Posts Tagged ‘eBay’
Trade Me is the equivalent on eBay in New Zealand. It is locally grown by a university drop-out and is one of those fabulous success stories we’ve read about. The website went live in early 1999 then kicked off by their ISP for spamming, it went forward in leaps and bounds eventually being sold to the Australian company, Fairfax Limited, for $NZ 750m about seven years later in 2006. Both eBay and Yahoo don’t get a look-in in New Zealand as Trade Me has the market covered. This book is the story of its success.
This book details how they went from nothing to a very successful company that actively helps the Police force in New Zealand prosecute and jail people committing crime using their website. They’ve helped train the Police force in ecrime and in how it’s possible to figure out where the criminal is and what they’re doing. In order to help this they keep Trade Me strictly local, you can only register and trade if you’re located in New Zealand, overseas people are just not allowed to register.
The author has done some interesting things with this book. It’s aimed at the local market only and some of language indicates it’s also aimed at the business sector. There are a number of words I don’t understand and I can only guess from the context they’re used in business, there are also a number of local phrases and words which I don’t even see in Australia despite Australia and New Zealand being so close in so many different ways. O’Donnell has put in facts and figures, if you want to see the difference between paying as a private advertiser and paying as a business advertiser the information is written in this book in clear English.
I do wonder if it’s possible to take the story of this company, and a couple of others which have also started in similar ways and gone onto achieve great things, as a template to replicate in other companies. Challenging as there are some things you can’t replicate, you can’t copy a personality and their particular way of thinking, you also can’t imitate the timing of entering the market, these seem to be the factors defining why a particular company will succeed so well and another will flop. The timing is probably a big thing, there will never be another beginning to the internet.
I bought this book in New Zealand when I was here for a holiday a couple of years ago, I’m not addicted to bookshopping, promise, we somehow found ourselves in op shops and bookshops all over the place and this is one of the treasures I brought back. I recommend reading it if you’re able to get a copy.
I’m not actually certain if that’s a good heading for this, it’s going to be a general rant with no particular theme in mind. I’ve been catching up on some goings on in the industry in some forums and reading what other people have to say. It’s going to be an interesting time and I have no answers.
I understand the price of everything is going up due to the recent spate of natural disasters and the political challenges in the Middle East. Australia Post recently put their prices up, they’re going up again on the 4th of July with a review every three months. I’ve managed to absorb the previous three price rises but I had no choice this time, I had to put my prices up. If I find on posting that I’ve overcharged someone by a very large amount then I do try to refund part of the postage price, it’s easy if they’ve paid by Paypal. I’ll be reassessing the prices on each price rise and will see what I can do to absorb the rise, but it will be hard.
REDGroup, the owners of Borders and Angus & Robertson will stop ordering books from publishers on the 1st of June. I can’t begin to speculate on the impact this will have on the industry. When one of your biggest buyers stops buying from you what do you do? Especially when you know there’s no-one in the market place who has a hope of taking their place. Such a big challenge, so many long term repercussions.
There’s so much happening on eBay in the book department. Several months ago they changed the pricing structure to make it easier for people to list books. If you have a basic store costing $19.95 per month you can list as many books as you want for 5c per listing per month, the final value fee is not too good at 9.9% but if sales are down then at least you can list heaps more for very little. The listing fees were too enormous before (I think they were 40c per listing per month) and it doesn’t take many months before you’ve lost the price of the book in listing fees, but 5c is pretty good and you can list a $10 book for two years and still make a profit. The problem is they’ve opened up the market to some pretty big companies and between them they’ve listed almost 7 million books just on eBay Australia alone. We have a very small population and I’m not sure we can sell enough books to make that number of listings viable. One of the problems is that these large companies are mostly in the UK and they can get some very good deals with Royal Mail to send their parcels outside of the UK. In almost every case they can mail the brand new book to your house for less than the price you can pay at the shops, and that includes postage. I know, I sell pre-loved books and therefore that’s a totally different market, but with 7 million listings how is the average buyer going to find my book? If they know the name of the book then it’s easy, but if they just want to browse then they’re going to stop after a couple of pages. The other problem with eBay is that to accommodate these large sellers they’ve changed the search function, you can’t search by category any more. If you want to search by fantasy then you’re out of luck unless your seller has filled in the item specifics and it takes time to fill in the item specifics. It was much easier when there were second level categories that the seller had to choose in order to list their books.
So many book sellers have found that in order to make money you have to sell on several different platforms. You can’t just have a website and expect to make money on that, you also have to sell on eBay and other online auction sites, some people even sell at markets. I have a website and sell on eBay, I also write for The Bookshop Blog and do some virtual admin work for some people, I’ll also be a Census Collector in the up and coming election. It’s leaving me pushed for time, but it is exciting. I do make posting orders a priority.
