Tuesday, April 28, 2009

eBay Update - Search and the New Dispute Process

I had been wondering why I have still been allowed to use the old eBay search, and it is the end of April. I found out why today:

***eBay Stores upgrade; news about searching***
Almost all eBay buyers and sellers are now using eBay’s new search technology. We recently announced the older technology would be retired in April of this year, but the date is now extended to early June.
Okay, so I have a little over a month to go. This is fine with me. I assume that they found something wrong with it. Why else would eBay suspend the change? According to Ina Steiner, people who use eBay Motors have been complaining about the slowness of the new search. I already know that I will not like it, so the longer eBay postpones the change, the better for me.

I stated in a comment recently that I intend to sell some books on eBay in June in order to be able to advertise Bonanzle to my buyers. I may have to rethink that plan now that I have read AuctionBytes today. Perhaps I will never sell on eBay again...

I have barely checked on the details of the new dispute process, but several people are claiming that buyers can file a complaint, talk to an eBay representative, immediately get their payments refunded, and the seller is suspended—based on one buyer complaint. Now I do not know whether this is actually true; it could be that people are not telling both sides of the story. This is something we need to keep an eye on. As I learn more, I will report it in a future post.

I do know that around two years ago that I began to have pickier buyers (that is, more of this type than previously) who complained about minor details or seemed to expect the worst no matter what I said or did. I noticed this change around the time of the Warner Brothers Nancy Drew movie, and at the time, I wondered whether the movie had brought in new collectors with little knowledge of how eBay worked or who had very high expectations. It may have had more to do with eBay's changes than new collectors, but that is when I noticed it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Press Update

Two weeks ago, I posted about my book press experiment. This is the photo of the books before I placed them in the book press: I had the books in the press for around three days, and then I removed them. The books had improved, but all of them were still slanted. I then placed three of the books (the bottom three in the photo) back in the press and tried to slant them the other way in order to try to cancel out the original slant. I had those three books in the press for around one to two days. I have forgotten the exact length of time, since it has been nearly two weeks.

 Here is what the books look like now:

 The top two books are the ones that were only in the press the first time, so they really do not look much different. The bottom three books still have slant, but all of them are improved. I feel like the Betty Gordon book improved the most. It is the second book from the bottom in the above photo.

I feel like I could improve the results by leaving the books in the press a bit longer than just a few days. At this point in time, I'm not going to mess with it. I will have more time and energy for this type of endeavor in June, so I will hopefully report back at that time with whatever results I achieve.

The last two weeks have been exhausting, so that is why it took me so long to report back on my experiment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Final Thoughts on Billie Bradley Lighthouse Island

I had to slog through the last half of this book. It is not that the book is bad exactly; it is just that the book is not very compelling. I lost interest around the time the girls arrive at Lighthouse Island. From the girls' arrival at Lighthouse Island, the main topic of interest is the girls' complete admiration of Connie's mother, who is known in the book simply as "Connie's mother." From page 116:
How could a woman who was old enough to be Connie's mother look so absolutely and entirely like a girl of twenty? She was not even dignified like most of the mothers Billie knew—she did not even try to be . Connie treated her as she would an older and much loved sister. One only needed to be with them three minutes to see that mother and daughter adored each other and were the very best chums in the world. And right then and there Billie began adoring too.
Blech. This is one of the cases in which an author describes something that I am not able to feel at all. Instead of the excessive mushy descriptions, show me through dialogue and experience how adorable Connie's mother is. I don't see it, and quite frankly, it bores me.

The relationship between Billie and Teddy is also overdescribed and mushy at times, and I feel detached from it as well.

The book bored me from around page 102 through page 152. My interest only lasted for a few pages, and then I was bored again. Finally, on page 174, the book gets to the shipwreck that was mentioned by the publisher—the shipwreck that results in three children getting washed ashore. The children come ashore on page 179. The book is 204 pages long, so the publisher spoiled an event that does not occur until 25 pages before the end of the story. Why would they do that? I know why...the book is so stupid boring that nothing else worthwhile happened from the time the girls meet Hugo Billings in the woods until the time of the shipwreck.

