Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ad Placement on eBay Searches

EBay has begun placing ads at the bottom of the search result pages. This program began last year, but I just now noticed the ads, since the number of ads has recently increased. The number of ads has increased because eBay has been sending out coupons to encourage people to buy the ads. These ads appear immediately after the results but before the links to the additional pages of results. This is annoying to me as a buyer and of deep concern to me as a seller.

This is what the end of the search results pages look like:

The above screen cap is of the end of the first page of results for a Nancy Drew search. Notice that the ads appear right after the last results. Unless the buyer scrolls down quite a bit, the buyer will not see the link to the next page of results.

Here is another screen cap:

In this one, you can see that the results page has four ads which completely take up the screen. I removed all of my toolbars from my browser temporarily and still could not see the tail end of the results along with the ads and the links to the next pages all at the same time. This is not good.

I should also point out that that my screen resolution is set at 1268 by 768 pixels, which is what I prefer on my 22 inch monitor. I know that I could increase the resolution to see more, but I am quite happy with the amount that I can see on all websites, or should I say all websites except eBay's search results pages. As I have said before, "Way to go, eBay!"

The above screen caps were from results using Internet Explorer. Google Chrome gives the same results with the ads. This is Firefox:

Notice that the ads are missing! Firefox is the most awesome browser that blocks the vast majority of embedded and and pop-up ads on all websites. Firefox completely strips eBay of all of its obnoxious ads. I believe that it is necessary to get the Firefox add-on Adblock Plus to remove all of the ads. I highly recommend it.

I would not be aware of the ads except that due to my continuing problems with Firefox and my saved searches page in My eBay I have to use Google Chrome to access my saved searches. As as result, I do most of my searches in Google Chrome these days, and the ads are getting on my nerves.

I access my most recently-saved searches from the quick list that appears in the upper right part of eBay's advanced search page, so I use Firefox for those searches and do not see the ads. I make a point of making certain that my most common searches are always in that quick list so that I can use Firefox for them.

I am concerned that some buyers will not realize that more results can be found on additional pages due to the placement of the ads. When I first encountered the ads days ago in Google Chrome, I was thrown off at first and wondered where the links were. I found them, but new buyers may not know to keep scrolling down the page.

I wondered how many buyers are seeing the ads and how many are not. Since I know that users of Internet Explorer will most likely see the ads (it is possible to tweak Explorer to block ads but it is difficult), I decided to find out how many people use Explorer.

Browser Statistics

According to the above page, 43.6% of web surfers used Internet Explorer in February 2009. This means that potentially close to half of eBay's buyers will see the ads, and some of them will not know to scroll down to the next page. This is not good.

Additionally, people like me will be forced into the new search in April, which means that I could be using the new search as soon as Wednesday. I am bracing myself for it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Some Surprising eBay Prices

Considering that the economy and eBay's "improvements" have caused most auction results to be dismal, I have been quite astonished at some of the inflated prices that have resulted from bidding wars.

TRIXIE BELDEN lot of 16 BOOKS #1 THRU 16 HARD BACK Item #230328041264

This auction was for a complete set of the 16 Trixie Belden thin hardcover editions from the 1970s. The auction closed at $102.00. The Trixie Belden PCs from the 1970s were made from cheap materials and have not held up well over time. Most examples that I find have split hinges. The seller gave no indication of condition, but I can see wear at the spine ends. It is doubtful that these books have intact hinges, since most surviving copies do not. I feel that $102.00 for a complete set is a bit high.


Peril Over the Airport Vicki Barr w DJ ExceLLent Item #140304694964

This tweed Vicki Barr book with dust jacket closed at $43.32. Last year when we had the buying frenzy, Peril Over the Airport did sell for this kind of price. Right now we do not have a buying frenzy, so it is surprising. The dust jacket has a sticker scar on the front panel, and that does take away from the value. Two people must really want to complete their Vicki Barr sets.


Nancy Drew COMPLETE SET of Vintage Books 1-56 RARE Item #220366940439

In recent months, complete sets of Nancy Drew books have not been doing nearly as well as they were previously. I have seen quite a few sell for $200.00 and under. Each time I have tried to sell one, I have had people tell me that my set should sell for some ridiculously low price. This set sold for $445.00. It was described as "RARE," and I think the buyers fell for it—hook, line, and sinker. Some of the books are not even in that great of shape. Other sets went unsold at $239.00 and $235.00. Why???

Actually, this just proves my point of how booksellers should not drastically undercut their prices in desperation. Many buyers prefer to purchase the higher-priced books because of the perceived value. Think about it. While I would not bid a complete set of Nancy Drew books up to over $400.00, I have selected books to purchase on the Advanced Book Exchange by considering which seller will offer me a better product and better service. I do sometimes go for the higher-priced one. The buyers probably bid this lot to over $400.00 because of the perceived value.


Huge Lot of 35 The Nancy Drew Files Mystery Novels Item #120389862569

This is one of the most shocking auction results I have ever seen. The auction was for 35 of the Nancy Drew Files. The auction closed at $910.00, which is $26.00 per book. The books are worth no more than a couple dollars each. The closing price is crazier than anything I recall from last summer during the buying frenzy. I have to wonder whether the winning bidder has completed the transaction. I find it very hard to believe that someone would be willing to pay almost $1,000 for slightly more than one-fourth of the Nancy Drew Files set.


Contrast the above auction to the following one:

Lot of 51 Nancy Drew Files Good Condition Item #290302715603

This auction closed at $56.50, a much more realistic price.


I believe that the reason for some of these high prices is that the selection has greatly deteriorated on eBay in the last few months. Since fewer books are available, the ones remaining are more in demand.

Friday, March 27, 2009

By the Light of the Study Lamp

I recently read portions of the book Rascals at Large or The Clue in the Old Nostalgia by Arthur Prager. This book was published in 1971 and examines several Stratemeyer Syndicate series including Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as well as the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs among others.

