Sunday, July 28, 2013

eBay Store Update #2 and the True Meaning of Free Shipping

My eBay store is getting closer to the way I want it.  I have added subcategories to my Nancy Drew category, and they mimic the ones I have on Bonanza.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

The books I have for sale on eBay are not the same ones up for sale on Bonanza.  I am pretty sure that 100% of the books up for sale are different unless I failed to deactivate one that I moved from Bonanza to eBay.  I did find one on Bonanza that I missed a few days ago and got it deactivated.

The Nancy Drew picture cover books that I just listed on eBay are all different books from the ones on Bonanza, because I pulled out different books from my extras and created new listings for them.  The listings all have free shipping, and I did incorporate shipping into the cost of the books.  I need to continue to get my shipping cost DSR back up to at least 4.9.  Once I get it back up to where I want it, I will remove the free shipping and lower the prices.

The eBay Nancy Drew listings are designed for people who wish to purchase only one or two books.  If you wish to get a better deal and purchase many books, I highly recommend you visit my Bonanza booth.

Jennifer's Series Books on Bonanza

I have a much more complete selection of Nancy Drew books there, and the prices do not include shipping.  Furthermore, my combined shipping discount is better, at $0.40 for each additional book.  And even better, I have a 12% off coupon that can be applied from any item page.  The coupon can be seen near the price.  Once the coupon is applied to the shopping cart, all items in the cart will receive the discount.  I do not price my books on Bonanza with the coupon in mind, so the coupon is a real discount.

The bottom line is that you will get a better deal on Bonanza for Nancy Drew books.

My eBay listings other than Nancy Drew that have free shipping really do have shipping that is free to the buyer, because I am the one paying for shipping out of the item price.  I am working towards decreasing my overall inventory of series books and moving out books that have not sold for three or more years.  When I changed those eBay listings, such as Judy Bolton and other series, to free shipping, I left the price the same and clicked on the free shipping box.  The buyer is getting a really good deal on those books.  There are a few books where I compromised by raising the price a dollar or two and clicking on the free shipping box.  That means that I am still paying part of the shipping price.

On the eBay listings that are set as free shipping but with the price raised to include shipping, I will not send any refund if more than one item is purchased.  eBay fees are very high, and even when I have listings set with the shipping as a separate charge, I have to pay an eBay fee on the shipping.  My $3.95 shipping charge is now way too low on eBay, especially since I pay a fee on it.  My true shipping charge on eBay should be $5.95 for the first book and then a certain amount for each additional book.  $5.95 would cover all of my packaging costs, the postage cost, and the eBay fee on the postage charge.  But, I don't think a $5.95 postage charge would go over too well with buyers.

So, when a buyer purchases two or more listings where the shipping was incorporated into the price, it really means that I am not taking a loss on the shipping charge like I do on the other listings.  It would actually better for me to switch everything to free shipping with higher prices.  However, I would prefer not to have shipping incorporated into the item price because I want buyers to feel like they are getting a fair deal.  Some buyers think free shipping is always better for them, but if the free shipping is incorporated into the item price, the seller gets the better deal.

Regarding my new eBay store and monthly fee, my current thinking is that I will keep the eBay store permanently in addition to my Bonanza booth.  The store subscription is well worth the monthly fee based solely on the extra features that are now available to me.  The bulk editor makes it easy to change the books from one store category to another.  The summary page on My eBay makes it really easy to see how many items I have to get shipped.  I can now generate all of my packing slips at the same time, and they look better than the ones previously available to me on eBay.

I still consider my primary selling place to be my Bonanza booth, so make sure you keep checking it for the best selection.

Last, make sure you follow my Facebook page so that you are kept informed of interesting series book information.

Jennifer's Series Books on Facebook

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nancy Drew #57 Old Lace and #58 Flying Saucer

In Nancy Drew #57, The Triple Hoax, Aunt Eloise asks Nancy to help out a friend who has been swindled.  Nancy's investigation takes her to New York City, Mexico City and finally to Los Angeles.  Ned, Burt, and Dave are able to join Nancy, Bess, and George in Los Angeles.

The first half of this book bored me.  I began enjoying the story once Nancy reaches Mexico City, but even then, I was not extremely interested.  The Triple Hoax is the typical travelogue book, which tend not to be favorites.

Another reason I do not care for this story is that the plot seems forced at the beginning, and the entire story with the Hoaxters seems kind of stupid.  The Hoaxters have people go up on stage, where they proceed to pick their pockets, taking wallets and similar items.  After the theft is revealed, the Hoaxters have the people return to the audience, telling them that they will be able to retrieve their belongings after the show. The Hoaxters end up using information found among the belongings to target people in various swindles.

Perhaps people in 1980 might have been more likely to tolerate this, but I couldn't help reading it from a 2013 point of view, and all I could think of was identity theft and credit card theft.  This caused me not to enjoy reading the first part of the book.  I did begin to enjoy the book more once Nancy gets to Mexico City, so I partially enjoyed the story.

The book reads just like the higher-numbered titles from #41 to #56 and fits in well with those titles, although I do not care for it. 
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In Nancy Drew #58, The Flying Saucer Mystery, the Drews, along with Nancy's core group of five friends, go on a camping trip in the Shawniegunk Forest.  A UFO has been sighted in the Shawniegunk Forest, and the Drews hope to locate it.

The Flying Saucer Mystery is one of those books that is disliked by a large number of Nancy Drew fans.  I have always enjoyed the story, and this time was no exception.  The story pulled me in from the very first page, which The Triple Hoax failed to do. Sleuthing in the woods is appealing.  Even though Nancy is away from home, the book has the feel of a book set in or near River Heights, which are the ones that I like the best.

Some aspects of the mystery are bizarre, but they are roughly the same level of strange that is seen in many of the Nancy Drew books from #41 to #56.  The one exception is the extended dream sequence that runs from page 77 to page 89, spanning slightly more than one chapter.  The Mystery of the Tolling Bell also has a dream sequence, but it is brief and considerably less bizarre.

