as we near a launch date."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shelf space

How many online booksellers got into the business, simply to open up some shelf space? My guess is that there are quite a few... Those who love books and have previously piled them near high in their homes, garages, and attics, now have a productive and fruitful way to rid themselves of unwanted titles. For bibliophiles, the most rewarding piece of this may be the opportunity to connect a great book with an interested party. Here as an interesting profile about related parties.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Moving your business online

Every so often I get an email from some B&M owners asking about bringing their store online (on their own independent site). In every case, I give them an unqualified DO IT!

Now, the key is HOW. For some stores, it makes absolutely no sense to go beyond a basic site with information about the store (hours, location, history, etc). For others, it may be a different story. The cost-benefit analysis for an advanced site is something that should be measured very carefully. The key question will be how are you going to get people to your site and how many will you actually get to visit.

The first question you will ask yourself after you decide to go forward, with any type of site, is what will the design look like and who will do it. To that point, Entrepreneur has posted a nice "starter" article to get you thinking about the subject.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Stephen Riggio and the NYT

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Barnes and Noble CEO, Stephen Riggio, discusses the strength of the book industry, e-books, and the company's online strategy (without mentioned used book sales). Read NYT article.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Paypal ordered to share info

A court has ordered Paypal to open up its ledger and share information with the government. The goal of this motion was to obtain information about tax cheats hiding money overseas. It seems likely, that government auditors will eventually be asking for information on domestic tax avoiders as well. Paypal, the leader payment services provider on the internet, processes nearly all eBay transactions and does so for our own Wholesale site as well. (PC World story on the case)

Textbook breaks that make sense

Given all of the complaining to be done about textbook prices, it should be of no surprise that there is a multitude of politicians and organizations seeking to remedy this problem. What most articles on this subject fail to recognize is that the single easiest way to lower costs is to purchase used books online. This can decrease the cost of books as much as 75% for some students, effectively meaning that textbook prices have GONE DOWN over the past ten years. Too often this is given short shrift by only being mentioned as "an alternative."

In any event, one of the few proposals that does make sense and levels the playing field between online and B&M stores is being debated in Florida currently. It is as simple as dropping the sales tax on these books. Not a bad idea... (Read Sun Sentinel article)

Abebooks Teams with Coremetrics

Coremetics, who has worked with Alibris, has been contracted by Abebooks to help measure the success of its site reformatting. According to Abe's marketing manager, "We rely heavily on Coremetrics analytics to help us understand visitor behavior and identify and implement changes that make it easier for people to find and buy the books they want -- whether they're looking for today's bestseller, a rare collectible, or a great buy on textbooks." (Press release)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Self-serving post

Bookselling Online Blog is supported by:

Biblio - sellers... make use of trade discounts provided by many generous sellers on the site.
[Biblio affiliate status is provided through an independent 3rd party]

Shipping supplies sold at Wholesale Remainders. 500 #2 for less than $100.
[Wholesale Remainders is part of the LRABooks company]

Spread the word by posting the BSOB chicklet on your site/blog. (How to)

What's your story?

Long ago, before I grew unfortunately calloused to the magic of used books, I used to examine titles and wonder about their journey into my hands. Often a forgotten bookmark, like a boarding pass or even a funeral card, was the impetus for these considerations. As I've grown increasingly nostalgic about book scouting over ten years ago, in Upstate New York as a high school student, I have tried to get back into allowing myself to personally examine more and more books. It was during one of these whimsical moments that I found some interesting marks in the inside a few random books that mentioned the website Book Crossing.

Modeled after the now infamous, Where's George dollar bill tracker, the website follows the travels of its catalogued books. It is worth the visit, especially if you spot one of their registered books along your travels. (Article on the site, Book Crossing FAQ)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Strong move for Biblio

Biblio announced today that they will begin assisting UK-based Biblion to "strengthen" the sites "online services." This is great news for Biblio dealers and should force booksellers who have avoided or left Biblio a reason to reconsider the listings service. The press release remained vague about exact benefits for Biblio itself, it did say that it will extend "its capabilities and future flexibility." I am still confused as to why Biblion still links to Abebooks on its current homepage, but perhaps Biblio will get that fixed when the deal is finalized. (Press release)

Affiliate note: This blog does have Biblio as an affiliate advertiser, contracted through an independent company.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

E-books flop at Ivy institution

The Daily Princetonian offered an article yesterday that dicussed a pilot program for digital textbooks at a local bookstore. According to the story, "After nearly two semesters of offering digital textbooks, the U-Store has had little success in pitching the digital manuscripts to students." (Read entire article)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bookseller patsies?