There are some people who change your life forever. And I mean totally change. I first met Olga on the forums on eBay where she taught me so much. A number of us met for lunch one day and have been firm friends ever since. I can honestly say I am a different person for having been included in that first lunch. I have been hoping to get a guest post from Olga for a while as she knows an enormous amount about books and eBay and I always expected her to be an excellent writer. It is quite lengthy so grab a coffee and settle in for a very informative read.
For years I have watched the blame game being played.
With the popularity of eBay soaring back in the mid-2000′s, second-hand bookstore owners were blaming eBay for the decline in sales. Mail order catalogues, books wrapped in brown paper, the smell of old books in a dark little shop, the eccentric owner who kept you in the shop at least half an hour longer than you intended gabbing on about nothing in particular, all of this was falling by the wayside. Dying was the ritual of scouring the bricks and mortar offerings of the used bookseller community. After all, people could now shop from home, and usually pay less.
eBay certainly has generated a lot of amateur booksellers, collectible sellers, antique sellers and other small business of all sorts (that I have far less interest in). It’s ruined the retail industry, so the store owners claimed.
I don’t disagree.
Certainly, a great deal of eBay sellers didn’t offer the service and knowledge a professional bookseller did. But for years collectors had been limited to abebooks for online buying, with it’s bland descriptions and lack of photos, suddenly there was an alternative. A much cheaper alternative. Amateur sellers usually equals a bargain price. So with the novelty still there, the trust still there, a good economy, eBay was flourishing. Everything was easy, simple, sales rolled in and books went out.
The buyers blamed the professional booksellers for being “too expensive” I can get it cheaper on eBay.
But around 2006 eBay started getting a little Amazon-envy. And for the booksellers who’d been selling cheap used books on there for several years already, it was the beginning of a disastrous period for bookselling on eBay, one that has yet to recover.
eBay decided it wanted to clear out the “rubbish”, the cheap listings, things that took a long time to sell, and have a brand new shiny marketplace full of electrical goods and other boring things. They wanted the small collectible seller out, and the corporate monsters in. By doubling the fees, they certainly managed to force a lot of people out. By marketing their ridculous propaganda slogans they had sellers bleating “Core, core, core” like so many brainwashed zombies. (Incidentally the “core item” term, meaning an auction style listing rather than fixed price, has quietly disappeared). It was our fault that book might take up to a couple of years to sell. You know, as there is a huge marketplace for that book on a rare fungi that only grows on the trunk of a tree in a far-off forest in…you get the picture. Bricks and mortar stores are no different. I admit Therese (of Mcleod’s books) and I used to have a competition to see who’d sell a Leonard Maltin movie guide first as these were always an unwanted by-product in remainder book cartons. Therese won, as a matter of fact. I think she has sold two.
It’s something you take in good humour. But eBay didn’t want it. After a long period where a lot of sellers concentrated on building websites and listing on the Australian auction site Oztion, eBay grew bigger. Some sellers never went back, some drifted back slowly. After all, Google may be bigger than eBay but most people look on eBay first. You can’t beat the traffic. In the meantime, book sales were taking a dive. The “de-cluttering” eBay had done made no real difference to sales. By around 2008 the novelty was wearing off, the bad press was rife, and eBay was losing it’s shine.
The buyers may have blamed the sellers, but the sellers blamed eBay.
Blaming eBay is a popular sport. Usually a perfectly justifiable one. While eBay couldn’t seem to get it through their thick skulls that the days of mad bidding on auctions was over, and people just wanted to “Buy It NOW” they clung to the slim hope that their plan would work. I fondly remember a seller ranting on an eBay forum that “people don’t want to hang around for seven days to buy a three dollar lipstick”
They most certainly don’t.
They spent two years messing around with everything on the site, searches, rules, user agreements, the failed attempt at forcing Paypal as the sole payment method, ridiculous and convoluted rules about feedback that have changed a dozen times or more. Nothing, it seemed, was luring the buyer back. The economy was taking a dive, and people just weren’t interested in eBay anymore.
So they upped the fees again.
That might be a slightly unfair statement, as the new fee structure benefitted sellers in other categories a great deal, with a higher listing fee and lower final value fee. For booksellers, it meant the fees practically doubled overnight. eBay’s explanation was that (and I was told this on the phone by a slightly nervous representative who had probably been shouted at all day by eBay sellers) no-one was interested in auctions anymore and they were trying to structure the site to be mainly fixed price items.
I calmly explained they would be better off having a fee structure for media items with lower listing fees and higher final value fees as they had in the US, thanked him, and proceeded to lose money hand over fist for months. This was the final straw for a lot of small sellers, who gave up altogether. We struggled along, waiting for them to come to their senses.