In this dream sequence, Nancy and Ned are inside the flying saucer when it leaves, taking them to an alien world.  Nancy and Ned wear silver suits and helmets, can communicate telepathically, and use wings to fly through the air in the alien world.  I believe that if the dream sequence had been left out of the book, fewer people would hate it.  The book is comparable to any of the higher-numbered Nancy Drew books from #41 to #56, except for the dream.  While I love the book, I do not like the dream at all.

A relaunch of the Dana Girls series in softcover was planned at the time this book was released.  To help promote the Dana Girls, they are mentioned by name on pages 99 and 160.  This is the only Nancy Drew book ever to mention the Dana Girls.  The new Dana Girls series never came to be.

A giant Indian named Shoso wanders the woods.  He throws nuts at Bess.  This is pure comedy gold.  Priceless.

Later, Nancy makes the stunning observation that Shoso and Old Joe sort of look alike except for the difference in skin tone.  On page 53, she wonders "if all naturalists were similar in stature."  The thought sounds stupid, but really, Nancy is demonstrating her sheer genius.  Any regular reader of Nancy Drew knows that Shoso and Old Joe will turn out to be long-lost relatives!

Old Joe is looking for his father's treasure.  Nancy discovers a pyramid of rocks in a stream.  In years of wandering the woods looking for treasure, Old Joe has somehow never spotted this pyramid.  I suppose it is possible, but I find it rather convenient that Nancy spots it so quickly.  The pyramid is the first in a sequence of clues leading to the treasure.  The clues and search are rather similar to the ones in the revised text version of The Message in the Hollow Oak.

On page 107, Shoso mutters in an Indian dialect, and it is considered strange because "there are no Indians in this vicinity anymore."  Isn't it safe to assume that Shoso once knew other Indians?  Why would it be strange for him to speak his language, especially since he doesn't know English?

The young people encounter a wildcat.  The wildcat hisses at them, but Nancy and Ned decide to pet the wildcat.  Dear me, this is even worse than Nancy jumping into the crocodile pen in Mystery of Crocodile Island.  The young people want to explore the cave, so they give the wildcat one fish from their bucket of fish.  The wildcat takes it, runs off, and does not come back for more.  I find that hard to believe.

#58 also fits in well with Nancy Drew #41 to #56.  Most particularly, the book reminds me of The Crooked Banister due to the strangeness of certain parts, and The Crooked Banister is another favorite.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Desirability of Nancy Drew #1-56 vs. #57+

I have finished reading and reviewing Nancy Drew #1-56.  The plan is to keep going, but my immediate problem is that I do not like several of the lowest-numbered volumes very much.  Once I force my way through them, I should do much better.

I want to make several points, but most of them were previously made in "Will the Real Nancy Drew Step forward?"  Here are the key points from that post.
I read Nancy Drew books from around 1979 to 1985.  People in my group tend to like most all of the original 56 Nancy Drew books, since all of them had been published by that time.  Furthermore, we tend to like the revised text books as well as the original text books.

My preferences were also influenced by which books were available to me.  Early in my collecting, I had a strong aversion to the softcover Nancy Drew books.  The reason is simple: most of those books came after I quit reading Nancy Drew books.  It had nothing to do with whether the books are good.
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We were strongly influenced by which books were available to us as children.  I do not believe that most people realize that the primary reason they prefer certain books is based solely on what they read as children.

People who are my age consider #1-56 to be the real Nancy Drew.  I at first resisted collecting the softcover books simply because they are softcover and I did not read them when young. Once I took that leap, I found that the softcover books, #57-175, are very worthwhile.  That is, I can only comment for up to around #165, since I have not read the final volumes.  Up to where I left off, the books are enjoyable and worth reading.  People who do not care for them likely did not have the softcover books available as children.
As stated, I do not like several of the lowest-numbered Nancy Drew paperback books.  The books are a bit uneven for a time.  The lower-numbered Nancy Drew paperbacks were published in a time of transition.  Harriet Adams' health had failed, and Nancy Axelrad took over writing the books.  After Nancy Axelrad, the books were written by a number of different people, and during this time, the Stratemeyer Syndicate was sold to Simon and Schuster.  From that point on, Simon and Schuster was completely responsible and made necessary subtle changes to the series, like dumping Burt and Dave.

After this long transition, which occurred from #57 up to around #80, the series settled into consistently good titles.  The books are not the same as #1-56, but they are also not dramatically different from the higher-numbered ones.

Where does the fan draw the line?  What a fan read as a child usually makes the final decision.  Many (and perhaps most) of the post #56 Nancy Drew books are worth reading, but many people are not interested.

Collectors tend to stop at #56 since that was the final book originally published by Grosset and Dunlap.  For a time during recent years, Grosset and Dunlap issued #57 through #64 in hardcover editions, so some collectors expanded up to #64.  Other collectors have purchased the Wanderer hardcover editions with dust jackets, so they collect up to #78.  As far as I know, anyone who ventures beyond #78 goes all the way up to #175, even though the softcover books have had several format changes.

I don't know if I will continue revisiting the books up to #175 since I get easily distracted by other books, but I will go as far as I can.  My upcoming reviews generally will not be written up to the degree of my previous ones.  I only write for this blog when the content comes easily to me.  If I have no particular thoughts about a book, I will not review it except for a brief mention as to how much I enjoyed it.

#57 is the first one that will likely not have much more than a short review.  #58 is a favorite, so I should come up with a pretty good review.  My expectation right now is that for most books, I will write short reviews, and most posts will contain reviews of multiple books.  Now you know what to expect moving forward.

Monday, July 22, 2013

eBay Store Update, DSRs, and Facebook Promotion

On July 11, I opened my eBay store.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

My current plan is to list different books than the ones I have on Bonanza.  

Jennifer's Series Books on Bonanza

The Nancy Drew and Dana Girls books will stay on Bonanza, and I will list duplicates of some titles for which I have enough extras on hand.  Other series books, like Beverly Gray, the Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, and even Judy Bolton, will more likely be listed on eBay.

The problem is that I am no longer able to get good sales for books outside of Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls on Bonanza.  A good many buyers refuse to look outside of eBay.  My Cherry Ames books sat in my booth for months, some for years, without selling.  I have sold every single one of my Cherry Ames books in six weeks on eBay.  I have sold most of my Hardy Boys books.  Beverly Gray and Judy Bolton books that have sat in my booth for months are selling on eBay.