Prager made an observation about the first Nancy Drew book and the first Dana Girls book that I had never before noticed. The Dana Girls series was created soon after the early success of the Nancy Drew series. The Syndicate created the Dana Girls as an imitator of the Nancy Drew series. In some ways, the Dana Girls series is more like the Hardy Boys series than it is like Nancy Drew. The Dana sisters are female counterparts to the Hardy brothers.

Prager pointed out a connection between the opening of the first Nancy Drew book and the title of the first Dana Girls book. This is how the first Nancy Drew book, The Secret of the Old Clock, opens:
"It would be a shame if all that money went to the Tophams! They will fly higher than ever!"

Nancy Drew, a pretty girl of sixteen, leaned over the library table and addressed her father who sat reading a newspaper by the study lamp.

Carson Drew, a noted criminal and mystery-case lawyer, known far and wide for his work as a former district attorney, looked up from his evening paper and smiled indulgently upon his only daughter. Now, as he gave her his respectful attention, he was not particularly concerned with the Richard Topham family but rather with the rich glow of the lamp upon Nancy's curly golden bob.
Arthur Prager wrote:
The first title of the [Dana Girls'] first book, By the Light of the Study Lamp, recalls the first paragraph of the first Nancy book. Remember the Tophams and how Nancy addressed her father on the subject of their inheritance as he sat reading by the study lamp?
Not only did Carson Drew read "by the study lamp," he noticed the "glow of the lamp" upon Nancy's hair. From that came the title, By the Light of the Study Lamp. Of course it could have been just a coincidence, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"All Grosset and Dunlap Books Are Reprints"

So said many collector's guides from decades ago. This myth continues to be perpetuated among booksellers. Most booksellers know better, but a good many still believe that all Grosset and Dunlap books are worthless or cannot be first printings.

From the eBay Booksellers Board:

Book Help: Ted Scott Flying Stories

Someone asked whether a Ted Scott book could be a first printing. The first person to respond stated, "Anything by Grosset and Dunlap is a reprint." This person was quickly corrected by a couple of people who stated that most of the Grosset and Dunlap series books were originally published by Grosset and Dunlap.

Further into the message thread, professorbooknoodle stated:
There was a time in the book world -- years and years ago -- when dealers sneered at G & D books - and eschewed them -- nay - spurned them. But there were always a few bright-eyed collectors and dealers who ignored the prevailing winds and set out from shore a bit further, buying nice Grossets when prices were as low as a worm's perspective.

When ever a book was thrown across a room, there was 50% chance it was a Grosset.

Now the problem is to find specimens with spiffy jackets. That was always a goal, but there used to be more of them. Just a natural attrition.

Oldbookshopnj wrote, "I clearly remember going to a book sale and not buying G&D series books because I knew all G&D books were reprints."

Ouch! I have heard similar stories many times.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Remembering My Best Find

I have had many good finds, but there is one that will always be the best. In 1997 and 1998, I built a set of Judy Bolton books, as best I could. The prices were very high at that time. I had to buy Jim Towey's reprints of #33-38 at around $25.00 each. I wanted original editions of #33-38, but I had to settle for the reprints. The only book that I did not have at all was #32 Whispered Watchword. I kept bidding on dust-jacketed editions of #32 at around $125, but I kept losing. I was not willing to pay above $125 for it. After a delay of some months, Jim announced that the reprint would be available in June 1998, and I ordered it.

In June 1998, I went to Memphis, Tennessee, on a trip to antique shops. At that time, Memphis was a hot spot for old series books. I am seriously not kidding. I found lots of wonderful books there that I could not find near home. It was amazing.

I went into one shop that was called something like "Art and Antiques." This is the type of store that usually does not have many books, and the books that are available are ones like Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Nobody wants those. I had little hope for finding anything good, but I went in anyway.

The store was laid out in an obnoxious pattern that made it very difficult to make certain that I visited each room. The rooms were set up in an odd fashion. The walls were more like partitions, and anywhere from one to four of the walls had doors that led to other rooms. I had to double back multiple times to make certain that I was getting into all of the rooms. I ended up walking through some rooms multiple times, and I even had trouble finding my way out of one group of rooms. I may not have even made it into each room. It was like a maze.

About halfway through this store I felt like leaving. I felt that I was not going to find anything at all, and I was wasting my time. I had a limited number of hours in which to visit stores, and I had many more stores to visit. This was the kind of store that I hate where I never find anything. I forced myself to keep walking, just in case.

I had turned right when I entered the store and meandered my way towards the back, through the center, as already stated I doubled back multiple times, and finally approached the front on the other side. In that last front corner, probably the second to the last room that I needed to check, I saw them.

As I walked through the door, there was an old desk a few feet inside the room. On that desk was a row of six Judy Bolton books with very high grade condition dust jackets. I could not believe my eyes. The books were #18 Living Portrait, #24 Forbidden Chest, #30 Phantom Friend, #31 Dragon's Mouth, #32 Whispered Watchword, and #33 Secret Quest. As I approached them, I remember muttering to myself something like, "Oh my God, oh my God, I can't believe it." I pulled out one of the books and checked the price, which was $4.50. Each book was $4.50.

I began trembling. This was the only time that I have ever started trembling because of a book purchase. I already had original editions of #18, 24, and 30, but I wanted original editions of #31, 32, and 33 very badly. I couldn't believe that I had just found the original edition of #32 right before I was to receive my reprint from Jim Towey, and for much cheaper.

I could not completely conceal my nervousness when I approached the register. I know that I was fidgeting the entire time that the cashier meticulously wrote down the titles of the books and the prices. I became even more anxious when the cashier commented about how neat the books were. I was very afraid that I would not get out of the store with them.