I was even kind of bored with the aftermath of the rescue of the three children. I already knew that Miss Arbuckle and Hugo Billings would be summoned and would recognize the children. Miss Arbuckle and Hugo Billings were not the parents as I originally expected, but that little matters. It was still all very predictable and rather boring. I hope I like the next book better.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Billie Bradley on Lighthouse Island

I finished Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall. Near the end of the book, Billie's friends have the boys send a telegram to Miss Walters, the head of the school, asking her to return. Later that day, Miss Walters does return. She states that she was going to stay longer, "but something told me that I might be needed, and that something was right." Nothing is mentioned about the boys' telegram. It sounds to me like Miss Walters never read it. Miss Walters acts like she knows nothing about the girls' problems, and the telegram gave a few details. Why did the author have the boys send a telegram if Miss Walters decides to conveniently return on her own?

Billie Bradley on Lighthouse Island begins in a properly spooky fashion with Billie, Vi, and Laura lost in the woods near Three Towers Hall. As luck would have it, rain begins to fall, so the girls try to find shelter. They find a strange cabin with a low door. Not unexpectedly, the owner comes along while the girls are in the cabin. The man looks kind of crazy and acts strange, thus making for a frightening experience. Of course the girls are not assaulted and come out of the experience uninjured.

This book has one of those predictable mysteries that are the staple of many Stratemeyer series books. The publisher's brief summary of the book reads:
One of Billie's friends owned a summer bungalow on Lighthouse Island, near the coast. The school girls made up a party and visited the Island. There was a storm and a wreck, and three little children were washed ashore.
In the book, the strange man in the woods, Hugo Billings, seems lonely and unhappy. Meanwhile, a new teacher at Three Towers Hall, Miss Arbuckle, loses her photo album, and Billie finds it in the woods. When Billie returns the album to Miss Arbuckle, the woman grabs the album and finds a picture of three children, crying, "My darlings, my darlings...I couldn't lose your pictures after losing you. They were all I had left of you, and I couldn't lose them, I couldn't..."

This must be another one of those stories in which the parent(s) and children are reunited at the end of the story. See? I already know how it ends. All that I do not know for certain is whether Hugo Billings is the children's father or some other relative to Miss Arbuckle. Regardless, I know that he is connected to them.

The banter between Billie and her friends reminds me of Beverly Gray and her friends, with the result that I really like Billie and her friends. From pages 100-101:
"Are we going to form our Detective Club?" asked Connie suddenly out of the silence.

The girls stared at her a minute as if she had roused them out of sleep.

"For goodness sake, what made you think of that now?" asked Laura a little peevishly. "I'm so tired I don't want to form clubs or anything else. All I want is to get out somewhere where I can stretch my legs, get some supper, and go to bed. I'm dead."

"You're making lots of noise for a dead one," chuckled Billie, and Laura made a face at her.

"But no one's answered my question," broke in Connie plaintively. "I thought you girls loved mysteries and things."

"Well, who says we don't?" cried Laura. "Just show me a good live mystery and I'll forget I'm all tied up in knots and everything."

"Just listen to her!" exclaimed Connie indignantly. "Do you mean to say you've forgotten that we have a mystery already?"

"Oh—that," said Laura slowly, while a light began to dawn. "Yes, I did forget about it; we've been so busy getting ready and everything."
The banter is similar enough to that which occurs in the Beverly Gray series that I almost forget which series I am reading. It also does not help that one of the girls is named Connie, which is a name used for one of Beverly's friends. Additionally, Billie and Laura's names start with the same letters as Beverly and Lenora's names.

