Monday, June 30, 2008

Using Ebay in the Open Bookshop

Selling books directly in an open shop is a wonderful way to meet customers, discuss literary ideas and favorite authors and move books out of the shop and into customers' home libraries. There's no packing and shipping books off at the post office, no cataloguing of books and listing their every defect, no photographing and no uploading book inventory data. The reality of most open shops these days is that Internet book selling is an integral part of the bottom line and so this extra work must be taken to obtain sales.

When the shop is thinly populated with customers (like this when our regular customers wisely remember that Old Saratoga Books is not an air conditioned sanctuary) and especially during the lean post-holiday winter doldrums, I turn to the Internet for inventory turnover and cash flow. We sell books on our own website, and on several other fixed price used and rare book selling sites, but I use Ebay, the well known Internet auction site in a selective way and for specific kinds of books and paper items.

Ebay is marketed as a bargain-hunter's site, and so in the main I use it as such. I have attempted to sell some high end and rare titles there, but they usually don't bring the prices I would like, so I save them for my in-store customers. I tend to put box lots of books on Ebay when I need to prune a particular bookshelf or section and that seems to do well for our store, which never lacks for walk-in inventory. There are huge numbers of books for sale all over the Internet and there is a glut of them as well on Ebay. I try to market group lots of books about a single topic or by a single author and keep the minimum bid price and shipping rates low to encourage bidders to scoop up these books. Here's a link to our current Ebay auctions, if you want to take a gander at what we're listing.

Lately, our shop has been inundated with children's books and so I have been trying to organize lots of board books, easy readers and books grouped according to reading level for teachers, parents and day care providers to latch onto. This has made lots of extra space on the shelves so I can face out more of the colorful covers and dust jackets that kids' books sport, and notice that this "less is more" strategy seems to sell more of these books in the store.

I have also found that paper items (ephemera) or other interesting non-book things that we find in our book hunting adventures sell steadily for us on Ebay. I never seem to be able to flog ephemera in our shop, but when I put out old postcards, maps, menus, magazines and the other flotsam that wings its way into the shop, they will usually sell. Popular culture items tend to sell better for us on Ebay than in the shop, too, and so if I get in a batch of books about old radio personalities, vaudeville comedians, 60's cartoon shows, or rock stars (excepting Elvis and the Beatles who sell strongly in house, thank you, thank you very much) I'll photograph them and get them up on auction.

I'm sure that other open shops have different Ebay selling strategies and some even use the Ebay store model, so I would interested in hearing about these experiences.

1 comment:

Roberta said...

It's funny. I read your posts regularly and was about to email you out of the blue to beg your opinion about posting on ebay. I use several fixed price sites as well band have an ebay store that for the past month or two I've let fall by the wayside. It's just so time consuming to post books on ebay. But once in a while I have a flurry of sales that makes it worth it so I'm not willing to give it up. Thanks for keeping such a wonderful blog!