It always cracks me up to see on discussion boards the few sellers who will defend fee increases for booksellers. Some people write to me confused, hurt, dismayed, and just plain bewildered by these posts. The oft-repeated question is: "Why would a bookseller advocate for a policy change that so clearly hurts their bottom line?!" The answer, in many cases, is pretty simple. Truly professional booksellers do not see fee increases as hurting their bottom line, but rather inherently decreasing their competition and thereby helping it.

The theory: Fee increases work as an effective filter against low-level sellers by raising the barrier to entry for the industry. This rationale, I can almost understand if taken out of context. However, taking into account the entire industry and the absolutely booming sales, everyone from serious booksellers to the most basic of hobbyists are running to get a piece of the pie. While I agree that marginal fee increases will limit the entry of some potential sellers, I fail to believe that it dissuades enough potential sellers to make the cost-benefit ratio work in the professionals favor.

Oh, and I pretty much dismiss the use of employees using aliases to defend corporate policies... While there is no doubt that high level decision makers in these corporations are in tune with what is being said by their sellers on the discussion boards (contrary to a popular myth slammed down peoples' throats on the Alibris message boards a year or so ago), I do not think most of the professionals I know would participate in this type of behavior.

More on eBay phishers

This is actually a really good article, with a lot of original content regarding the security issues I've touched on lately at the eBay group of companies. Of particular concern in this article is phishing using the eBay and Paypal sites as a front.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


As always, I love to hear comments/questions regarding the postings on this blog. The email I use to manage this blog is at the top of the right hand column. A few people (2) have asked me in the almost a year since I've been doing this why I do not have the comments turned on. The primary reason for this is that they were off when I came to the blog. However, a few other real concerns exist as well. Primarily and quite frankly, no one comments. I have no one idea why this is, but I assume because most people are rightly too busy with their own business/issues to take the time investing into an online discussion through blog comment feeds. It is rather embarrassing to show 0 comments, o comments, 0 comments over and over. It implies a weak readership, which we are thrilled to say is not the case (thanks y'all!). A secondary concern is Bloggers notoriously weak defense against spamming commenters. Granted this comes in waves as they tweak and for spammers back to the drawing table. Nevertheless, its an annoying problem to always be getting comments from "Richard" who has all my meds just in time for Valentine's Day. In any event, if you do have question(s) (or even more fun LEADS/TIPS), let me know at the email link above. Open for all.

Update: Thanks to Warren @ Second Harvest Books who tracked me down to let me know the graphic which offered the email for my blog management did not make the domain name tranfer with me! I sincerely apologize to all of you trying to contact us for the first time!

Textbook sales rise, room for growth persists

Students purchased 24% of their college texts online in 2005, said the The National Association of College Stores' Student Watch report. This number represents a significant increase (50%) over 2004 when NACS reported a 16% market share for online booksellers. A strong majority of students again reported that price was the strongest factor in deciding to buy online. (NACS press release)

This study represents a major victory for online booksellers. While we all have seen anecdotal evidence of this in our own sales, these industry wide numbers are always reassuring. It also underscores the importance of competition in the online book market. E-commerce, in many ways, is a great catalyst for increased competition - in any industry - but especially in bookselling. Many sellers, including myself at times, bemoan this fact, however, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the competitive nature of our industry is what makes it so strong.

Most importantly, this should be less a time for jubilation for listings services, and more a call to action. The industry should be pushing toward 50% growth, again in 2006 (a market share of 36%). Again, the key will be marketing. ABEBooks, perhaps offered the most innovative marketing campaign last year, while many other sites failed to innovate in their marketing college campuses and relied on the strength of the industry in general to bump their numbers. (See our archived article: Abe's Marketing Department Scores Big)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Better World Books

Ok, I really wanted to put this one to bed, but Xavier from Better World Books contacted me and said he had sent this... some how I never got it. Here is what he has to say verbatim.

"The recent Better World Books/Alibris partnership was formed to give libraries a mechanism to trade unwanted books for acquisition funds. This should greatly increase the acquisition budgets of participating libraries, and focus that buying power squarely on Alibris. This will mean increased sales for all Alibris sellers, not just Better World Books. Many libraries find that the Better World Books library program simply makes sense. They can ship books 365 days of the year, at BWB’s expense. The funds raised for the library and for a literacy program of their choice can be quite substantial."