Last year, I speculated about which series were Clair Blank's inspirations for the Beverly Gray series. In one post, I concluded that Ruth Fielding was a likely candidate and gave further evidence in another post. At a later date, I mentioned that the Beverly Gray series was a lot like many of the earlier series books that have large casts of characters, such as the Outdoor Girls. I am only on my third Billie Bradley book, but I feel that Billie Bradley can also be added to the list of likely sources for Clair Blank's creativity.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Media Mail Prices

Media mail prices will go up on May 11, 2009. Here is the link:

May 2009 USPS prices

I have kept my base rate at $3.75 for at least a couple of years. At some point, I increased to $3.85 but decreased again to $3.75 to stay competitive with what others were charging on eBay. That was at the time in which I was still into playing eBay's games, and I have continued to hold onto the $3.75 price even though I should have raised it. So my rate stayed at $3.75 for longer than it should have.

On May 11, the cost of a one-pound media mail package will increase from $2.23 to $2.38, and the cost of a two-pound package will increase from $2.58 to $2.77. Since most of my packages which contain one book always weigh between one and two pounds, the cost of a media mail package will increase $0.19 for me.

Additionally, I have now used PayPal shipping for all of my packages for two years. Delivery confirmation is required on all PayPal packages, and this adds $0.18 to the postage. I notice that the retail delivery confirmation (when bought at the counter in a post office) will increase from $0.70 to $0.80. This means that the PayPal delivery confirmation may increase as well.

Assuming that the PayPal delivery confirmation remains at $0.18, the cost of a two-pound media mail package will be $2.95. I figure in around a $1.00 handling charge which does not necessarily completely cover the cost of tape, stretch wrap, and boxes that I purchase. I see that I must increase my base rate to a minimum of $3.95 to cover my costs.

The point of this message is to alert anyone who is only a buyer that nearly all sellers will be raising their rates within one month. Even though I have only mentioned media mail in this post, be aware that priority mail, first class stamps, and most everything else will also increase.

Fortunately Bonanzle has a batch editor, and I should be able to change the postage amount for all of my listings in a relatively small amount of time. I will make the necessary changes around May 10. On the other hand, I might hold off for a few weeks. As I recall from several years ago when I made the change from $3.45 to either $3.65 or $3.75, I held off for around a month to wait for everyone else to increase their rates first. By doing that, I let buyers get used to the higher prices as they bought from other sellers, then I increased my rates.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Book Press Trial Run

I received my book press and selected five books to use in my trial run. I chose two tweed Dana Girls books, a Betty Gordon book, a UK edition Nancy Drew book, and Beverly Gray at the World's Fair. Two of the books are warped and slanted while the other three are just slanted.

   I found it difficult to manipulate all five books into position in the book press. It was hard to straighten the books completely without knocking the other books out of position. I stubbornly kept with my original plan of pressing five books at once in spite of the difficulty.

I am not completely satisfied with how I have the books positioned in the press, but it makes for a good trial run. I feel like it would be much easier to press just one book at a time. Aside from that, I have two ideas about different ways I could position the books in order to make the process easier for me.

I am planning to leave the books in the press until at least sometime on Sunday. At that time, I will remove them to see whether the books are less slanted.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More on Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall

I am loving this book! Bits of this book remind me of Betty Gordon at Boarding School and Betty Gordon and Her School Chums. Both series were produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, so the similarities are not surprising.

Billie and her friends have met the usual group of new acquaintances. Their first new friend is Rose Belser. Rose latches onto the girls as soon as they arrive. Rose is very friendly at first, but Billie soon realizes that Rose is the type who is friendly as long as she gets what she wants in return.

Rose considers herself the prettiest, most popular girl at Three Towers Hall. Soon, Rose notices that Billie has become very popular, so Rose decides that something must be done. Billie already had two jealous rivals in Amanda Peabody and Eliza Dilks, and Rose Belser becomes the third.

Eliza Dilks is considered Amanda Peabody's shadow, so the girls refer to Eliza as "The Shadow" rather than by her real name. Amanda and Eliza remind me of Lettie Briggs and Ina Mason from the Dana Girls series.

From pages 97-98:
She was just about to tell Rose the plans and invite her to the party when the door opened again and Amanda entered with Eliza Dilks. Amanda was never seen without Eliza trailing along in the background, and for this reason the girls had nicknamed the latter, "The Shadow."

By this time the girls at Three Towers Hall had learned to dislike the two sneaks as much as the girls of North Bend disliked Amanda.