While I dislike taking on an eBay store fee, I find it necessary in order to get books to move faster.  The main advantage of having a store is that I have a store URL which is easy to give to buyers.  I want my eBay buyers to visit my Bonanza booth and my Bonanza buyers to check my eBay store.

My Facebook page is now my center of operation.

Jennifer's Series Books on Facebook

I have apps installed that display both my eBay and Bonanza listings.  Last week, I began including a small flyer in packages in addition to the main flyer I include.  The small flyer mentions my eBay store, Bonanza booth, and Facebook page.  I suggest that people follow me on Facebook as the best means to view both my stores easily.  Every post I make here is published to my Facebook page, so the Facebook page keeps everyone aware of when I have a new blog post.

The goal with this blog is to publish at least twice per week, and each post is an essay.  The Facebook page consists of short comments and pictures, and my goal is to publish at least once per day on Facebook.

I try to have regular, interesting content on my Facebook page.  Sometimes I will sit and think for several minutes about something I can post.  Sometimes I have to skip a day or two because I can't think of anything.  My very best Facebook posts come from random thoughts that come to me that connect somehow to series books.  Yesterday's second Facebook post is a good example of one of those.

I also try not to post too much on Facebook.  People get really annoyed when one person posts one update after another, which means that one person is dominating the newsfeed for a brief period of time.  It does no good, since posts roll off the newsfeed quickly.  I have read articles that give two reasons why people quit following Facebook pages:  too many updates and too few updates.  It is important to strike a balance between the two.

I am guilty of posting two to three times in one day on my Facebook page at times, but I try not to do that very often.  My goal is one and only one Facebook post per day, two on some days.  When I know that I have already posted at least twice in one day and have another thought that I really want to publish, I schedule that post for the next day in order to spread my posts out.  Facebook does have a feature where posts can be scheduled.  It looks like a clock right under where the user types the update.  It's a very handy feature.

Back to my eBay store.  The DSR beast has reared its ugly head.  I have sold a pretty high volume on eBay since early June.  I have done well on the DSRs, but my shipping cost DSR is suddenly taking a nosedive. 


Just a couple of days ago, my shipping DSR was 4.92, and it has now dropped to 4.86.  I do not know which transactions are costing me, but I suspect I know.  Most of my sales have been individual books with shipping set at $3.95.  While $3.95 seems high to many buyers, I actually now take a loss on most all packages that contain one book and ship for $3.95.  I have kept my $3.95 shipping charge for five years as postage has gone up each and every year.  My actual cost is $4.25 to $4.50 for each package including the cost of a new box, shrink wrap, packaging tape, paper for the label, and ink for the label.  Yet I am perceived as charging too much.

I am not complaining.  It is my choice to charge $3.95 postage.  I could use eBay's shipping calculator to up my shipping charge above the $4.00 limit in the books category.  And of course on Bonanza, I can do whatever I want.

The problem is that many eBay sellers are artificially placing their postage charge at around $2.00 to $2.50, which makes people like me look like gougers.  Other sellers use free shipping on all listings in order to force an automatic five DSR on shipping.

You will notice in the seller dashboard that I have not received any low DSRs, but since my shipping DSR has gone down fast, I must be receiving many threes and/or fours.  When I feel like taking the time, I will go in and figure out exactly which transactions are causing my average to go down.  eBay does provide the means for us to do so, yet they tell us not to do it.  Makes sense, right?

Last year at this time, all four of my DSRs were taking a nosedive.  I had one repeat buyer, and I used eBay's tool to figure out that he was giving me a four on all four DSRs.  This should not have been a problem, except that he alone was 30% to 40% of my transactions.  Even fours drag a seller's average down quickly.

As a buyer, the DSRs no longer mean anything to me.  I leave a generic comment and quickly click through the fives on the DSRs for all sellers.  No one ever gets less than five from me unless they did something rather bad, and even then, they will get a three or a four.  If the feedback comment is positive, then the seller should not get less than three stars.  I think sometime last year was the last time I gave any seller less than five stars.  I no longer care to do anything that could hurt an eBay seller.

Since my shipping DSR is plummeting, I changed many listings to free shipping when I relisted them.  I have to force some fives so that my DSR average does not continue going down.  In order to sell successfully on eBay, one must constantly make changes in order to keep the seller dashboard at an acceptable level.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nancy Drew #56 The Thirteenth Pearl

In Nancy Drew #56, The Thirteenth Pearl, a valuable pearl necklace is stolen from Mr. Moto's shop.  Mr. Moto disappears, and the Drews must find him and the thieves.  This book bores me enough that I do not wish to put forth the effort to write any better of a synopsis than that.

This was the last Nancy Drew book that I attempted to read as a child.  I did not read the books in order and did read at least two or three of the books from #57-63 or so.  I do not know which ones, but they would have been read before #56.

I know that this was the last book, because after I began collecting Nancy Drew books in 1991, I found my original bookmark partway through the book.  I lost interest before I finished the book, and that was it.  I moved on to Sweet Valley High and other teen books.

I had trouble finishing this book in the middle 1980s the first time I tried to read it.  I read the book again sometime between 1991 and 2001, and I did not enjoy it that time.  I just finished reading it, and I was not very interested this time.  We have a bunch of different men and women involved in selling jewels, stealing jewels, and worshiping jewels.  It's hard to keep up with all the characters, and the plot is a bit weird.

I made note of a few oddities worth mentioning, at least when I was paying close enough attention to notice details.

Nancy calls on the Mises and brings Toto with her.  On page 24, Toto leaves the car and barks to get inside the home.  Nancy goes to the door, and Toto runs in, breaking a vase, which is most likely valuable.  Nancy wants to pay for the vase, but Mrs. Mise refuses, telling Nancy that she is not responsible.  I disagree.  Nancy's dog broke the vase, so Nancy is responsible. 