This was because I had had past experiences at garage sales when the owner would decide not to sell out of paranoid fear that the books were valuable. Whenever that has happened to me, the books were not valuable. I even had a book store owner once who seemed paranoid that the one Nancy Drew tweed book with dust jacket that I selected was somehow valuable and he didn't know it. I chose it because I needed that title and for no other reason. Geez.

So I waited while the cashier slowly wrote everything down. Towards the end, she looked up at me and said she'd be done soon. She obviously had picked up on my nervousness. I was trying hard to hide it, but I did not completely succeed. I finally paid for the books and got out of there as quickly as I could. Once I had the books in the car and knew they were mine to keep, my nervousness disappeared, and I was on the most magnificent high the rest of the day.

I have had many outstanding finds, but this one was by far the most emotional and satisfying experience I have ever had. I returned from Memphis the day after I made my wonderful purchase. Jim Towey's reprint of #32 was waiting for me at home. It was ironic that I purchased a reprint of #32 for around $30, yet was able to purchase the original for $4.50 right before I received the reprint.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Current List of Blocked Sellers

This is my current list of blocked sellers:


I notice on one of my older posts on this topic that the names of some sellers were cut off. I have tried to keep the lines short in the list so that nothing is lost after I post this.

Note: I make the additions near the start of the list after buy and primemediaking. It is easier for me to paste them into the list near the start rather than to scroll to the end of the list to enter them into the form. I mention this in case someone has a list and likes to modify it with sellers I have blocked.

I had noticed in recent days that my Nancy Drew searches had increased by around 300 results, so I found four sellers to add to my list. My results went down again by around 300. My criteria for removing sellers are when a seller has 10,000 or more items up for sale and is selling modern books only.

The above list removes over 1,300 items from my Nancy Drew searches. I also apply this list to other searches that have become troublesome with too many undesired books like cheap reprints and e-books on CD.

Here are the directions for blocking sellers from an old post:
There is a remedy for this situation. In order to combat this problem, it is necessary to use the saved searches feature from within My eBay. The buyer must first enter a search from eBay's Search page. If the buyer does not already use the Advanced Search, it will be necessary to click on "Advanced Search" right underneath the search selections. From the Advanced Search page, enter the desired search term. Scroll down to where it states "From Sellers." Click on "From specific sellers (enter sellers' user IDs)" and select "exclude" in the drop down box. Now enter the IDs that need to be blocked inside that search box, separated by commas. Click on "Search" and then click on "Save this search." The search will be saved and those sellers' listings will no longer show when the buyer clicks on that search from the Saved Searches page.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Current eBay Trends

In the last few days, I have used eBay searches for completed items to try to determine how to price some of my books in my Bonanzle booth. While I know what certain books are worth, I do not always know what the current prices are. I was unable to get a good feel for what the current selling prices are for many of the books.

For instance, I searched the completed listings for Connie Blair books. I was unable to find a listing for The Silver Secret that was not part of a bulk lot, so I could not price it. I had similar results when attempting to price a number of Judy Bolton, Cherry Ames, Tom Swift, Jr., and Landmark Books. Fewer good books are listed on eBay these days than was the case previously, and more books are listed in bulk.

In a recent post, I pondered where the good books have gone. I feel that the selection has further deteriorated in the last month. Jenn Fisher also made note of this disturbing trend in her blog. I have also noticed an increasing number of messages in eBay's forums that note the decrease in good items. Here are a couple:

Less choices...... bare trees!

Where have all my sellers gone???

This trend spans all categories in eBay. For the most part, I feel that eBay has caused the decline by its own strict anti-seller rules. The "PayPal only" policy may also have driven off some buyers, thus further causing the decline. When sellers have trouble selling their items due to fewer buyers, the sellers cut back or leave.

In last week's meetings, John Donohoe mentioned that the auction platform is the best one for sellers to get noticed; the trouble is that auctions are the most expensive. I have been thinking about this since yesterday, and the expense of auctions is probably a big reason why the listings are declining, especially with the economy the way it is. All we hear everyday is how bad everyone has it and how everyone is saving money, whether they really are or not. Many people may be saving money by not listing on eBay.

In fact, I am saving money by not listing individual books on eBay. My case has nothing to do with the economy. I am still disgusted about how I paid eBay around $100 in fees and only sold around $300 in books at the end of December—or something like that. Factor in the cost of the books—after all, I didn't get them for free—and the result was not good. I still wince when I think about it, and I have vowed not to allow that to happen again. So even I have held back on listings due to the expense of them. I have a feeling that many people are not listing in order to save.

In a light bulb moment, I realized that this is not necessarily a bad thing. As a buyer, it is bad all around, but as a seller it means less competition. There is definitely less to find on eBay, and for the sellers who remain, they may see higher prices. I have seen a few books spike in price, and I'm going to cover some of that in another post. As some books go up in price, some sellers may decide to list again.

If sellers can figure what to list on eBay and how to do it, the site is still viable. I am determined not to allow eBay to get large amounts of money from me for nothing. I have listed exactly four lots on eBay in the last two weeks with a 100% sell-through rate. I was worried at first that I had thrown more money at eBay for nothing, but it worked out okay. All four of my lots were bulk lots, so for me, this is the only way I can use eBay as a seller at this point in time. What I am doing is clearing out books that I do not wish to list individually on Bonanzle due to condition problems.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Series Books and Literary Excellence

I read the first two pages of Grace's Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School, a book that I mentioned in a recent post. The book immediately pulled me in, so I know that I need to buy more of them. The Grace Harlowe books will be tough to find in dust jackets.

Whenever I find another series that I think I want to collect, I go to the Girls' Series Group on Yahoo! Groups to see what old discussions I can find. The group is very inactive nowadays, but it used to have excellent discussions. I ran a search for "Grace Harlowe" and began to read the comments.

I found an excellent message about Grace Harlowe and the overall appeal of series books in general. This is a direct link to the message, but you have to be a member of the group in order to read it. The message was posted on June 3, 1999, but I do recall reading it back then. The message made quite an impact on me.

