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Friday, June 30, 2006

Changes at Bookfinder

I'd like to applaud Anirvan and BookFinder for making some really necessary changes on his site. The previous site layout really was not set-up to make it in the new internet browsing world of clarity, ease, and efficiency. The new site is a huge improvement and I will definitely be making more use out of it.

The other change integrates shipping prices into the search results to allow users to be aware of exorbitant shipping fees on the front-end, a great consumer-driven change that will undoubtedly serve to increase sales through the site. Also one that has to give a big boost to AbeBooks sellers who charge less than the standard shipping fees.

Working in one of the more purely competitive markets in business does have its advantages and that's providing immense price value to the consumer. I'm such a big fan of these metasearch sites because they help demonstrate to consumers the value-added service online booksellers provide.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Finally: Google poised to compete with Paypal

I have to admit, many of Google's new ventures are, while pretty cool, not always aligned with my own internet needs ... until now. It is rumored that this week Google will launch an online payment service to compete with Paypal. GBuy, once rumored to be Google Wallet, is said to cost more than Paypal, but will offer discounts for AdWords clients.

Paypal, an eBay subsidiary, currently operates in 55 markets and manages 105 million accounts - Each second the site processes over $1,100 dollars in payments. The company has had its ups and downs including near bankruptcy, bouts with organized crime, and class action lawsuits.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Barnes and Noble Used Program

As B&N begins its third party seller program for invited sellers, in what they call "Beta" mode, there are a variety of ways they could elevate this part of the website. One of the issues I would consider most important would be integration of their used books into the metasearch engines, especially Addall and Bookfinder. I would not be surprised if this action alone doubled the site's used book sales. As it is now on Addall, Barnes and Noble only offers their own books, often showing up at the bottom of the page or not at all. This would be a huge boon for online sellers on B&N proper or through Alibris.

Friday, June 23, 2006

eBay Business Marketing

I've always been a big proponent of business carving out their own space online, in the form of a website, storefront, ProStore, whatever your fancy. Often, it is difficult to see the advantages of this type of efforts because of the difficulty of drawing organic hits into your online space (aka marketing). Thankfully, eBay is continuing to help its sellers promote their own space on the site with the development of new marketing tools accessible through "My Ebay". For them, both sellers and eBay it is a win-win initiative - I look forward to the continued development of this strain of thought on the site.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In support of "Elaine"

In back through some archived posts from fellow bloggers, I noticed an interesting article from this Monday entitled, "eBay Booksellers: Do I Give Away Too Many Secrets?".

The jist of the article was a response to some curmudgeon criticizing Elaine for giving away too many trade "secrets." Particularly irksome to said lover of protected markets was how Elaine shared the top collectible books and their prices because it only served to further "collapse" the market.

While all can agree that the bottom falling out on our book prices is quite bothersome, it is also this type of price competitiveness that makes independent online selling a viable market. Without competitive pricing we'd be nowhere against the bookselling titans.

Bottom line is good for Elaine (who I do not know) for feeling confident enough to be able to compete in the online bookselling market, even with giving her "secrets away so freely."

And a free tip for the curmudgeon: Stop whining. If you cannot compete in this intensely (and admittedly annoyingly) competitive market change your business plan and practices to make it so you can. Innovate, step outside the box, be flexible - Elaine sure has done so. This is how the business world works - ceaseless innovation and reassessment, I suggest you take heed or else you'll be chasing random bloggers fiscal year after fiscal year.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Because education is good

Alibris announced a neat program offering a scholarship to one of its sellers for the Colorado Antiquarian Book Market Seminar. The scholarship will cover not only tution costs, but also travel and related expenses.


To apply please submit an application under the following guidelines:

Write a one-page letter (1,000 words or less) describing why you wish to attend and should be awarded the scholarship.

Include your 8 character Seller ID on your application.

E-mail your application (preferred) to scholarship@alibris.com or send it to Alibris, 1250 45th Street, Suite 100 Emeryville, CA 94608

All entries must be postmarked no later than July 7, 2006.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Biblio close to relaunching Biblion

Biblio.com is currently testing its new design and integration of Biblion, the strong UK listings service, and hopes to launch by the end of June. (See: Strong Move for Biblio, 7 April 2006)

** BSOB is an affiliate of Biblio.com, contracting through an independent operator.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Barnes and Noble's used booksellers

Many people have questioned how much Barnes and Noble's new program for working with 3rd party booksellers at bn.com will mean? Will the "by invitation" roll out occurring right now lead to bigger things or simply another weak attempt from the site to improve its gross sales?

The scale of the "invitation only" initiative will not have enough impact on the website or the online bookselling market to mean much of anything at the end of the day. Online bookselling has worked because of the its absolutely competitive nature. Limiting that competition will open few doors for the site - and they know it. No matter which reason you take for the change (turn around slumping website numbers, diversify 3rd party sources, increase selection, etc) a small scale change will not result in achieving objectives. One has to assume that the current roll out is meant as a true pilot program. This will help the staff work out kinks, review the cost/benefit of used book sales, review cannibalization numbers relative to new books, assess additional staff needs, etc.

