Sunday, April 29, 2012

eBay's Top-Rated Seller Program

You might recall that I have been working towards top-rated seller status on eBay. Bonanza is still my home base for selling, and this will not change. I want top-rated seller status because I will presumably receive better search placement on eBay. Furthermore, if I have better search placement, my eBay sales should improve, thus giving me additional opportunities to drive traffic to my Bonanza booth. I inform my eBay buyers about my Bonanza booth by enclosing the URL to my Bonanza booth within each package.

With that goal in mind, I have gradually ramped up my level of eBay sales and have been very close to the required sales amount for a number of months. I have slowly inched closer, and now I have finally passed the $3,000 sales mark for the first time, although some sales from a year ago could roll off before my next evaluation date on May 20.

Regardless of whether I am still above $3,000 on May 20, I will be far above $1,000 on June 1 when eBay lowers the required sales amount to $1,000 for the top-rated seller program. This means that I will become a top-rated seller either on May 20 or June 1. eBay has already contacted me through both email and the regular mail to inform me of my upcoming change in seller status.

Since I will soon be a top-rated seller, the changes eBay will be making to the top-rated seller program in the next few months are especially of interest to me. These changes are taking effect in stages. As is typical, some of the changes are controversial and have caused much discussion.

One change which has made sellers upset is the requirement that top-rated sellers upload tracking information for at least 90% of their transactions. The sellers who are the most upset are those who ship small, lightweight items such as stamps, coupons, and postcards. Delivery confirmation on first class parcels has a thickness requirement of 3/4 inch, which would cause the shipping price to be much higher than a single first class stamp.

For people like me who use PayPal shipping and do not mail small items, this change means nothing. I already upload tracking information for 100% of my transactions.

Another change is that sellers must offer a minimum of a 14-day return policy. I do not like offering that long of a return policy, but I also do not have problems with book buyers wishing to return books. Therefore, I will offer a 14-day return policy and not worry about it. I have very few problems with book buyers.

Top-rated sellers must also offer one-day handling. I already do this. Occasionally, I have a transaction which is mailed out on the second day. All I have to do is make certain that never happens on an eBay transaction.

eBay has also made a change to the DSR system. Any transaction in which a seller uploads the tracking number within one day and no communication occurs between buyer and seller will result in the seller receiving five stars for communication. Many people are stating that they will refuse to answer questions in order to force the five stars.

That tactic is potentially self-destructive. If the buyer has sent a message, then it seems that the buyer might be able to rate the seller on communication. Any buyer who is snubbed will leave less than five stars. It would be far better to answer the question. The vast majority of my eBay transactions result in no communication between me and my buyers. I am sure that I can handle a few buyers rating me for communication. It's not as though they haven't already been doing so for the last four years.

Coming in July, all sellers will receive 12 free pictures to upload to eBay for each item listed. This is the best change of all. I have been pampered by getting to upload multiple pictures to Bonanza for free, and listing on eBay has been a drag for the last three years since I have to format my listings in a completely different fashion. I do believe eBay is trying to compete with some of these alternative sites. It's about time.

Coming this fall, all eBay listings must have a picture, and the picture must be at least 500 pixels on the longest side. eBay also states that item specifics such as ISBNs will become more important this fall. I will probably list all of my books in the Antiquarian and Collectible Books category in order to avoid some of that. I have already moved most of my current and recent listings to that category.

Finally, if eBay could fix my broken saved searches and my now-broken advanced search page, I would be most grateful. My manual searches are now broken half the time, and my saved searches are broken 100% of the time. Please, eBay?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Brixton Brothers Series

The Brixton Brothers series consists of three books (thus far) by Mac Barnett.

1. The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, 2009
2. The Ghostwriter Secret, 2010
3. It Happened on a Train, 2011

Steve Brixton is twelve years old, and his favorite books are the Bailey Brothers books by Macarthur Bart. The Bailey Brothers books consist of 58 titles plus The Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook. Shawn and Kevin Bailey are the sons of detective Harris Bailey. They frequently help their father solve cases. Their father also tends to rescue them when they get into a jam. Sound familiar? Steve Brixton's idols, the Bailey Brothers, are parodies of the Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe.

Steve's first adventure, The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, is also a parody of the Hardy Boys. In The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, Steve checks out a book from the library and unwittingly finds himself in the middle of a mystery. It turns out that the book holds a clue to the location of the Maguffin Quilt, which contains all of the United States' most important secrets. Not only that, but the Librarians are a secret force which seeks to protect the Maguffin Quilt. As soon as Steve checks out the book, the Librarians come after Steve in their Bookmobile.

The plot of the first book is a bit ridiculous and comes across as an obvious parody. Despite the ridiculousness of the plot and the fact that the plot is aimed squarely at children, I found the story engaging enough to want to read the second book. After now having read all three books, I see the first book as setting the foundation for the later books. While the first book is not as good as the other two books, it must be read in order to fully appreciate what comes next.