Nancy questions Mr. Kikichi about the mess in Mr. Moto's back room.  Nancy leaves with Bess and George, but then she walks back inside on page 34 to explain to Mr. Kikichi why they were asking questions.  I find it odd that Nancy feels the need to explain.  She usually asks questions and doesn't worry about what people think.  I also thought the intent of her questions was obvious and needed no explanation; she wanted to know about the back room.

On page 43, chrysanthemums are for sale in the marketplace.  The text makes a point of mentioning that the chrysanthemums are of every size and color and that they are not yet in season.  "Apparently they had been forced."  The comment seems strange to me, since we all know that people use greenhouses to grow flowers in order to sell them.

I was taken aback on page 57 when Nancy purchases cufflinks for Burt and Dave, in addition to purchasing presents for her other friends.  Wow, Nancy has started buying presents for her friends' boyfriends!  However, we learn on page 137 that Nancy purchased the cufflinks for Bess and George to give as presents.  I think that an explanation on page 57 would have helped since I almost thought that Nancy was making a play for Burt and Dave. 

Have you ever noticed that Burt and Dave are like the same person with two different names?  They are also pretty useless.

On page 95, a man named Mr. Natsuke introduces himself and immediately announces that "his name meant ornamental button."  Is that normal for someone to volunteer the meaning of his name as soon as he is introduced?  

As you can conclude from my comments, I have never enjoyed reading The Thirteenth Pearl.  Part of the problem is the travelogue aspect; I have never liked those books as much.  I also can never remember the plot of this book.  When I think of The Thirteenth Pearl, I always think of the story of The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, but I always quickly remember that story is The Mystery of the Fire Dragon.  I then wonder what the plot of The Thirteenth Pearl is and can never think of it.  I just need to remind myself:  crazy pearl worshippers.  That should do it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Nancy Drew #55 Mystery of Crocodile Island

In Nancy Drew #55, Mystery of Crocodile Island, Carson Drew has been asked to investigate the Crocodile Ecology Company, located in the Florida Keys.  Roger Gonzales is concerned that the other partners in the company may be involved in an illegal scheme.  Nancy, Bess, and George travel to Florida under assumed names.

I was confused about a series of phone calls made during the story.  On page 13, Mr. Gonzales calls Carson Drew, telling him to cancel the trip.  Mr. Drew believes that Gonzales was forced to make the call, so Nancy makes the trip as planned.  Later, in the book, the Drews learn that the villains had wiretapped Mr. Gonzales' home.  But then we learn that Mr. Gonzales called Mr. Drew from the club instead of his home, which is why the villains were unaware that he canceled the trip.  But then the villains supposedly had Gonzales make the call.  Perhaps I missed something.

Nancy is given a piece of meat to throw to a crocodile on page 73.  Nancy decides that she is not in a good position to aim well, so she jumps into the pen with the crocodile.  After she throws the meat, she becomes so interested in watching the crocodile that she fails to leave the pen.  At the last moment, Nancy jumps out of the pen, avoiding injury. 

Joe tells Nancy, "You're some girl."  It is not appropriate for Nancy to be complemented about her foolishness.  It is also out of character for Nancy to be so foolish.  I mentioned this new, brash Nancy that appears in The Strange Message in the Parchment.  She is alive and well in this book as well.

This book is full of random events.  The girls find a message in a bottle and follow up on it.  A map is found in the woods, and the girls dig for treasure.  These subplots have nothing to do with the mystery.  

The young people plan to visit Key West Naval Base.   On page 134, Nancy wonders if she can tour a submarine.  George declares that it will be no problem.  "How could anyone ever say no to Nancy drew?"  Insert an eye roll here.  A naval base would not let random visiting girls tour a submarine.  But of course Mr. Crosgrove is a friend of one of the officers, so Nancy gets her wish.

With no discussion, Nancy hands Captain Townsend her car keys on page 138 so that he can drive them around the base. What must young girls think when they read these books?  Nowadays, Nancy would drive instead of the man.

Nancy's face reddens on page 141 when Ned is mentioned.  Any hint of romance and Nancy is embarrassed.  But wait... on page 94, Nancy is called a doll and practically asked out, but she doesn't blush.

I was halfway through the book when I reflected that at least Ned, Burt, and Dave were not conveniently able to join the girls.  Oops, I was wrong.  On page 141, we learn that the boys want to come down to see them.  Don't they go to college?  They must have very bad grades.

The Haunted Bridge is mentioned by name on page 148, which is interesting. 

On page 157 Danny plans to take the girls to an uninhabited key.  He tells them that he "can almost guarantee that you won't find any mosquitoes." Now exactly how would he know that?  Isn't there a lot of water in the Florida Keys?  My backyard is swarming with mosquitoes, and my backyard has less water than the Florida Keys. 

A submarine docks at Crocodile Island, and the men from the submarine go into a nearby building.  Nancy and Ned get in the submarine!  Exactly how stupid are they to think that they have time to get in the submarine, investigate, and emerge before the men return?  Of course the men return, and the young people find themselves prisoners in the submarine.

I overall enjoyed this story.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Recent Interesting Nancy Drew Auctions

There have been several interesting eBay auctions for Nancy Drew books.  This auction was for The Password to Larkspur Lane with the photoplay wrapper.


Most of the wrappers did not survive, so the wrapper is rare.  This particular wrapper is in outstanding condition.  The auction closed at $1,864.63.  Farah's Guide values the wrapper at $1,200.

A second auction with the photoplay wrapper surfaced just after the first auction closed. 


This second auction closed at $1,050.00.  Based on the winning bidder's user ID, I believe that the book was purchased to resell.  I could be wrong, but the buyer is an antiquarian bookseller who does not specialize in series books, which is how I draw my conclusion.

I would love to own this wrapper, but I am not willing to pay a high price for it.  The Bonita Granville movie items are all neat, but I personally would not want to pay very much for any of them.  They are a very low priority for me.  That takes me far out of the running for these auctions.

If I were going to purchase one of these wrappers, I would only be interested in the first auction for the one that was not faded.  The second one would be of no interest unless it fell into my hands very inexpensively.  To me, the two wrappers are in profoundly different condition, and the second one is far less desirable than the first one.  If I were to purchase the wrapper, I would want to display it in a frame, and the faded part is a huge flaw.  In my opinion, the second wrapper is only worth around 25% to 33% as much as the first wrapper.  Either the first wrapper sold too low, or the second wrapper sold too high.  I'll let you draw your own conclusion as to which is true.