Wherever anything was going on, especially of a secret nature, Amanda and "The Shadow" were sure to be prying about, saying mean little things, forcing the girls to move over to some other place where they could be private for a little while.
Presently, Rose decides that she personally cannot do anything to hurt Billie, "but she might make use of Amanda—." So Rose is going to have Amanda do something to Billie. This should be interesting.

The first book in the series was so-so, but this second book is outstanding. I love boarding school settings and jealous rivals. How fun!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Have Ordered a Book Press

I received an order of books today, and the covers are warped from past moisture exposure. Additionally, the spines are slanted. Otherwise, the books are rather nice. I finally decided to order a book press so that I can improve the condition of the books: I bought it from Demco. I have wanted one for several years, but the cost of nearly $200 has kept me from buying one. It took me receiving a stack of warped books to finally decide to take the plunge.

Some book presses cost upwards of $1,000, so the one I ordered is an inexpensive one. It is possible to make one's own book press, but I do not care to gather the materials and build one.

Book presses are used to straighten out the various problems that old books have, such as slanted spines. I hate books that have slanted spines. I mean I really hate slanted spines. It must bother me more than it does most people, since I seem to be about the only seller who ever mentions slanted spines.

The book press supposedly will fix that problem. I have read that the press applies several hundred pounds of even pressure to the books, and the books need to be in the press for at least several days. I will report back on how well the book press works after I have received it and have tried it out, which will likely be in a couple of weeks.

Do slanted spines bother any of you? Does it bother you when a book arrives with a slanted spine, and the seller failed to mention it? What is most important to you about the condition of your books?

Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall

I finished reading Billie Bradley and Her Inheritance. While I enjoyed the book, it was a little bland. There were two mysteries: a piano that played by itself during the night and two unfriendly men with an airplane. The two mysteries turned out to be lame. The piano was about what I expected, but the mystery with the two men and the airplane was far more lame than I anticipated, and there was no follow-up after the airplane mystery was revealed. Usually unfriendly men means that the men are hardened criminals, so I was expecting much more than how it played out.

It also didn't help that the entire time that Billie worried about whether she could go to Three Towers Hall, I knew that the next book is titled Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall. I already knew what would happen, so I was not able to get into that aspect of the book. Perhaps the second book should have been called Billie Bradley and Her Adventures at School so that the title would not have spoiled the entire plot of the first book.

I have now commenced reading Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall. Guess where Billie is going away to school? I am so surprised! So far I am really enjoying this second book. Since Billie's jealous rival, Amanda Peabody, and her mean friend, Eliza Dilks, are also going to Three Towers Hall, this story should be quite interesting. Jealous rivals are always fun!

It gets even better. Not only are Amanda and Eliza attending Three Towers Hall, they have been assigned to the same dormitory room as Billie and her close friends, Laura and Violet. This is going be very interesting! Many girls' series books have jealous rivals who attend the same school, but I have yet to read a book in which the jealous rivals stay in the same room!

I love the description of the dormitory room. This is the first Stratemeyer girls' series book that I have read in which the girls stay in a large room that holds ten girls. From pages 59-60:
The girls sank down upon their beds and looked about them curiously. There was a little wash basin and a towel rack beside each snowy white bed and on the towel rack hung several small towels with blue and white borders.

The beds were set at regular intervals down the long room, and the spaces in between them were fitted out in such a manner as almost to make a separate little room for each girl.

Beside the wash basins, there was a dresser set at the foot of each white bed and under each bed was a hamper for soiled clothes. Each girl had a little table with a chair to match.

The woodwork had been painted white and the walls were a grayish blue color with several pretty pictures scattered about them to break the bareness.

"Why, the room's all blue and white," Billie suddenly discovered delightedly. "Isn't that a lovely blue they've painted the wall? And the snowy white woodwork! Oh, it's delicious!"

"And just look at the view from this window!"cried Vi, beckoning to them eagerly. As the girls looked over her shoulder they fairly gasped with delight.

