I consider price, paper quality, absence of odor, absence of water damage, and dust jacket spine and front panel condition to be most important and not necessarily in that order. I care not at all if a name is written inside. Certainly, an unmarked book is preferable to one with a name written inside, but the factors I just listed are far more important to me.
I almost never purchase the least expensive book if I can find one that is somewhat more expensive that better meets my other conditions. There is a limit, however, to how high I will go, so I do sometimes take a less expensive copy with flaws when the other copies are higher than I wish to pay.
If I see several copies with dust jackets, I will usually take a copy that has less wear to the spine and front panel. If two sellers have the same book but one seller does not picture the dust jacket spine, I will purchase the book from the seller who pictured the spine, even if that copy is priced $5 or $10 higher. I want a nice spine, since that is the part I can see on the shelf.
Most recently, I decided to build a set of Tom Quest books. I built the set over the course of an hour. Yes, I move very quickly. I wanted to acquire all eight books fast so that I could read them in the near future. I searched eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, Amazon, and AbeBooks for copies to purchase. I had to print myself a list of the eight titles so that I could make notes about the copies that I found on the different sites.
The first six Tom Quest titles were issued in hardcover with dust jacket by Grosset and Dunlap. The first six were reissued in the Clover picture cover edition, and the last two books were only published in the Clover edition, which has pulp paper. Since I dislike reading books with pulp paper, my first decision was to purchase the books with dust jackets for the first six titles. I knew that the early printings of some books might have pulp paper, but I would still prefer reading one of those books to reading a Clover edition.
Next, I had to locate books with jackets on the five sites I mentioned. I quickly abandoned AbeBooks and Amazon because I found sufficient copies available on other sites. I always check AbeBooks and Amazon, since I sometimes find nice books at bargain prices. However, those sites are usually my last resort, since the sellers typically do not photograph the books and often overprice them by a lot.
I eliminated the books on Bonanza very quickly since the selection on Bonanza was very poor. I don't know what is wrong with the sellers on Bonanza. Not only do the sellers price their books too high, but the selection tends to be worse on Bonanza than on the other sites. I wonder if this is one of the reasons my Bonanza booth has died. When a large number of sellers on a site overprice common books, buyers will ignore the site.
I found the books I wanted on eBay and Etsy. Five books came from eBay, and three came from Etsy. I had to settle for some books with chipping to the spines of the jackets, but I did purchase the overall best ones that I could. As already mentioned, this means that I generally did not select the cheapest copies.
As I compared listings, I looked at the pictures and skimmed the descriptions to make sure that the books did not have horrific condition problems not seen in the pictures. I did not pay attention to the item specifics or to details like whether a name was written inside. Those factors matter not in the slightest to me. Item specifics are only important in the complete absence of a written description. Names written inside books have never bothered me.
This brings me to my buyers.
I have noticed that a number of buyers are very worried about whether names are written inside the books. One buyer wanted books without names because she wanted to be able to pretend the books were her mother's while she was reading them. Other buyers are concerned about how neat the writing is. If the writing is messy or not attractive, then that is a problem. I had one buyer ask to me photograph the names inside the books I had for sale so that she could choose which books based on the appearance of the names.
Think about that. A buyer is more concerned about the appearance of a name inside the book than on the appearance of a dust jacket that is outside the book.
Other buyers are obsessively concerned with the item specifics. I refer to that box that shows in eBay listings above the item description. The item specifics box identifies the book as hardcover or softcover and gives a condition rating for the book. The part that worries these buyers is the condition rating. They especially don't like it if the condition rating doesn't quite match the item description. They assign a higher significance to the condition rating than to the item description that was typed out by the seller. Let that sink in for a moment.
Perhaps the buyers aren't aware that sellers commonly copy one listing to the next and often don't change the condition rating in the item specifics. The only reason many sellers include the items specifics is because eBay forces them to do it. Many sellers assign the condition rating of "acceptable" to every single book they sell regardless of condition. They do this in order to avoid accidentally having too high of a condition rating in the item specifics box. This is why less significance should be placed on the condition rating than on what the seller has typed out.
A couple months ago, a buyer purchased a large number of books from me, including one book with pulp paper from 1945. After the buyer received the book, he asked to return it because he did not consider the paper to be fit to be read. He didn't realize that the pulp paper would be as bad as it was. He returned the book, and I refunded him. This was not a problem, by the way. Pulp books can be tricky to sell. Because of that return, I have tried to stress how bad the pulp paper is in listings created since that return so that hopefully no one else will be disappointed.
Ten days after the buyer returned that book, he queried me about one of my listings. He wrote:
I would like to see more pictures: a picture of the copyright page, of the cracked hinge, of the first page of the last chapter, a few random pages of the book. I would like to know if it has damaged pages due to food stains or water. The coloring of the pages: are the pages bright as if they were new, or yellow/deep yellow? Please let me know. Thank you.Even though this was not a book with pulp paper, I assumed that the buyer was worried about the paper quality due to the previous return or was worried that he might have to return another book. I took a few photos and added them to the listing. I told him, "The pages are lightly yellowed. The book is not water-damaged or stained. I added a few photos to the listing."
Finally, the buyer let me know what the real problem was. He responded, "Will you please explain to me the condition of the book. Why is it only 'Good.' I've bought from you other books and I have to trust you when you say 'Very Good' or just 'Good.' "
Ah. I then realized that he is one of the buyers who think that the item specifics are more important than the written description. I responded as follows:
Always use my written description for notes about the condition of my books. Never use that box that has the item specifics. The information in that box gets copied from one listing to the next. I try to change the condition value for that box up and down from one listing to the next, but sometimes it does not get changed. That is what happened with this listing. If that box contradicts the written description, go with the written description which will be accurate. I apologize for the confusion.I also knew as I sent my response that this buyer would never purchase from me again. I knew that since he considered the item specifics to be of utmost importance that he would never trust me again. He has not purchased from me again, at least not yet, and this was six weeks ago. He had made several purchases from me previous to asking about the item specifics of that listing.
The buyers who are overly concerned about item specifics or names written inside are likely a small percentage of buyers. Most buyers are probably more concerned with the overall condition of a book and jacket.