Another interesting auction was for the first printing book of Nancy's Mysterious Letter.


The first printing of Nancy's Mysterious Letter lists to The Clue in the Diary in the post-text ads.  This auction closed at $118.28, and the book does not have a dust jacket.  Multiple later printings list to Nancy's Mysterious Letter in the post-text ads, and those books are often mistaken as the first printing.

The first printing listing to The Clue in the Diary is extremely scarce and is one of the toughest first printing books to acquire.  This first printing is harder to find than nearly all of the blank endpapers first printings, with the possible exception of the first printing of The Mystery at Lilac Inn.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Nancy Drew #54 The Strange Message in the Parchment

In Nancy Drew #54, The Strange Message in the Parchment,  Nancy is asked by Junie Flockhart to discover a message in a parchment.  The Flockharts purchased the parchment, and soon after, an anonymous caller informed them that the parchment is the key to righting a wrong.  Nancy, Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave join Nancy at the Flockhart's farm and help her solve the mystery.

Lots is wrong with this Nancy Drew mystery, and it's like we can see how Harriet Adams descended into dementia as these books were written.  Nancy even acts out of character at times. 

The book gives too graphic of a description of the slaughterhouse on page 22.  I was eating a corn dog as I read that page, and I stopped, staring at my corn dog.  I was thinking about where that corn dog came from and then had to force myself to finish it.  I don't know what Harriet was thinking.

On pages 23 and 24, Nancy and Junie recite some bad poetry, like how Junie had a pet lamb that was taken away and made into a sheepskin coat.  Was Harriet trying to gross me out even more?

Mr. Rocco has lived on a farm near the Flockhart farm for many years.  Strangely, on page 38, Junie has no idea how to get to his farm.  Really?

On page 40, Nancy and Junie get what they deserve when they trespass on Mr. Rocco's property.  They are attacked by a flock of vicious birds!  Later in the story, we learn that the birds were lifelike mechanical birds.  This plot device reminds me of the events from The Invisible Intruder.

The painted parchment is stolen from the Flockhart's home.  Nancy draws copies of the pictures as best she can, thinking that the artist can be identified from her sketches.  How?  The reader is expected to believe that Nancy is so good that she can duplicate someone's painting well enough that the original artist can be identified.  Not only that, but Nancy can recreate the original artist's work completely from memory.  Seriously?

Eezy's constant quoting of bible passages annoyed me.  Everything about the book kind of annoyed me.

Here we are on page 113, and Nancy is masterfully painting the parchment pictures from memory.  Suddenly, two men pop up out of nowhere and throw paint onto Nancy, Junie, and the parchment!  How random!

After the paint attack, Nancy wants to go back outside to look for clues.  She asks Mrs. Flockhart to go outside with the girls because Nancy is "sure that two men would not want to tackle three women."  I'm not so sure about that, but even if Nancy is right, the men could be armed.  Three women does not guarantee that there will be no trouble.

Nancy trespasses on Mr. Rocco's property multiple times during the story.  At first, she has no just cause, and her actions are a bit brash and completely out of character.  Nancy even ignores signs warning trespassers away and climbs Rocco's fence to get inside.  She searches his barns when she really has no definite reason to do so. 

The early original text Nancy Drew books portray Nancy as a brash young girl who breaks the law at times.  These later revised text books typically portray Nancy as a law-abiding citizen.  Her behavior is unusual for these later books. 

Nancy's five friends do not appear in the story until page 142, and these higher-numbered Nancy Drew books almost always have Nancy sleuthing with others.  Nancy does have Junie, but Junie is not one of the regulars.  Nancy is away from her core group of friends for 80% of this story.  It's like Nancy remembers her brash side when her primary friends are not present.

On page 154, George is "intrigued by the idea of meeting a real thief face to face."  Has George forgotten that she has solved mysteries with Nancy since volume five and that she has met many thieves?

On pages 158 and 159, Nancy has a heart-to-heart talk with young Sid in the jail.  She gets him to understand how sad he would be if someone were to steal something important from him.  Sid decides that he wants to go straight.  What a happy ending!  A criminal decides to quit hurting others.  Aw, so sweet...  and unrealistic.

The bible passages and Nancy's reformation of a criminal make this book seem preachy. 

I did not enjoy reading this Nancy Drew book, aside from laughing at parts of it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Avoid Annoying Pop-Up Ads + New eBay Store

I was browsing some blogs and found a link to my site, www.series-books.com, along with a comment that it is a good site even though it has annoying pop-ups.  The comment made me cringe, but really, I didn't put them there.  The site did not always have pop-ups, but at some point the web host added them.  I was not aware for the longest time about the pop-up ads, because I use Adblock Plus, which is a browser add-on.  It works splendidly.

I would pay more in order to make the ads disappear from my site, but unfortunately, it would raise my monthly fee by $20.  I am sure I could look around and find another web host, but I would prefer to leave the site where it is for convenience.  So, do me a favor and get a good pop-up blocker installed, and then you will never see another pop-up ad.  Please.  Just do it.

I took the plunge and opened an eBay store. 

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

The store is a work in progress, and to be honest, I don't like it right now.  I am used to Bonanza being one way and eBay being another way.  My eBay has changed to a new interface for me because of adding a store, and it will take some time to get used to the change.  It looks completely different.

I have not added many categories.  I do have around six added, but only one is visible.  I learned that store categories are only visible when items have been placed in them.  That is a good feature.  On Bonanza, I have to delete categories after I have removed all items.

I do think that the store will be good once I have gotten everything in place the way I want.  I signed up for the monthly subscription at $19.95 per month rather than the yearly subscription at $15.95 per month.  I found out how high the cancellation fee is for cancelling the yearly subscription early, and I decided not to take that risk. 

I will give the eBay store a try for at least two or three months and then will decide whether to keep it.  The plan is to list certain books on eBay while keeping other books on Bonanza.  The vast majority of my better books will continue to be on Bonanza, so as always, I encourage you to visit.