Below them stretched the velvety lawn dotted with the darker green of shrubbery, while away through the trees glimmered and gleamed the water of Lake Molata. The day was warm for autumn, and a gentle breeze played among the leaves of the great trees bordering the lake, coming to the girls in a soft, rustling whisper. The picture was almost too perfect to be true.
More on Billie Bradley as I continue my reading.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

eBay's New Search

So I have just read that the new search no longer has the opt-out link and that the opt-out link has been missing for at least one week. I am still on the old search, so whenever eBay decides to switch me over, I will be stuck. Will it be tomorrow? Will it be Tuesday? I expect it to happen this week.

I predict that I will have to go through the cumbersome task of revising all of my saved searches so that they will work correctly with the new search. I have read that when a search has zero results that eBay switches the spelling to something with results. I do not want that, and I have several reasons why.

I also know that the new search has many more irrelevant results than the old search, as I mentioned recently. I will have to take measures to try to weed out some of those results, if possible.

But hey, at least I have eBay Bucks! Of course I might not be able to find items to buy as easily...

I also have been perusing this interesting message thread on eBay this evening.

Is the NOISE dying because of APATHY

If I feel like it, I might summarize the important points in a few days. If not, the link is here for those who wish to read or skim it. It is a good discussion without most of the overdramatic, irrational comments that tend to appear in these types of threads.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

eBay Bucks Beta Program Part 3

In my last post, I stated that some people have an irrational view about eBay and the eBay Bucks program. They feel that the program is pointless, and they feel that the program is designed to help the large sellers rather than the small sellers. I can certainly understand the suspicion, since all of eBay's recent changes have been to the detriment of the small sellers.

Since I am one of people who has been invited into the program, I am going to show you what I see on the item pages of both the large and the small sellers. EBay has no larger seller than Buy of Buy.com. Here is a screen cap from one of Buy's items:

Click on the image so that you can read it better. Notice that right underneath the ending date and time is the logo for eBay Bucks with the statement, "You'll earn $0.12 in eBay Bucks."

I then found an item listed by a small seller:

This item has the logo in the same place with the message, "You'll earn $0.50 in eBay Bucks." I next decided to compare the above items to a higher-priced item. I searched for Nancy Drew and sorted by highest price first. I found this item at the top of the results:

This item was listed by a small seller. It also has the eBay Bucks logo in the same location with the message, "You'll earn $5.34 in eBay Bucks." The reward is much more impressive here since the auction is at nearly $300.00.

What this means is that all listings have the promotion for eBay Bucks. The promotion is better for high-priced items than for low-priced items. It has nothing to do with who is selling the item. The only people who cannot benefit from this program are the buyers who do not wish to use PayPal. Using PayPal is a requirement of the program, so people who do not use PayPal will receive no eBay Bucks.

Many small sellers buy their inventory on eBay and resell it on eBay at a profit. Those sellers will benefit from this program once it is available to everyone. Since their inventory is purchased on eBay, they will receive coupons based on those purchases which will help make up for some of their eBay fees. There is nothing bad about this program except from the perspective of buyers who do not use PayPal.

Friday, April 3, 2009

eBay Bucks Beta Program Part 2

I have earned $2.22 in eBay Bucks for the first three-month period, and this is after only two days! I only wish that this program had begun last week when I made a large purchase. My buying activity on eBay has increased again after several months of very little buying. It all depends upon what people have listed. It seems like I have been interested in more stuff lately than I had been for months. Since I have also recently decided to build sets of the Grace Harlowe and Marjorie Dean books, this has added to what I am interested in buying.

I had wondered on Wednesday whether there was a place in My eBay where I could keep track of the eBay Bucks. I was unable to find anything. I finally noticed it on Thursday. I do not know whether it was there on Wednesday, and I failed to see it, or whether eBay added it on Thursday.

A link to the eBay Bucks portion of My eBay appears in the left sidebar of My eBay under buying activity. I assume that the link is not there for people who are not opted into the beta program. When I click on that link, this is what I see:

Click on the image to view a larger version. The page tells me that I have $2.22 in eBay Bucks and also breaks down the transactions and how much I earned for each transaction. It also tells me how many days I have left before I receive my first coupon.

