Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fewer RARE Books . . .

It may not mean anything, but I have noticed that suddenly several sellers are not using the word "rare" as much to describe their books. Most of their current listings do not use the word, and most of their recent listings do not use the word. I wonder why?

I have criticized the overuse of the word for months. When at least one-third or more of a seller's books are described as rare and in capital letters so that the seller is shouting at buyers ( remember that all caps is considered SHOUTING on the internet), I devalue the meaning of the word and devalue all of the seller's descriptions. The word has been overused by several people to the point that it no longer means anything at all.

Why have they suddenly decided to use it sparingly or not at all? It could be coincidental and temporary. Perhaps they will begin using it again in the coming weeks. We all change our minds on how we wish to market our items. On the other hand, it is also possible that these people have become aware of my and others' comments about overusing the word. I have no way of knowing what it is, but I do feel that it is likely that people who regularly sell series books will eventually stumble across this blog.

Back last year, I am fairly certain that in at least one instance, a seller changed his descriptions because of my comments. I refer you to this post:

More on the Applewood Editions

The seller had included this statement in his descriptions about the Applewood editions:
Although these books profess to be only reprints of the originals, their charm and craftsmanship continue to win the hearts of Nancy Drew fans, sometimes to the chagrin of Nancy purists.
I wrote this response in my blog:
Huh? First of all, I am about as serious of a Nancy Drew collector as one can be, but I am most certainly not a Nancy Drew purist. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I have always thought that a Nancy Drew purist was someone who only likes the original text books, #1-34. Aren't the Applewood editions the original text? Why would a purist have a problem with them?
I noted that within two weeks of that post, the seller had changed his descriptions to avoid using the word "purist." Interesting . . . I am very aware that when I write about auctions that the sellers may eventually end up reading my comments. This is why everything I write is filtered, and I try not to be too harsh. For some situations, I avoid mentioning auctions until they are closed so as not to interfere with the selling process.

So I have railed against the overuse of "rare," and I wonder why fewer books are currently described as "rare." I have mentioned on at least two recent occasions that I do boycott the listings of people who overuse the word. I have also mentioned in the past that while these people do lure in the newbie buyers, they turn off people like me. I once posed the question of whether it is worth it to alienate one group of collectors while taking advantage of another group. Have some of these people read my comments?

By the way, even though I do boycott some sellers' listings, if one of them should ever come up with that one Linda Carlton book that I need, I would quickly overcome my aversion and would place a bid. While I will not purchase books from them that I feel that I can find from others, I will purchase truly rare books should one ever surface. I am not going to go without a book just as a matter of principle.

In closing, I wish to make clear that I really do not have a problem with sellers describing some books as rare. Using the word for some books is fine; using it for a high percentage of books just to grab attention is what I dislike.


Anonymous said...

The sellers *must* be reading this blog. I too noticed there are not so many RARE titles. It was funny - a few weeks ago, someone had listed a book as RARE and there were two more of the same thing listed at the very same time as the RARE book!

I thought of you when I saw one seller describe a book this week as "scarce" - exactly the word you use at times in your blog when debunking the "rare" label. So they must be reading and it's good some are taking your advice.

Now if you could just get those sellers with the really, really, really long descriptions, with all different fonts and colors that distract and dazzle you into buying, to change their ways... Recently there was a book listed on ebay like this that was described as "stunning" "superb" "pristine" "mint book" "near fine" etc. over and over and buried in there was one line that said a whole page - the frontispiece - is missing! How can the seller call this near fine? I know it's a bummer when you find a book that is great EXCEPT for one major flaw, but all the raving about the good aspects of the book isn't going to make the big flaw go away. It's just one of those things where you have to hope there is someone who doesn't mind and will appreciate having the book even with the flaw. But it's kinda ridiculous to say such a book is in mint condition. OK - I'm over it - nice to be able to vent here a little. ;) Thanks for keeping this great blog going!

Jennifer White said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not imagining it. At least a couple of sellers do seem to be using "scarce" a lot more than they were.

Another seller who has not listed for a while has returned and is still using "RARE" in many descriptions. If these people realized that using "RARE" for everything devalues it, maybe they would think twice.

When I see "RARE" on a listing, I think of the guy who is stationed on a nearby street corner during the day dressed as the Statue of Liberty. He is advertising a place that does tax returns. Using "RARE" is like dressing up in costume and yelling at passing cars. Okay, so the guy dressed as the Statue of Liberty is not yelling, but you get the idea. I want to flee each time that I see him, just like I do when I see "RARE."

a few weeks ago, someone had listed a book as RARE and there were two more of the same thing listed at the very same time as the RARE book!