Jennifer's Series Books on Bonanza

Remember that I have a 12% off coupon which can be applied from any item page.  The coupon is visible near the price of each item.  The coupon will apply to all items placed in the order.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Advantages of Having an eBay Store

I am debating the advantages and disadvantages of opening an eBay store, and yes, this is coming from someone who five years ago had no desire to ever have an eBay store.  My obscure series books move very slowly in my Jennifer's Series Books booth, and this has something to do with Google exposure.

That is, the obscure books sell if a repeat buyer who already knows about me is interested, but aside from that, the books do not sell.  About the only books that consistently do well are Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls.  Around two to three times per year, Trixie Belden does fine for some inexplicable reason (three to five sales in a few days and then nothing for months), but otherwise, the Trixie Belden books do not sell.

I experimented with free listings last month on eBay.  I received two "by invitation only" free listing offers last month and listed well over 200 books in the fixed-price format or as auctions with Buy It Now.  I listed many different types of books but avoided ones that do well in my booth.  Books that had languished for months sold fast.  Many, many others did not sell, but I was thrilled to finally move some of my Beverly Gray and Judy Bolton books plus most of my Hardy Boys books.  I also sold many other books that are typically of very low interest.  That was very nice.

I did so well on eBay in June that in June alone I fully met my top-rated seller requirement by both dollar amount and number of items sold.  Top-rated sellers must sell at least 100 items per year at a total value of $1,000.  My June eBay sales exceeded both those numbers.  The main reason is because I had a large number of desirable books that have been up for sale for many months outside eBay, and as I have mentioned in the past, many buyers refuse to look outside eBay.  I kept the prices the same, and the books sold fast.

Based on my June sales results, I am considering opening an eBay store as a supplement to my Bonanza booth.  I hate taking on a monthly eBay store fee, so I have to think about this.  Since I don't have an eBay store, I currently have no monthly fee and get 50 free listings each month.  Those listings can be auction or fixed-price.  The fixed-price listings can be up to 30 days.

I have figured out that eBay auctions are completely pointless unless an item is valuable and extremely scarce.  The 30-day fixed-price format is best for most books.  Only a small percentage of prospective buyers will see a 7-day auction or 7-day fixed-price listing.  Unlike 10 years ago, many buyers check eBay less than once per week.  By listing a full 30 days, the seller reaches far more buyers.

Booksellers are fortunate, because fixed-price listings in the books category cost only $0.05 each.  A seller can have a book available for a month at a cost of only $0.05.  I hate even letting eBay have that much, but it is a low listing fee.  As we all know, eBay gets sellers on the final value fees, which are a flat 10%.  Even worse, eBay takes 10% of the shipping charge as well.  For $5.00 books, my final value fee is close to $1.00, or 20% of the selling price.

The cost of a basic eBay store is $19.95 per month, or $15.95 per month provided that the seller commits to one year.  The final value fees are 9% for eBay stores, which saves 1% over what non-store sellers are assessed.  Basic eBay stores get 150 free listings per month.  Sellers might still get invited to some of the eBay promotions and be able to supplement those free listings.

Part of me wonders whether an eBay store is worth it.  The seller gets a storefront page with a list of categories that can be customized.  Do buyers ever go to that page?  I don't.  I seldom click the little red store icon that appears next to a seller's user ID.  I click on "see other items" on the right side of the listing page, then run a search for whatever I want to see.  I am curious as to whether other people actually go to sellers' eBay storefronts.

I have not made a final decision, but I am leaning towards opening an eBay store.  Several times today, I have thought about going ahead and doing it, but then I wonder whether I am fine listing the way I am.  I am on the verge of taking the plunge, but I keep holding back.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Electronic Books vs. Printed Books

The topic of electronic books usually results in a heated debate.  Many people have a strong opinion and have trouble seeing the other side.

Let's start by examining the advantages and disadvantages of electronic books.  I will avoid listing the advantages and disadvantages of printed books, since those are readily apparent as compared to electronic texts.

Electronic books have these advantages.

1.  The text can be made larger or smaller.
2.  The text can be searched by keyword, finding a specific passage easily.
3.  Tapping on a word produces an instant definition.
4.  The books take up no shelf space.
5.  Text can be highlighted without damaging a physical copy.

Electronic books have these disadvantages.

1.  The book cannot be resold.
2.  The author cannot sign the book (electronic signatures are not the same).
3.  Stating the exact page of a quote is sometimes impossible, since many electronic books do not have page numbers. 
4.  Electronic books do not preserve the original font of vintage books.
5.  Electronic books tend to have more mistakes than printed editions.

Three groups of readers exist:  people who read only printed books, people who read only electronic books, and people who read both types of books.   I fit into the third group.

I have noticed that some people who read only printed books seem offended that others choose to read electronic books, and I am not sure why they are so upset.  It's fine to prefer one format over the other, but don't worry about how others choose to read their books.  After all, they are reading. 

I own more than 5,000 vintage books, and I would not trade those books for anything.  I do not want those books in the electronic format.  I prefer reading the printed books. 

I also do not wish to read electronic texts of my vintage books, because the electronic text may not be completely identical to the original version.  I have seen some transcription errors in the texts on Project Gutenberg, and that site is the source for electronic texts of vintage books.

In addition to vintage books, I also enjoy reading modern children's and young adult fiction books.  While I prefer reading the printed version of my vintage books, I prefer reading electronic texts of contemporary books.  The Kindle app for my iPad has exposed me to dozens of wonderful books that I would not have otherwise purchased.

The books would not have been purchased because they would have taken up too much shelf space.  Since I own more than 5,000 books, I have to be picky about which modern books I choose to bring into my home.  A 10th printing of a young adult bestseller is not going to have value at any point in the future.  The cover art of most new books is substandard and boring. I have no interest in having these books take up space.  Nevertheless, I do want to read them.

Some people who prefer printed books say that those of us who read electronic books fail to understand that we do not own the books and that Amazon could take the books back at any time.

I am aware that Amazon could take the books back at some point in the future, but I do not expect to read most of the books ever again.  Many people spend money going to the movies, $10 or more per ticket, depending upon where they live.  The cost of one person going to the movies is equivalent to the cost of one electronic book. 