Thankfully, they did.
But in the meantime the book market on eBay was changing. Huge websites from the United Kingdom were creeping in, offering books at below Australian wholesale prices, including free shipping.
The Aussie buyer started blaming the bookseller again.
How can they buy a book for $8.00 – $12.00 including shipping, that costs $20- $22 here? Plus shipping? And shipping for a book under 500 grams being around the $6.00 mark, and over that, most regular hardcovers, more than $10? Less than half price?
How indeed? The booksellers blamed the publishing industry.
I get a 30-35% discount off retail buying from Australian publishers. I would have to mark that up 35% to retail price. Then charge $6-10 shipping. Because Australia Post has no discounted national rates.
I can blame Australia Post too.
But suddenly eBay has gotten in some huge Australian booksellers who have dropped about a million (I am not inflating those numbers) titles on eBay within the space of a few days.
While I thought that in my particular niche, out-of-print books, that I would be relatively safe. That was before they started dropping print-on-demand books, which are pretty much a photocopied book, into the search results. (Not even legal here due to copyright laws but they can be purchased from the US). Now to stretch my memory there used to be a few hundred thousand books on eBay.
Today there is 2,819,625.
As a result, the book search is flooded beyond belief. eBay even backed up and canned the identical listings (sellers listing 20 copies of an identical book to take up a page in search results)
It has still not improved.
Now the retail giants tell us they want to charge GST on online purchases because they’re suffering. I fail to see how a 10% charge on a $10 book is going to make a difference when the book still costs $20+ to buy here. They’ll pay the extra dollar. Happily.
Why? Consumers are angry. They feel ripped off, the economy is bad, spending is down, and people will do anything they can to try and save money. There is a very small contingent of people who will pay more for goods to try and put money back into the local economy.
Meanwhile the publishers continue to produce over-priced books.
Meanwhile the bookseller continues to struggle on trying to sell used books when consumers can purchase them new, for used book prices.
Ebay is weighed down by an incredible amount of generic, repetitive listings, identical photos of the same title with people competing to undercut each other by a few cents.
I don’t hold out much hope for the used book market. The writing has been on the wall for too long, we’ve all seen it coming, starting with those bricks and mortar owners blaming eBay for the demise of the local second-hand bookshop, down to ebay sellers blaming the corporate monsters for crushing them.
The romance is gone. The used book market is failing. And everything is failing us. Who’s to blame? Or is there even a point in playing out this decade-long game?
Olga Hughes owns Crickhollow Books with her partner Craig. She is a passionate reader and a quite mad book collector, and loves children’s books, to the horror of most regular people. You can read her blog at Crickhollow Books.
I know this is old news as Skip McGrath blogged about it in May, but you should know by now that I don’t always give you this information at the time of publishing. You can look at his blog for further details, but basically he’s blogged about a guy in America who forged signatures of popular authors and then sold them for inflated prices on eBay.
I do want to reassure my readers I do not condone the practice of forging signatures or misrepresenting books in any way. If a book has a signature and I can’t verify it I will mention that in the listing and price it accordingly so you know what you’re getting. If a book is not a collectable title and is in really terrible condition I will commit the cardinal sin of throwing it in the recycling. Yes, sometimes I do get books in such condition but only when I buy in bulk and can’t vet all of those books before taking them home so sometimes I will bring home a book in dreadful condition. There is the odd exception for very collectable books and Beebo is one such exception. They are very collectable and there are very few of this title listed on the internet. It’s in such poor condition that I’ve priced it very low.
I was very lucky one day with a book I listed on spec on eBay. When I picked it up to list it the cover fell off and I debated throwing it out, but the book was in a collectable series and so I listed it for 99c thinking if it didn’t sell I would only have lost 30c. The book had multiple bids and ended up selling for a very nice price so I upgraded to registered post at my expense.
Anyway, I feel a ramble coming on so I’ll stop here and leave you with a final reminder for the current competition.
Don’t forget, today is the last day to make your comment and enter the competition. I’ll be announcing the winner in the newsletter tomorrow.
One of the continuing problems for secondhand book sellers is when people want to sell you books.
There’s the people who bring loads of books in any kind of condition; good, bad or just awful, and expect you to pay retail prices for them. They just miss seeing that you still have to pay for expenses and storage and don’t forget that you actually want to make a profit. I’m actually not sure what they’re thinking at that point, but it isn’t about the book seller making a profit. I sometimes bargain with them for the books I want for me, but generally suggest they sell them on eBay or Oztion themselves as it’s not worth my while to pay the prices they’re asking.