That is when it is so laughable. I'm keeping track of how many $1 box Fire Dragon PCs keep coming up for sale. I was inspired by that seller who dared us to find another one. Oddly, he had another one a couple weeks later, and several more have surfaced. It makes the seller look rather silly when such a rare book is up for sale something like five times in less than two months.

Anonymous said...

I think we spoke too soon - seemed like today there were quite a few new listings that used the "R" word in either the title or the description! ;D

Jennifer White said...

One of the sellers who had mostly quit using "RARE" seems to have started again, yet this seller is now using "SCARCE" for some books. The books that are labeled as "SCARCE" are more rare than the books that are labeled as "RARE." It is really odd. It just proves, to me, that when "RARE" is used on multiple books offered simultaneously by one seller that it is a total lie and attention-grabbing device.

Anonymous said...


I listed that gorgeous book and the very first thing I said in bold letters was that the frontis was missing. This was a paper frontis not a pricey glossy but a frontis nevertheless.

It is truly an outstanding copy although it is flawed. It looks practically new although it is vintage. It is one of the nicest copies I have ever seen.

I started it a very low opening bid of $7.99. I added a free mylar cover. I paid considerably more for the book.

I normally do not even list books in less than very good condition unless it is something rare or special.

Yet every day I see books listed that I would never dream of passing on to someone else.

I see inaccurate descriptions and people who do not take the time to describe what they are selling.

If it is not something I would not want, I cannot sell it and I don't.

I do not throw it in a lot and hope no one will notice.

I donate them to schools, kids, libraries. I recently had enough copies to cover an entire fourth grade class at a nearby school- both Nancys and Hardy Boys. All those nasty, or lesser than copies we all get- I just cannot in good conscious sell them to someone else. I just absorb the loss. I pass them on as reading copies to kids that may not own a single book.

So we all have our own standards and I can certainly live within the parameters of mine.

I have been adding freebies to all my orders for years. I appreciate my customers and the last thing I want to do is rip off some stranger nice enough to send me their hard earned cash.

I write detailed descriptions and include numerous photos. I do my best to educate people on what they are buying.

All the information is there for them to make an educated decision.

I often take the time to counsel the newbies so they do not get ripped off. That takes hours every week but I enjoy doing it. That is my profession- teaching.

I had a lovely lady helping me when I started collecting. I want to pass some of that on. That was the way Ebay use to be.

If you want to get enraged about something, consider the sellers that list first editions when they are not. I see it every day and the new sellers get sucked in all the time. I know. It has happened to me.

There is also someone selling phony cameos FOR years, with jacked up prices who is likely making more profit than any other seller as her overhead is almost non-existent. She also reports, tattles on other Ebayers for sport.

I sold that book without the frontispiece because I thought it was too beautiful a book to go to waste.

I try to avoid rare and instead say HTF. These may be terms that the typical buyer does not understand and it can be a matter of semantics even among collectors.

And the bottom line is my customers are not complaining. On the contrary, I rarely get any problems from them as I insist on selling the best books I can find. I'll take a book in great condition over a bargain any day.

I simply do not care about money enough to rip anyone off. I truly want people to be happy with the books they purchase and they are which makes me feel good as well.


Jennifer White said...

There is a difference in opinion among book collectors and sellers about how to use the grading system for books. The grading system is very subjective, and this is where the problem is.

From the Independent Online Booksellers Association:

AS NEW; FINE; MINT: Without faults or defects.

NEAR FINE: a book approaching FINE (or AS NEW or MINT) but with a couple of very minor defects or faults, which must be noted.


Very Fine (VF) - Essentially a "New" book (or "As New") with no defects, a crisp, tight binding, and virtually un-noticeable or no flaws found under close examination. A book that is in nearly perfect condition with no sign that it has been read. The dust jacket (if it was issued with one) must be perfect, without any tears.

Fine (F) - A book in "Fine" condition approaches the condition of "Very Fine", but without being crisp. There must also be no defects, etc. Fine allows a small bump or two. If the book was read, it was done very carefully. The dust jacket may not be as shiny as new, but has no wrinkles, folds, chips or tears.

Near Fine (NF) - No defects, little usage, and markings are minimal. A minor flaw may be present. "Fine" with a little more wear and some very minor flaws.

I placed the important words in italics to draw attention to them. According to the traditional grading system, a book that is described as near fine or better is not supposed to have any significant flaws. This is what Paula was getting at, I believe.

I have not seen the listing mentioned in the comments to this post, so I cannot comment about it. It is a shame to have a nearly perfect book that has just one flaw.

I am not comfortable with using the traditional book grading system, in part because of what is mentioned above. What if I call a book "fine" but somebody else thinks it is only "very good"? I solve the problem by not using the grading system. I describe my books as having very light, light, moderate, heavy, or very heavy wear.