I'm sure people who spend $10 to see a movie realize that they do not own the movie.  They have to purchase the DVD at an additional cost of $15 or more at a later date if they wish to own the movie.

To me, purchasing and reading an electronic book is like going to the movies.  I read the books for recreation, and the $10 (often less) is money well spent.  In most cases, I will not read the books again, so if Amazon takes some of them back in a few years, I won't care.

I was very cautious about purchasing new books to read prior to owning an iPad.  About the only printed contemporary books I purchased from 1995 to 2010 were Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Twilight.  That is a whopping 18 books.  I am not including reference books or coffee table books in my count, since those would have been purchased in a printed edition, even if I had already been reading electronic texts at that time.

Since 2010 and the purchase of an iPad, I have purchased more than 70 electronic books.  The vast majority are books I would have never purchased if I had not switched to electronic books for contemporary books.  I have greatly enjoyed the vast majority of my purchases.  Electronic books have been a blessing to this reader.

Both printed books and electronic books are an important part of my life.

Here is a list of the electronic books I have purchased since 2010, in no particular order. 

The Missing Series - Margaret Peterson Haddix
1.  Found, 2008
2.  Sent, 2009
3.  Sabotaged, 2010
4.  Torn, 2011
5.  Caught, 2012

The Shadow Children - Margaret Peterson Haddix
1.  Among the Hidden, 1998
2.  Among the Imposters, 2001
3.  Among the Betrayed, 2002
4.  Among the Barons, 2003
5.  Among the Brave, 2004
6.  Among the Enemy, 2005
7.  Among the Free, 2006

The Darkwoods Trilogy - J. A. Redmerski
1.  The Mayfair Moon, 2012
2.  Kindred, 2012
3.  The Ballad of Aramei, 2012

The Born Trilogy - Tara Brown
1.  Born, 2012
2.  Born to Fight, 2013

The Uglies - Scott Westerfield
1.  Uglies, 2005
2.  Pretties, 2011
3.  Specials, 2011

The Ashes Trilogy - Ilsa J. Bick
1.  Ashes, 2012
2.  Shadows, 2012

Gone Series - Michael Grant
1.  Gone, 2008
2.  Hunger, 2009
3.  Lies, 2010
4.  Plague, 2011
5.  Fear, 2012

The Candy Shop War - Brandon Mull
1.  The Candy Shop War, 2007
2.  The Arcade Catastrophe, 2012

The Beyonders Trilogy - Brandon Mull
1.  A World without Heroes, 2011
2.  Seeds of Rebellion, 2012
3.  Chasing the Prophecy, 2013

Fablehaven Series - Brandon Mull
1.  Fablehaven, 2006
2.  Rise of the Evening Star, 2007
3.  Grip of the Shadow Plague, 2008
4.  Secret of the Dragon Sanctuary, 2009
5.  Keys to the Demon Prison, 2010

Delirium Trilogy - Lauren Oliver
1.  Delirium, 2011
2.  Pandemonium, 2012
3.  Requiem, 2013

Matched Trilogy - Ally Condie
1.  Matched, 2010
2.  Crossed, 2011
3.  Reached, 2012

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Trilogy - Carrie Ryan
1.  The Forest of Hands and Teeth, 2009
2.  The Dead-Tossed Waves, 2010
3.  The Dark and Hollow Places, 2011

The Tapestry Series - Henry H. Neff
1.  The Hound of Rowan, 2007
2.  The Second Siege, 2008
3.  The Fiend and the Forge, 2010
4.  The Maelstrom, 2012

Unwind Dystology - Neal Shusterman
1.  Unwind, 2007
2.  UnWholly, 2012

Brixton Brothers - Mac Barnett
1.  The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity, 2009
2.  The Ghostwriter Secret, 2010
3.  It Happened on a Train, 2011
4.  Danger Goes Berserk, 2012

The Birthmarked Trilogy - Caragh M. O'Brien
1.  Birthmarked, 2010
2.  Prized, 2011
3.  Promised, 2012

Books of Ember - Jeanne Duprau
1.  The City of Ember, 2003
2.  The People of Sparks, 2005
3.  The Prophet of Yonwood, 2006
3.  The Diamond of Darkhold, 2008

Enclave Trilogy - Ann Aguirre
1.  Enclave, 2011
2.  Outpost, 2012

Divergent Trilogy - Veronica Roth
1. Divergent, 2011
2. Insurgent, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
1.  The Hunger Games, 2008
2.  Catching Fire, 2009
3.  Mockingjay, 2010

Life As We Knew It Series - Susan Beth Pfeffer
1.  Life As We Knew It, 2006
2.  The Dead and the Gone, 2008
3.  This World We Live In, 2010

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Nancy Drew #53 The Sky Phantom

In Nancy Drew #53, The Sky Phantom,  Nancy, Bess, and George stay at Hamilton Ranch, somewhere in the Midwest, while Nancy takes flying lessons at the Excello School.  Popular pilot Roger Paine has disappeared along with his plane.  Pop Hamilton's favorite horse, Major, has also disappeared.  Meanwhile, a strange cloud stays in one spot in the sky.  Planes that fly too close to or into the cloud lose control due to a magnetic force from within the cloud.

The book also has a subplot in which Bess has fallen in love with one of the cowboys, Chuck, and is worried about whether she should stay and marry him or whether she should remain true to Dave.  I remember how traumatized Bess was about the idea of marriage in The Invisible Intruder, so I say that she should dump both of them.  She's not ready for marriage!

I was never able to get into this story, simply because I did not care about Roger Paine or Major.  I never care as much about missing people and animals when they have not been introduced in the text prior to their disappearance.  The book gave me no reason to care.

I ran some online searches, trying to figure out whether a puffy cloud could stay in one place and be magnetic.  I could find nothing.  While a magnetic stationary cloud is interesting, I find it implausible.

A burr incident with a horse occurs on page 45, and this incident is just like one from The Secret of Shadow Ranch, 1965 revised text.  In both books, an unfriendly cowboy places a burr under the blanket of Nancy's horse.