The writer explained that Grace Harlowe and Marjorie Dean are "not very good books in a literary sense. However, just to judge from the comments on this list, the books remain compelling. There's no necessary link between literary excellence and storytelling ability . . . But often, the very lack of literary substance allows characters to achieve a sort of mythic resonance."

This person then stated how the vague descriptions of Nancy Drew have given Nancy Drew a mythical quality that has transcended the decades. So often, the absence of literary descriptions is what draws us into series books. As we read the series books, we become the characters and live through them. It is a great way to escape from the troubles of life and feel like a carefree child again.

For anyone who is relatively new to collecting series books, there is nothing wrong with reading such simple fiction. We all know that series books are not great literature, but the books are examples of storytelling at its best. The writers of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and all of our other old favorites knew how to tell a good story. They were masters of their craft, and their tales have lasted well past their own lifetimes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twelve Years Ago Today

I registered on eBay to bid on my first auction on March 17, 1997. My twelfth anniversary is bittersweet. I still loved eBay a year ago, even though I had concerns about its direction. I still love what eBay once was, but I do not like it so much now. Enough of that—the purpose of this post is not to dwell on the present but to revisit the past, and it was a fun ride.

The next portion of this post is reprinted from a post I made over two years ago to the Nancy Drew Sleuths group.

I began collecting in the summer of 1991. I was inspired by an episode of Oprah Winfrey in which she had people showing off items found in their attics. I remembered a stack of used books that my mother had bought me when I was around 10 years old, and I was so fascinated with the appearance of the older Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. I pulled out those books and decided to begin searching for old books at garage sales.

I subscribed to Yellowback Library and joined Phantom Friends in September and October of 1996 and the internet came right on the heels of the other two. I remember all the ads in those two publications there at the beginning and most people were trading through them rather than the net. I was searching the net for Nancy Drew books around late December 1996 or early January 1997 when I visited a site called The Internet Antique Shop. On the main page down at the bottom, I happened to notice a small ad for an internet auction site called "Auction Web." In fact, I just visited the Internet Wayback site to view the cache of a page from from late 1996 to see exactly what that ad looked like. The ad states "Auction Web - The most fun buying and selling on the web! Going once, going twice, click! Check out the on-line auctions going on at AuctionWeb. Click here!"

I had discovered eBay! eBay was called "Auction Web" or "eBay's Auction Web" in those days. I was so amazed that there were actually - gasp! - 50 Nancy Drew books up for sale at a time! And they were collectible ones with dust jackets and any type you could want! I remember how the search results were in random order and you could not order the search results by date or price or anything. And the searches would often take around 2 minutes or longer because eBay was growing fast and could not keep up with the rate that it was gaining new users. People would joke on the message boards that one could hit "search" and then go take out the trash or fix a sandwich and come back to view the results!

While I discovered eBay in around January 1997, it took me two months to get around to registering and bidding. I wasn't used to paying more than $5.00 for a book, so it took that long for me to change my mind about what I was willing to pay.

I remember that the very first book I bid on was on the afternoon of March 17, 1997, and it was a tweed copy of Larkspur Lane that had a chipped dust jacket. I'm not sure what I bid, but it was around $8-10. Of course I lost, since I was not willing to pay very much.

It was not until April 1997 that I was successfully able to win an auction, actually two of them. During the first four to five years that I bought online, I always made printed copies of the item pages. I'm now glad that I did, because I still have those copies, and they are very interesting.

I scanned the printed copies of the item pages for the first two books that I bought on eBay. In those days, our user IDs were our email addresses. I removed the seller's user ID, but I left mine, since I abandoned that internet and email account in 2001.

Click on the images to see larger versions. I have no idea why I printed the pages before the auctions closed. You will notice that it was not necessary to be a registered user in order to use eBay, or Auction Web as it was called, at that time.

In my printed copies, I also found an auction that I won on Amazon in 1999. I thought that it might be of interest since I mentioned Amazon Auctions in a recent post.

I wish I had printed copies of more web pages from those days. Very little can be found on the Internet Wayback Machine.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Billie Bradley Series

I decided sometime recently, probably in November, to build a set of the Billie Bradley books. The Billie Bradley series was published first by Sully and then by Cupples and Leon from 1920 through 1932. The series was written under the pseudonym of Janet D. Wheeler.

Since I prefer to buy books with dust jackets, I knew that it would be very difficult to acquire a complete set. I have found in the past that when I buy books without dust jackets that I always eventually upgrade to books with dust jackets. It usually saves money to hold out for dust-jacketed copies.

All early series books from the early 1930s and before are very hard to find with intact dust jackets. The books are even a bit scarce without dust jackets. It is because I seek early, very hard to find books that I am so scornful of sellers who describe relatively common Nancy Drew books from the 1960s as rare. All Nancy Drew books from the 1960s, even the scarce printings, are much easier to find than most of the titles in obscure series.

Prior to the last week, I had successfully purchased three Billie Bradley books with dust jackets. I believe that I did begin searching online for Billie Bradley books in November. I found no examples with jackets during November and December—at least with dust jackets in acceptable condition. I do hold out for very good or better condition dust jackets unless the book is one of the last few in a series. I thought that it would take me at least a year or longer to build the complete set in dust jacket. It can be very frustrating to search for the early 20th century series books.

I bought my first Billie Bradley book in mid-January. I bought the next two Billie Bradley books in mid-February. A couple of weeks ago, a seller placed the entire Billie Bradley series on eBay. All nine books had their dust jackets. I was fortunate to win the auctions for the six books that I needed. I now have the entire Billie Bradley series in hardcover books with dust jackets. This has to be the record for the shortest amount of time it has taken me to build the complete set of an early, obscure series.