While they may be late in coming to this conclusion, the company (and its shareholders) realize that turning around their online presence is a crucial element to its long term goals. Taking into account the success of Amazon, eBay/Half, and Alibris, dedicating itself to a 3rd party marketplace is really a no brainer. We've already seen how Amazon has successfully done so without cannibalizing a significant amount of their new book sales. In fact, while some buyers chose used books over new copies, the increase in traffic from customers interested in a used book option, helped push their new book sales to new heights.

Bottom line is that while you may not be invited into the program today, they is good hope for the future.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The wonders of online bookselling

The power of online bookselling is amazing. The Des Moines Register has a great article that features the power of the internet to open brick and mortar doors... in some unlikely places.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sign me up! Barnes and Noble used seller program

Wow! Barnes and Noble finally did it. In a move I've been encouraging for some time (and another favorite blast from the past) to inflate less than stellar performance of bn.com, Barnes and Noble is ready to roll out its own version of Amazon's third party marketplace for used books. Take a look and sign up for yourself! My "little birdy" information pipeline wasn't altogether flowing on this, but I do thank them for the head's up this morning - so sweet I took my coffee without sugar.

And by the way B&N, if you're looking for a new Director of Seller Services, you know who to call! ;-)

Update: Ok, sorry I am getting around to signing up and saw there is no state listing for DC!!! Ouch first taxation without representation and now this!

Reviewing a back log of emails from last week, we missed this head's up from an old used book friend in Upstate NY - they were contacted by Barnes & Noble about applying.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Who gets hurt by low shipping reimbursements?

Well, it should be us, the sellers (unfortunately), but it seems as if some sellers are passing the short shrift along to the consumer. In a pretty coherent rant about Amazon marketplace sellers, "The Thinking Mother", gives her thoughts on buying used on Amazon. What bothers me the most about this blog post is the perception that the independent seller receives the entire $3.49 for shipping. Obviously, how would she know that the seller only receives $2.26 and pays up to $1.59-$2.55 to send most books? As she says:

"Customers of Amazon Marketplace books have no choice but to pay $3.49 for shipping, a flat rate, there is no cheaper option. Every book I’ve ever purchases was shipped by media mail for less than $2.15. So they pocket the rest. I say they pocket it as with each book I’ve bought, the sellers are not spending the rest on shipping and packing materials. "

I cannot blame the customer for these qualms. At the end of the day we all are hurt, even Amazon (and especially Alibris), by this continued perception.


Three cheers to eBay

Better late than never, but Auctionbytes is reporting that eBay is due to take action against eBay users charging excessive shipping on their site. I love it.

Do you remember Alibris back then?

A blast from the past, take a look at the Alibris website on 12/1998. What about five years ago today? Or, my personal favorite, Abebooks from 10/1996.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Abe gets tough on scanning

I read a post today on a certain 3rd party software blog and found it kind of amusing.

"We were contacted by AbeBooks that they have started suspending accounts for anyone who is found to be excessively scanning prices on their website. Please turn off competitive scanning for AbeBooks, otherwise you will risk losing your account."

Take it for what it is worth.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Featured: The beginning of ABE

The Globe and Mail has a wonderful feature on Ms. Cathy Waters and the beginning of ABEBooks posted today. The piece takes you back to the roots of Abe in 1996 and discusses Ms. Waters' current ventures.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Buying "Not-Books"?

In case you missed it, Abebooks is currently running a marketing campaign entitled: The Not-Book Campaign. The rationale, "With over 80 million new, used, rare and out-of-print books for sale from 13,500 booksellers, Abebooks.com has the world's largest selection. So if you can't find a book on our site, it probably doesn't exist." Kind of cute, and has already drawn attention from certain bloggerati.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Researching the seller

Cool new service, Terapeak, is currently offering a free two week trial of their website. Having current market research is a huge advantage when competing on eBay and Terapeak had already offered product-based research to eBay sellers to gain this edge - along with a multitude of other free and subscription services. Their new service, providing data on eBay sellers, however, is a relatively innovative idea worth mentioning. This part of their service offers the following: research on what, where, and when your competition is selling; maintaining data on your own sales; offering trends of sales activity for the last 90 days for any seller; and more. (Via Auctionbytes).

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Lack of Books

Is the US reading less and less? Probably. Is this a big deal for online booksellers? Perhaps so. Does all the recent fanfare about the UK publishing more titles per year than the US mean a lot? Not at all. What it has done is served as a catalyst for bringing up questions one and two. But to say that this is indicative of the issues surrounding the first two points is obtuse. We can compare apples to oranges all day, in any circumstance, but it probably does not help us get at the root of what this means for our industry. Have no clue what this is in reference to? Here's a good jump off point article. Let's not forget that when 2004 numbers came out the publishing industry was slammed for producing way too many titles when sales remained relatively flat.