Then there are the people who insist on trying to tell you their books are fabulous. They might be in fabulous condition as if they haven’t been read, but are a-dime-a-dozen and not worth paying anything at all. They might be fabulous titles but are in such dreadful condition that they only place for them is the recycling bin. The Book Shop Blog makes this last point very nicely hence the title of this blog.
There are two things that hurt me the most when people offer me books. One is when they’re great books and I just don’t have the cash due to being in a poor cash flow situation and the other is when I have to turn them down due to having no space. It’s just one of the problems I face due to working from home. I might blog about working from home another time after the Doctor Who meeting at our place on Saturday.
Another in the list of bulk buys. I still have my doubts about this one, but it paid off in the end.
I won an auction on eBay. I was very careful to do my calculations before I put in a bid. The listing was for 2,000+ books. I thought about it and decided to do my calculations based on 2,500 books. I worked out how many per box, how many boxes and roughly how much space they would take up based on how many boxes high I would be able to stack them. I figured I would have enough room with maybe three or four boxes left over. No problems. Really happy. I put in a bid, dithered a bit over it as I really wasn’t convinced I wanted them, so I lowered the amount I was prepared to spend…twice. I won at a really low price.
Talked my nephew into helping me pick them up as I’d done some damage to my neck and didn’t want to have to face the wrath of my physio when I made it worse. The books were in the back of a shop located fairly close by which was good as I estimated we’d have to make two trips. I collected some boxes being fairly confident it would be enough. We drove down there, found the back of the shop as instructed. The seller opened the door and said those fateful words…”You realise you have to take everything”…I looked and laughed as there was nothing else I could do. There were far more than 2,000, my estimate of what the + might be was totally lacking. My final estimate was about 4,500 books. It took us three trips in my wide bodied Camry to get them back to my place and because of that it took much longer than expected so we had to leave them sitting on the floor of the garage until I could find time to put them in a better place. I had already put lots of plastic on the floor to protect them as I expected to just stack them there until they were all transported here.
With the second trip I figured it didn’t matter if I lost a few boxes of books due to being squashed so what with not having enough boxes we just put enough boxes in to give the whole thing formation and began throwing books in. We stuffed them behind the boxes and stacked them around the boxes. We put a couple of boxes on the back seat and then piled books around the boxes and stacked them on the floor of the car. It was chaotic, but it worked. So, here we are driving down Warrigal Road and I had to brake for some red lights. The books cascaded in a stream onto my nephew’s lap. He picked them up and sorted them into books he wanted (onto the floor with his feet) and books he didn’t want (thrown dismissively over the shoulder into the backseat) while drinking water from a clear bottle. The look on the guy’s face in the next car was a picture. It looked as if my nephew was drinking vodka as we were both very cheerful. When we got back home with that load we had another book-a-lanche when we opened the back door. They all just cascaded onto the ground. I wish I’d taken a video of it, it was very funny.
I had to get very creative when packing the books as there were just so many I had not accounted for in my calculations and I hadn’t collected enough empty boxes. I had kept the box from our new washing machine as I was going to cut it up and use it for packing books. I brought that out and put it in a corner of the house, we then carefully packed books in it. It was a big box and it must have taken several hundred books. It never moved again until I sold all the books to someone else and I had to unpack it into other, smaller boxes.
For those who are worried about the treatment we meted out to these poor books please be reminded they were secondhand. I expected some attrition from this treatment, but it was only about half a box full and most of them were in terrible condition before hand, none of them were very collectable as they were cheap books and I had other copies of them. I just want people to be warned to ask questions and to try to look at the auctions of these things beforehand so you have more information about them than I did…actually, I lie I really just want to entertain people with my story.
The first story starts at Wesley College – Elsternwick campus. They were having an Open Day a few years ago and to encourage more people to come and see what they do they had a few stalls. I was helping out on the Raffle stall, there were plenty of food stalls, a few rides, the teachers were doing a concert, a cake stall and the most important of all was the book stall. I got to it early and picked up a few bundles of ABC delicious and a number of great titles. Near the end I offered to buy whatever was left when I returned. They were quite quick to accept. I can’t think why!
When I got back we packed them up and I discovered there were 17 boxes. I was very excited, my first bulk book buy!! When I was looking through them I found all sorts of treasures. I had 3 boxes of computer books. I managed to actually sell some of them and the rest were taken by a happy freecycler. I had a box of new books I knew nothing about and lots of miscellaneous other books. Several boxes were Encyclopaedia Brittanica, but I think that should be a post of its own.
I had a wonderful time sorting through all the books and listing them on eBay and an even better time storing them. My youngest left that campus three years ago and I still have some of these books. I’m going to be sorting through all my stock and these books will be among those to be sold at a garage sale and if not sold to be sent to an op shop. I think I’ve held onto them long enough.