The series consists of the following titles:
1. Billie Bradley and Her Inheritance, 1920
2. Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall, 1920
3. Billie Bradley on Lighthouse Island, 1920
4. Billie Bradley and Her Classmates, 1921
5. Billie Bradley at Twin Lakes, 1922
6. Billie Bradley at Treasure Cove, 1928
7. Billie Bradley at Sun Dial Lodge, 1929
8. Billie Bradley and the School Mystery, 1930
9. Billie Bradley Winning the Trophy, 1932
Since I was able to purchase the complete set so quickly, I have no idea for certain which titles are the hardest to find; to me, the volumes are equal in scarcity. It is only by following the listings for months that the relative scarcity of the volumes in a series can be determined. If this series follows the same pattern as other series that ended during the early 1930s, volumes 7 and 8 are probably harder to find than volume 9.

The Cupples and Leon dust jackets have two styles. The earlier style shows Billie Bradley with a book in her hand.

The later style shows Billie Bradley standing on a porch that has a checkered floor.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to Compete without Self-Destructing

EBay has been trying to become like Amazon, and in the process, has ruined its own platform. Once upon a time, Amazon tried to compete with eBay. Amazon's bid to enter the online auctions failed, but Amazon did not destroy its marketplace in the process. In this post, I will discuss what Amazon did right when it tried to compete, and what eBay has done wrong as it has tried to compete.

The buying experience on eBay has gradually deteriorated in the last three years. This process began when eBay took the inventory from eBay Stores and placed that inventory into the core search results in February 2006 according to Scot Wingo in his eBay Strategies blog. Scot wrote, "Thus, a seller paying $2 for an auction listing had the same exposure as a seller that paid back in that time .05 or less for a store listing. You can imagine what happened - sellers left the auction format and bulked up on store listings. By March, eBay turned this off, but they had started in motion a severe debalancing of the marketplace that their subsequent actions to rectify actually amplified to the downside as far as selection is involved."

Even though eBay removed the stores from search, the trend to fixed-price listings had begun, and eBay had caused it. The trend had nothing to do with buyers wishing to purchase at fixed-price; people still loved auctions, but sellers began to list at fixed-prices. It became much harder to find items in search. The quick removal of store results from search caused store owners to feel slighted, and rightfully so. It is back to this event that the strong anti-eBay attitude of many sellers can be traced.

Since early 2006, eBay has gradually raised auction fees and enforced new policies that have driven sellers away from auctions and towards fixed-price listings. EBay has caused its own ruination, yet blames the market and buyer attitudes.

Back in March 1999, Amazon launched Amazon Auctions in an attempt to compete with eBay's auctions. Amazon sunk a large amount of advertising dollars into its auction campaign. I was one of the people who temporarily quit selling on eBay to sell on Amazon Auctions. I have fond memories. Because of the large amount of advertising, Amazon's auctions were very successful for around six months to one year. I remember getting very good prices for books—higher prices than I would have seen on eBay during that time.

In September 1999, Amazon launched zShops, in which individual sellers could list fixed-price items. Amazon's homepage was set up differently at that time than what it is now. I found an archive of Amazon's homepage from late 1999 in the Internet Wayback Machine. Here is a screen cap:

Along the top of the page were tabs for the different parts of the Amazon website. At the end were two tabs for Auctions and zShops. By keeping the auctions and zShops separate from the other parts of the site, Amazon did not risk compromising the success of its entire marketplace. Ultimately, Amazon quit advertising its auctions, and the auctions and zShops were discontinued due to lack of interest and sales. Since the auctions and zShops never commingled with the rest of Amazon's products, their failure did not affect the rest of the marketplace. Amazon tried to imitate eBay and failed but emerged without damaging its core value.

EBay's mistake was to place the fixed-price and store listings in with the auctions. EBay should have tried an approach like Amazon did by having links to the stores and fixed-price items prominently featured at the top of each page along with the rest of its tabs to important sections of eBay. EBay could have better advertised the stores without damaging its core auctions. If eBay had tried Amazon's approach, perhaps so many of us would not be so dissatisfied with the direction that eBay has taken.

Friday, March 13, 2009

eBay's Current Business Plan

The Wall Street Journal has a bewildering article in which the writer apparently came away from the meeting yesterday with the impression that eBay plans to "return to its roots as internet flea market." Most everyone else feels that eBay plans to move forward with its plan.

The entire text of the article has been copied and pasted into this message thread on eBay's message boards. By going to the message thread, the article can be read without having to register on the Wall Street Journal site.

It is clear that eBay wishes to court the sellers who have warehouses full of items. According to the article, eBay "plans to focus its online-marketplace business on used and overstocked goods, rather than on the retail market for new goods that is dominated by competitors such as Inc."

The key word is "overstocked." It seems that since the plan to become Amazon 2.0 has not worked so well, Donohoe now thinks eBay should also attempt to become 2.0. Most of Thursday's comments have centered around that idea. EBay plans to continue its destructive trend of imitating other retailers but will now attempt to imitate Overstock in addition to Amazon.

The comments that have been made about this article are very interesting. Here is one from mydogsownme in the eBay message thread:
My personal take is that they are realizing that they made a mistake, but not fully wanting to turn back. To save face, they will continue manipulating this site to find a way to keep unpopular and nonworking policies in place. Not once in that article did I see any admission that Donohoe made any mistakes. eBay will remain without any significant growth until they realize that what made them unique and successful were the sellers placing their used items up for sale. This site was built on the customer finding a unique, hard-to-find or desirable item, at a great price using the auction format.
The auctions always were what was great about eBay, and the auctions are about all that is still good about eBay.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More on eBay's Analyst Day

Ina Steiner has a summary posted at AuctionBytes in four parts:

eBay Strategy Revealed: Overstock Inventory from Diamond Liquidators
EBay Analyst Day Notes
EBay Analyst Day Notes, part two
EBay Analyst Day Notes, part 3

I have read through Ina's observations and all of the comments from readers of her blog. I have compiled some of the more interesting thoughts and observations here.

eBay telegraphed the contents pretty early, so there are no real surprises yet. PayPal is definitely being featured as the "Star" of the portfolio, with the most upside. Look for a PayPal/BML integrated checkout later this year, which eBay hopes will drive incremental purchases. eBay is still a disappointment, so hang on for more changes over the next few years.
Ina paraphrasing John Donohoe:
Today we will share with you a different eBay...EBay you know is not the eBay we are or the eBay we will become...EBay has a storied past, but we have held on to that past for too long.
I have to insert this here: What is his problem? You don't take a successful business model and run it into the ground.

