Sunday, February 19, 2006

Books, bookselling and riff-raff

ABE is still mired in controversy over its new cc processing mandate and the 5.5% processing fee. Angry discussions abound on nearly every bookselling forum. More dealers threaten to drop ABE as a sales venue over this newest issue. How many actually have left over earlier disgruntlements or will leave in light of the current issue? The actual number is likely to be a very small minority. Afterall, a sale is a sale and every sale is necessary to improve one's bottom line of profit.

Now, on a personal level-
Yesterday I was looking for a few books for a gift. I searched first on
Bookfinder, then looked at results on Amazon, Biblio, Alibris or wherever the search results led me. What resulted from my search was ninety minutes spent in great aggravation and only 3 purchases. For those selling books who cry about poor sales, I have this to say: You only have yourselves to blame.

First of all, I have to say that the internet is supposed to make finding books easier, but looking at many of the so-called descriptions I cannot see how. Sure many people just want the cheapest copy listed since shipping is additional. Their interests are in reading material and they may even enjoy a bit of mold or eau d' cigarette with their books. If you want an addition for your collection, a gift for someone or a book to keep as an investment over time, good luck finding something suitable! Maybe I am the odd duck since I won't buy a book from someone who hasn't fully described their item for sale. I sure hope not!

Secondly, and I am old-fashioned in this respect: I believe the description field is primarily to be used for describing the book. Adding a synopsis afterwards, if so desired, is fine, but "selling" your policies, shipping manner, so-called reputation, feedback, etc., does not help me choose your copy! Why should a customer need to contact a seller to ask about the book's condition? Because there is none? I'm sorry but I don't have time to waste. And neither should you bookseller or buyer!

Let's say I decide to email one of the no-description booksellers and ask for a condition. About 50% of the time I receive no response, or, if I get an answer, it's as equally unhelpful as their description. Usually it goes something like this, "Sorry, but I have 3 billion books listed and cannot take the time to look at each one individually before selling it." WTF! Please pardon my French.

Another peeve is the disclaimer style of description: "New but may have shelfwear, underlining, name, price-clip, no jacket..." I guess my definition of "new" is different. "We'll send the best copy available (unless we sold them all already before you ordered)." Right, like I want to rely on you for that!

Another observation based on poor descriptions: the packaging is normally equally as bad. Yep, no time to spend protecting another person's purchase!

For those of you popping in from Bookfinder Journal (Big thank you to Anirvan, though I believe it must have been a very slow blog day to add mine!) click on my blog's title to go to the current posts or look at the right sidebar archives. Always (almost) something new.

Now, if you are still with me, here's a few tidbits on blogs:

The Village Voice on

Forbes online and their ideas of the
Best Blogs

1 comment:

Tessa said...

I have a part time job ordering replacement books for a university library and I agree with you 100%. I have a few rules that I buy by: make sure that the description explicitly states no marks, clean text, or no highlighting, that way you can get a refund if the book comes marked up. Only use sellers on amazon with a 98% rating or better, trust bookstores and people with just a few books to sell, but not "online cheap bookorama" places, because they're too busy and they don't really care about books. you may have to pay more, but you can usually find reliable, good quality used copies.