On page 78, Nancy and Bruce investigate the cloud after Roger Paine's plane disappears into it.  They find nothing.  Bruce comments, "I guess it's just a hiding place for the sky phantom."  Say what?  Planes have a continuous forward motion.  A plane can't hide inside a cloud for an indefinite period of time.

Bruce flies back into the cloud, and they see a dark cloud inside shaped like a giant.  Soon after, the dark cloud reforms into the shape of a lion.  The giant inside the cloud is the image used for the cover art of this story.  And of course, the cover art is stupid.  This is the only Nancy Drew book that has Frankenstein's monster on the cover.

Nancy discovers a cave, an above ground cave.  The cave is full of mice and falling oily rain.  How very odd.  On page 117, Nancy tells Mr. Wade that since the oil comes from above ground that whoever owns the hill would have the rights to the oil.  Are we expected to believe that this above ground cave has a large supply of oil?

It turns out that a group of revolutionaries have buried weapons in the ground underneath the cloud.  This cloud must never move; it's a permanent fixture like a tree. 

The revolutionaries even went to the trouble of labeling the boxes so that Nancy and Ned would know that the boxes contain rifles and bombs.  How considerate!  We wouldn't want Nancy to open a box and accidentally touch a rifle or a bomb!

This is not one of the better higher-numbered Nancy Drew books.  While reading, I kept thinking about how the writing of Harriet Adams was noticeably going downhill as these books were published.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nancy Drew #52 The Secret of the Forgotten City

In Nancy Drew #52, The Secret of the Forgotten City, Nancy, Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave go on an archaeological expedition to Nevada.  They will work with a group from the University of Nevada, but Mrs. Wabash has also enlisted their help in finding an underground forgotten city.  Mrs. Wabash has a number of gold petroglyphs which contain a hidden message.  Unfortunately, Fleetfoot Joe steals Mrs. Wabash's petroglyphs, so Nancy must try to locate Fleetfoot Joe and the petroglyphs.

The manner in which the book begins is not a good sign of what will follow.  Ned plays a guessing game with Nancy, starting with exclaiming, "Au! Au! Au!"  Even Nancy expresses exasperation, which is nothing compared to how I, as the reader, felt.

The villain, Fleetfoot Joe, has a name that is too similar to Swahili Joe from The Spider Sapphire Mystery.  Both names sound catchy, but a different name should have been used in this book.  How about Fleetfoot Jack?  Or Fleetfoot Bob?  Perhaps not.

The villains get right down to business, attacking Mrs. Wabash on page 3.  Togo is taken away by one of the villains on page 18, and the villains wiretap the Drew home on page 31.
  
On page 40, we learn that Nancy owns a guitar, which just seems kind of random to me.

Nancy decides to make a fake copy of the one petroglyph tablet that was not stolen.  The boys bring Nancy a slab of rock that is presumably the same dimensions as the tablet.  How convenient!  Nancy uses modern chipping tools to reproduce the carvings from the original tablet.  Since Nancy is excellent at everything, she does so perfectly.  Last, Nancy just happens to know what substances to mix together to use to age the tablet.  After 30 minutes, she rubs off the paste and then waxes the imitation tablet.

From page 41, "The original and new tablets were compared, and it was agreed that anyone except an expert on artifacts would be fooled by the substitution."  Wow.

On page 84, Nancy and George lie down on the ground in the desert to rest.  They get what they deserve when a scorpion crawls on Nancy.  It seems to me that the girls could have rested in the car, but what do I know?

On pages 87 and 88, the young people giggle about the names they keep hearing while in a hotel, names like Shirley Rainbow and Rosemary Bluebird.  A big deal is made about how these names must be those of famous people who are there incognito.  Maybe it's just me, but if I were famous and at a hotel, I'd just pick an ordinary name to use—like maybe the one I actually have, Jennifer White.  A name like mine would draw far less attention than a name like Rosemary Bluebird.

On page 92, Nancy invites Wanna Antler (Okay, so this must be a fake name, right?) to join the archaeological expedition.  The next thing we know, Miss Antler is "leading the way to the spot where she thought they should make camp and work."  Miss Antler is now in charge?

On page 98, Nancy knows all sorts of different Spanish dialects.  She correctly guesses which dialect is spoken by the Mexicans and is able to speak fluently with them. Amazing!

The young people come up with this stupid code to use when they want to speak privately but are afraid of eavesdroppers.  They make up some nonsense statement, and the others can figure out the real meaning by using the third word in each sentence.  Ned uses this code on page 114.
"Run, because you should be in the shade.  Desert sunburns are deadly.  Any person being caught here is a target.  Be on watch for sunstroke."
Um, okay.  Nancy has to take a moment to figure out the message, which is "You are being watch."  She then runs after Ned, who tells her that Fleetfoot Joe was watching them (Is it bad that I almost typed Swahili Joe?).  Wouldn't it be easier and more to the point for Ned to just yell, "Run!" and then take off?  I'm sure Nancy would follow him, wouldn't she?

On page 127, Bess and Dave use a tube of statuary cement to repair a clay doll that Bess had found.  I am horrified that two young people would take it upon themselves to make a permanent repair to an artifact.  But then, on page 135, the museum curator tells them that they "did a great job mending this.  Very professional looking.  It is perfect."  Fine, I'll shut up now.

But the worst is yet to come on pages 140 and 141.  The young people take a skeleton that had been excavated and jiggle it around, making it dance.  Later, they use the skeleton to scare the other people on the camp.  Not only is this disrespectful of the dead, but they are running the risk of damaging important archaeological evidence.  I don't recall having an opinion of this scene as a child, but each time since then, I have been appalled.

On page 155, Nancy is foolhardy to get inside a car with people she doesn't know.  It works out fine, but I couldn't help thinking, "What if they had kidnapped her?"

I could mention lots more stuff, like Swahili Joe...er...Fleetfoot Joe hiding the tablets among a bunch of rocks in the desert where Nancy and her friends can find them.  However, I will stop here.

As I read The Secret of the Forgotten City, I felt about the same way I felt when reading The Spider Sapphire Mystery.  So much about this story is either highly annoying or stupid.  I recall greatly enjoying this story as a child, but it does not hold up to my memories.