Comment by MsFish213:
I think what alot of sellers arent seeing in all this, is that Ebay IS changing, it was planned, and its not going back. If anyone is still hanging on the hopes of the old Ebay, its not going to happen. That has been made clear today, IMO. Ebay will become one of many ecommerce platforms (they aren't even aiming for #1 anymore), and are going to focus on becoming the #1 internet financial institution..thats where the money/profit is now.
Comment by Mutley:
Having scanned through parts 1-3 it's clear Ebay have decided auction format is not part of their strategic direction. This seems a strange decision - apart from live auctions, Ebay is about the only viable site which small sellers can run auctions with reasonable certainty that they will attain market value. Others have tried and failed, yet Ebay seem to see no value in having this unique selling point.
Comment by shjames:
80% of my listings are unique, high quality hand made artisan items. I used to have more than 900 items listed on a regular basis...If ebay thinks I'm going to return to the days when I paid $8,000-$10,000+ a month for auction style listings in a category bloated with 35 cent, often misrepresented knockoff fixed price listings, they're crazy...When ebay introduced the Most Popular algorithm into Best Match last fall, my sales plummeted 65% in ONE week and have gradually declined since. People can't buy what ebay won't let them see...I've gone from Platinum to approaching Silver powerseller status in six months after being a Platinum powerseller for more than five years.
Comment by Pam:
Same problem with Best Match, same fall in sales, same fee amount we were paying before being destroyed by the poor decisions made by this company. That's $18,000-$20,000 in fees per month from just 2 sellers that they have lost and I'm sure we're not alone. I do understand what others are saying about running off the small sellers, but I would not consider us small and they have destroyed us.

The last two comments were from large volume sellers—large in comparison to people like us, yet they have been destroyed by eBay. EBay does not want the small sellers or the bronze, silver, gold, or platinum Power Sellers. They want the large corporations—the diamond Power Sellers. They want to be

From the comments made by representatives of eBay, they feel that PayPal is their strongest asset and plan to build their business model around it. For a long time, people have suggested that John Donohoe's plan involves breaking eBay into two companies and selling the part that contains the auctions. I am beginning to agree with that point of view. One person suggested that eBay will break into two companies, one for payment processing ( and related parts) and the other for commerce ( This person believes that the company will sell when that happens. It would not surprise me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Few Quick Thoughts on eBay's Analyst Day

EBay's Analyst Day was today. I have read some brief summaries of what transpired. The gist of it is that CEO John Donohoe will keep eBay on its present path, which is to attempt to gain ground on Amazon. They admit that they are losing ground to Amazon, but they feel that by continuing this plan that they will ultimately gain ground. Um, I think they are losing ground because of this plan.

Scott Wingo has a summary of today's event in his blog, eBay Strategies. Several parts are interesting, but this one part is what stood out the most for me:
Q: Can you say more about this secondary market opportunity?

A: LT - yes, the old eBay was about cleaning junk out of your house, this is about cleaning junk out of your warehouse. The stuff retailers don't want
There you have it. EBay wants the big sellers, the department stores, and the closeout stores. They do want to become Amazon 2.0. They no longer want us, the people who collect vintage items.

Ina Steiner should have some good commentary about this event in her blog tomorrow. I'll write more once I know more about it.

eBay's Valued Customers

I must not be one of them. I heard about a free listing sale through the message boards but could find no evidence of it anywhere. I was puzzled until I learned that the free listing sale is by invitation only. From the announcement:
If you qualify for participation, you will have received an email and a Message Center message. Please look for these to see if you are eligible.
EBay once offered its sales to all customers. Earlier this year, eBay had a sale in which only people who had sold in the last month could get free listings. Now, eBay has a sale in which users must receive an invitation. I wonder how eBay decides who should receive the invitation?


EBay made an announcement today concerning the books category. From eBay's announcement board:
From now through the end of 2009, pay only 5¢ Insertion Fees when you list books, music, movies, and video games on in Fixed Price with product details. Your listings will show up on both the new eBay product pages and in search results. That’s double exposure for just 5¢. Plus, get Subtitle free with Fixed Price and Auction-style listings in these categories when you list with product details.

We’re extending this promotion as part of our commitment to make eBay a top destination for books, music, movies and DVDs and video games. The goal: give today’s buyers the deals and selection they demand, and give sellers the pricing and exposure they need to succeed.

Also, starting in May, sellers will be able to choose to have their listings show up on eBay product pages at no extra cost. With almost 60% of the inventory on not currently being offered on eBay, this will go a long way to delivering the selection buyers expect.
The five cent listings promotion means more poorly-described listings with stock photos of books that we do not want to buy. I know someone out there thinks that I, as a buyer, should be very grateful, but I am not. These will not be books that I want to buy.

Even worse,'s inventory will begin to be listed on eBay. Check out the 150 matches for a Nancy Drew books category search on I do not feel that the presence of any of these listings will enhance my eBay search experience. I do not want new books; I want old ones. More clutter will be added to my searches.


This is interesting. EBay's Board of Directors met today. According to Ina Steiner,
eBay's Board of Directors found the company under-performed in 2008 and is awarding no eBay Incentive Plan bonuses to top executives. In addition, the board is freezing executive salaries this year. The board's compensation committee also created a new peer group by which to measure executive performance going forward.
So, they are just now noticing that something is wrong?