This is the best eBay-related thing that has happened to me in a very long time. I like it a lot. I still consider eBay the best source for series books, and I still have eBay's advanced search page set as my homepage on my computer. I like the idea that I will be rewarded for my eBay purchases. Everything I purchase is something that I want and getting a coupon based on my buying activity really is a reward. As long as the program works the way it is supposed to, this is going to be awesome.

I expect that the program will have a few glitches since it is in beta. Apparently the program was developed and tested last year, and now this is the second run-through of it. More people will get opted into the program as time passes. EBay has given no idea of the time frame as far as I know.

I see absolutely nothing bad in this program. While I have disliked some of eBay's recent decisions, I do not hate eBay. I still see good in it. Others, however, spew their hatred so vociferously that they appear to be irrational about it. I really wonder what is wrong with those people. Just read the comments that have been posted to Ina Steiner's blog and the comments on this eBay message thread regarding the eBay Bucks program. Some of these people state that they do buy but that they refuse to join the program, even if invited. ??? Okay, hurt yourselves. If a company offers me coupons for doing what I normally do, I'll take them.

I would still feel this way even if I had not received an invite. When I read about the program on Monday I did not expect an invite but I thought that it sounded like a good idea. Everyone will be able to participate in this program once eBay makes it available for everyone.

The people who hate eBay will actually help eBay if they do not opt into the program. By not opting in, they will save eBay money. Is that really what they want?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Billie Bradley and Her Inheritance

I began reading the first Billie Bradley book, Billie Bradley and Her Inheritance. Billie's full name is Beatrice Bradley, and she is described as having brown eyes and hair. She is a mischievous girl, and in the very first chapter of the book, she accidentally breaks a statue that is worth $100.00. In 1920, $100.00 was a lot of money.

Billie has to find a way to pay for the statue, and her family has no extra money. Billie's hopes of attending Three Towers Hall, a boarding school, with her best friends is now impossible. Billie's family cannot possibly help her pay for the broken statue and also pay for her boarding school tuition.

The Billie Bradley series is a Stratemeyer Syndicate series and was written by Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward, according to this post by James Keeline in the Nancy Drew Sleuths group. The feel is very similar to other Syndicate series of the time, such as Betty Gordon and the Girls of Central High. I have greatly enjoyed the books that I have so far read by Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward from the Blythe Girls, Outdoor Girls, and Ruth Fielding series. This series ought to be a treat.

Since the Billie Bradley series is a Syndicate series, the plots will be predictable. I am only in the first couple of chapters of the book, yet I already have a very good idea of how Billie will ultimately pay for the statue, since the title of the book is Billie Bradley and Her Inheritance. I also am certain that I already know whether Billie will be able to afford the tuition to Three Towers Hall, since the second book is titled Billie Bradley at Three Towers Hall.

The titles of the early Statemeyer books tend to reveal what happens to the protagonist as the series progresses. However, we already know that all Stratemeyer protagonists are ultimately successful in all of their endeavors, so the revealing titles are of little significance. The fun is in the journey.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

eBay Bucks Beta Program

I was very surprised to be one of the people invited into the eBay Bucks beta program. I read about the new program this week on AuctionBytes:

eBay Bucks Beta Program Launches April 1st

A randomly selected group of eBay users were chosen for the beta program. In the eBay Bucks program, buyers can earn 2% back on all qualifying purchases made on eBay.com. Here are the terms and conditions of the rewards program:

eBay Bucks Rewards Program Terms & Conditions

Quite naturally I read through all of the terms before I accepted the invitation. Even though I have criticized eBay a great deal in this blog, I do still buy a lot on eBay. This rewards program, assuming that it works correctly (ha, ha), will give me cash back in coupons that I can use on future transactions. Every three months eBay will generate a coupon based on the previous three months' worth of transactions, and the recipient will have a certain amount of time in which to redeem the coupon.

Did any of you get the invitation?

Update: I just looked at a listing, and under the amount of time remaining, I now see how many eBay Bucks I will earn based on the current bid price. Neat!