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Race to the Bottom

The large resellers of books such as undercut each other in pricing, thus causing what booksellers refer to as a "race to the bottom." Modern fiction is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The average modern fiction title can easily be had for $0.01 plus shipping and handling. The large resellers make a very tiny profit on the shipping and handling, and by selling in a very large volume, they do have what is apparently a successful business model. I am skeptical of how well this works, but supposedly when a company sells many thousands of books at $0.01 and charges around $4.00 shipping, it does work out for them in the long run.

For sellers of vintage series books, this is not the way to do business. In recent weeks, the resellers on eBay have begun to lower their prices in order to attempt to make sales, no doubt due to our struggling economy. I have been a bit surprised at a few of the prices for books that are offered in fixed-price listings from people who are not new to selling series books. Some of the prices are quite low.

I realize that some people may desperately need to make a few sales in order to pay bills, so my comments are not really directed at people to which that applies. I can understand why someone would sell a book at below value in order to bring in some quick, much-needed money.

My comments are also not directed at people who list books at auction with very low starting bids. After all, low starting bids can cause bidding wars, thus resulting in books that sell for approximately or above current value. A seller always has a chance at a higher price when listing books in auctions.

My comments are only directed at sellers who use Buy It Now and list at prices that are way too low. I have to wonder about people who take a book that is worth $10.00 or more and sell it at a Buy It Now price of $1.00. Why do this? There have been many times when I have purchased a book for a mere pittance, and I would have gladly paid a higher price, sometimes a much higher price.

This has happened to me in the last few weeks. In one of my searches, I noticed a Buy It Now listing for a Patsy Carroll book that had a dust jacket. I am casually working on a set of the Patsy Carroll books; it is not a priority. So when I saw the Patsy Carroll book for a Buy It Now of $1.00, I took it.

I already had one Patsy Carroll book, and I paid $15.49 including shipping for it. As I recall, it was an auction, and the winning bid was around $11.00-12.00, so the above book is definitely worth more than $1.00. After I bought the book, I looked at what else the seller had. I found a Grace Harlowe book that had a Buy It Now of $3.00, so I bought it too.

The Grace Harlowe book is an Altemus edition, and the Altemus editions are very hard to find, especially with dust jackets. Most of the available Grace Harlowe books are the ones published much later by Goldsmith with cheap quality paper. While the dust jacket has a significant flaw where a previous owner wrote her name on the front panel, it is still worth more than $3.00.

The seller charged $6.00 shipping for the two books, which included at least a $3.00 handling fee. The seller's cost for packaging was definitely not $3.00. This is a seller who must feel that items should be priced low to sell fast and plans to make a profit on the handling fees. As I have already stated, sellers of vintage series books should not do this. I would have gladly paid at least $10.00 each for the two books plus the postage charge for combined shipping.

The seller undercut herself by offering the books at such low prices. The books might have taken slightly longer to sell, but they would have sold. The listings were 30-day listings, so the seller did use the lowest cost option available on eBay. When a seller lists a book for 30 days, it is not sensible to undercut oneself so dramatically.

Go to eBay and do a search for "Patsy Carroll" and just see how many dust-jacketed books you find. One one is available right now with a starting price of $32.50. Next, search for "Grace Harlowe" and see how many Altemus editions with dust jackets are listed. As I write this, eBay has none. Neither book should have been sold at such ridiculously low Buy It Now prices.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

eBay Investor Day

The word is that eBay's Big Announcement will be revealed on Wednesday, March 11, at the eBay Investor Day meeting. Whatever is about to happen is not going to be free listings, so says CEO John Donohoe. AuctionBytes wrote the following comments regarding Donohoe's remarks:
When asked whether insertion fees could go all the way to zero, he said it would vary by category and country, but, "It won't go up. It will go down over time. But there's nothing planned this year in that front. We made the structural changes we needed to on that front last year."
Part of eBay's announcement will certainly be about the "new and improved" search that I will be forced to use next month. Additionally, I believe that more and more users are getting opted into the new item pages, which are designed to be more like Amazon's and other retailers.

EBay is also rolling out changes with the seller dashboard so that sellers can get more information about which types of buyers give certain types of ratings. Some sellers have already been opted into the new version of the seller dashboard. I do not have access to the new version, but my seller dashboard has a link to a detailed page that explains how to use the new seller dashboard. At the bottom of this page is a very interesting message:
It's against eBay policy to question buyers about the ratings they left. It's also against policy to use these reports to interfere with the anonymity of detailed seller ratings.
It astounds me that eBay actually is making it "illegal" to ask buyers about their ratings. Now I stated many months ago that it is a very bad idea to ask buyers about their ratings, and I would never do so. However, I find it disconcerting that eBay is forbidding sellers from asking.

It is further amazing that eBay states that we cannot use the detailed "reports to interfere with the anonymity of detailed seller ratings." I have a newsflash for eBay: for small sellers such as me, the detailed seller ratings have never been anonymous. Now eBay has made it against policy for me to use my own brain on any given day to determine that the one buyer who left a rating that day is the one person who made the average rating go up or down that same day. The only time that I have not known who left a certain rating was the time my ratings went down significantly, and two people left feedback on the same day. So long as I do not receive multiple buyer feedbacks in one day, I know who left which kind of rating. As a buyer, I am very aware that all of the lower volume individual sellers will know whether I left good or bad ratings.

EBay can tell me not to do this or that, but they cannot prevent me from making observations about the seller dashboard among other things. In spite of the hidden buyer IDs, I have finally satisfactorily proved to myself that a certain bookseller shill bids on his or her auctions with another ID. I have suspected this person for years, and I knew which buyer ID I suspected. I finally spent around an hour running searches and making detailed comparisons, and I proved the connection between the IDs. I plan to do nothing with the information since it would be too hard to try to get eBay to see it, but this is a free world, and I can sleuth all I want.

Note: I will not under any circumstances reveal which seller, and I will not give any additional information. I did email one person in private and ask whether he saw it too. He did, so I know I am not seeing something where there is nothing. This is something that has nagged at me for the longest time, and I decided to prove it once and for all.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Updates to Searching on eBay Coming in April

The title of this post is the title of a message that I just received from eBay. In the message, eBay explains that the new search has everything the old search has but is better. More specifically, eBay states that the new search has "Better results--you'll see more relevant items." Let's discuss this.

In a recent post, I explained what I noticed about the new search in comparison with the old search. I wrote:
Since the number of results were low for "Textbook, Education," I used that subcategory to compare the results. In the old search, four results were returned and only one of them was a result that had little to do with Nancy Drew, How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen. The other three results all contained Nancy Drew books.

In the new search, nine results were returned: the three results from the old search that contained Nancy Drew books and six results that did not contain Nancy Drew books. The six results were three listings for How Reading Changed My Life plus two listings for As We Remember Her: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and one listing for First-Aid Kit for Mothers. So the new search returned the three relevant items from the old search plus five additional irrelevant items that the old search did not return.
EBay tells me that I will see more relevant items. By my own observations, I will see more items, but those items are irrelevant.

The second point eBay makes in the message is that "New options on the left side of the page make it easy to expand or narrow results." I opted into the new search again to see what is on the left side of the page that makes it better. Honestly, I do not know. I'm not trying to be difficult; it just does not look that different to me. I think the place to select auctions versus stores or Buy It Now is in a different location, but the page seems to have the same functionality.

The third point made by eBay is that "Snapshot View enables you to get a quick glance at the results." I am lost on this one. I see nowhere to find a "snapshot view," unless eBay means that little window that sometimes opens up for me on the saved searches page when I am trying to see all of the search results. Maybe that is it. I do not want to see a sample of the results; I want to see all of them.

The fourth and final point made by eBay is that "Now you can select multiple brands or colors to see what you want faster." This is good for people who are searching for new items, especially clothing. I cannot see how it is going to help a buyer of vintage books. This final point just proves that eBay wishes to cater to the buyers and sellers of new items and is not interested in helping people like me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

eBay Glitches Continue

I won six auctions this weekend from one seller. The seller had already sent an invoice for the first two books and later sent one presumably for all of them. When I went to pay for the books, the first two books were separated from the last four. This meant that two payments were required in order to pay for the books. I knew that I would pay too much postage, but I went ahead and paid. This has happened too often in the last year for me to try to figure out what is wrong.

After I paid, the seller mentioned not understanding why eBay separated the books. He further stated that he would send the books priority since I had paid too much postage. I was actually quite happy to be getting priority since priority is my preference for very hard to find books such as these.

This is not a new seller, so I feel confident that whatever was wrong with the invoice was not the seller's fault. This has happened to me as a seller several times in the last year. In those cases, I knew that I did the invoices correctly, yet the buyers reported problems like the one I just experienced.

When what should be one payment is processed as two, the seller gets more for postage, and PayPal gets additional fees. PayPal is owned by eBay, and eBay freely admits that PayPal is their strongest asset and the one part of the company that is growing rapidly. It is probably just incompetence as usual, but I do wonder.

I made a few comments to my seller which included verifying that the books were separated into two invoices, thus causing the multiple payments. The seller replied with a few comments. He stated that eBay frequently underestimates the postage and that he often takes a loss. He also stated that eBay is all we have right now. It is so true, and so sad. It is a shame that veteran users such as he and I are frustrated with the direction that eBay has taken.

I told my seller about Bonanzle, and he thanked me for the information, stating that eBay has become very "seller unfriendly." I'm feeling rather pleased with myself.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

eBay's Big Announcement Is Coming

I had previously reported that eBay has a big announcement for us. This has been confirmed in eBay's town hall from February 26. AuctionBytes posted a summary of the town hall in its blog. Ina Steiner wrote, "eBay said it would be making some changes to give sellers more visibility into DSRs."

While it is good that eBay will give sellers additional insight into who is leaving which DSRs, it is only going to help large sellers. When I sold, I only received one or two feedbacks per day, so I could usually pinpoint who left me the low ratings. From what has been described, eBay will let sellers see how the ratings are different for international transactions versus domestic, with some other variations thrown in.

Ina Steiner also wrote that eBay "would announce additional changes affecting sellers next month."

I can't wait. This is not sarcasm; I really am curious as to what eBay has in store for us. I doubt that it will be altogether good, so I am eagerly anticipating this "big announcement." It ought to be very interesting. The announcement will come as soon as the next few days or as late as the end of the month.

My expectation is that eBay will make an announcement about free listings in the very near future for at least some items. EBay always tests its new features on the international sites, and eBay just announced free listings on eBay.UK.

Here is the text of the announcement from eBay.UK:
From 12th March 2009, there's no Insertion Fee if you’re a private seller and you list your item in the auction-style format with a starting price of up to 99p ( or €1.49 ( Final Value Fee rates are also changing.

Fees for business-registered sellers using the auction-style format will be unchanged.

Pay only when you sell

In 2008 we made it free to include a picture for your listing. We’re continuing our commitment to moving the cost of selling on and away from front end fees so that the majority of fees are paid only when you successfully sell an item.

Learn more about the new zero Insertion Fee on and
The final value fees for free listings on eBay.UK will be 10%, which is a significant increase for low-priced items. I have no doubt that a variation of this new policy will soon be implemented on the U.S. eBay site.

What will this mean? The result is that more garbage will be listed on eBay for low prices. After all, if the seller only pays when the item sells, all sorts of worthless items will be listed. Yay! If does this, I will be unable to find anything to buy but I will have a bigger selection! Okay, that was sarcasm.