The second book, The Ghostwriter Secret, has to do with the author of the Bailey Brothers books, Macarthur Bart, and how Marcarthur Bart is a pseudonym for a series of ghostwriters, et cetera,... except there is a twist. I really cannot give any additional details, or I will give away too much. The second book is more engaging than the first book. The second book comes across partly as a parody and partly as a real modern day Hardy Boys book.

By the third book, the reader is firmly pulled into Steve's modern day Hardy Boys style world. Each book in this series is better than the previous title. The third book, It Happened on a Train, has Steve trying to figure out who is planning to steal a valuable old car that is being transported on a train. This mystery is just like the old mysteries. The reader knows very well that the culprit is one of several people and has fun predicting who it will be and how the plot will play out.

Girls' series book fans might think that the Brixton Brothers books play off of just the Hardy Boys books, but a few nods are given to girls' series books as well. A chapter title in one of the books is "The Mysterious Letter," which brings to mind Nancy's Mysterious Letter. A number of chapter titles play off of the style of old series book titles. That in itself makes these books fun.

Most readers and collectors of series books have bemoaned the fact that modern books are just not like our favorite vintage books. The third Brixton Brothers book is just like the old Hardy Boys books, but set in modern times. It does work. Upon finishing the third book, author Mac Barnett has caught my attention fully.

These books are better than much of the recent output of the actual Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. Admittedly, I have not read any of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books of the last several years, but these books are better than the most recent ones that I have read from the last ten years, such as some of the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books. I have heard that the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books have been steadily going downhill, so I can confidently state that these books are better than most of those books without having read them. I will definitely read the fourth Brixton Brothers book once it is published.

If my review has not convinced you to give these books a try, then consider visiting the product pages at You can read the opening pages of the first book from Amazon's product page. Additionally, visit the Brixton Brothers website. Even if you don't think you are interested in reading this series, make sure you scroll down and click on the link for the website for the fictitious Bailey Brothers series. You'll be glad you did, especially if you have ever read a Hardy Boys book.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nancy Drew #19 Quest of the Missing Map

Both the original and revised texts of Nancy Drew #19, The Quest of the Missing Map, tell the same story. The revision is a condensed version of the original story.

In both versions of the story, Nancy has a hunch that the missing map is secreted in a model of the Warwick after she and Mrs. Chatham read a letter about the map being hidden on the Warwick. The girls look in the ship cottage for the model, but they determine that the Warwick is one of the models that Mrs. Chatham sold. Nancy decides to check Mrs. Chatham's list of the buyers and selects the man who paid the least amount.

In the original text, the buyer is quite deaf, and Nancy has to yell at him to get him to understand. Suddenly, one page later, Nancy seems to have no trouble communicating with him. She no longer shouts, and the man has no trouble understanding Nancy. If deafness is to be used as part of the plot, then the deaf person should be consistently deaf.

In the revised text, Nancy visits the buyer on the same day that she and Mrs. Chatham discuss the sold models. Strangely, when Nancy arrives at the buyer's home, he mentions an advertisement in the newspaper from days before in which someone offered to buy the model of the Warwick.

Exactly how did the villains know to look for a model of the Warwick days before Nancy did? Nancy only comes up with the idea right before she begins the search and as a result of reading the letter about the location of the missing map. The villains did not have that information, yet they somehow decided to search for a model of the ship.

The original text mentions nothing about an ad for the model, which makes the original text have more logic in this portion of the story. However, the original text has a bizarre extra scene in which the girls encounter an elephant on a country road. The owner comes along, telling the girls that the elephant is an enemy of Spike Doty and escaped to go after him. What an amazing coincidence that Spike Doty is in the area as well as an elephant that hates him.

Nancy and her friends run out of gas in the original text, page 154. After Nancy realizes that she has no gas she "lost her usual calm. The nearest gasoline station was a full mile away." Uh, this is a problem? I would have hopped out of the car and began walking towards the gas station. One mile is not too bad. Now if it were ten miles, that would be different.

So what does Nancy do, since one mile is such a huge distance? She and the girls wait in the car for someone to drive along and give them some gas. This seems so un-Nancy-like. I thought Nancy was more resourceful than that. One mile!

In the revised text, Captain Stryver mentions that his employer, Mr. Heppel, owns the Primrose and that Mr. Heppel will be in town the next day to talk with Stryver. In the original text, Captain Stryver mentions that his former employer, Mr. Heppel, owns the Primrose and that Mr. Heppel will be in town the following day to speak with Stryver. Also of importance is that Stryver is in River Heights to visit his daughter. Why would a former employer travel all the way to River Heights to visit Stryver who does not even live in River Heights himself? By changing Mr. Heppel to Stryver's current employer, the revised text is more logical.

Near the end of the original text, a statement is made about the three prisoners on the boat. In the revised text, a sailor named Todd throws Nancy overboard. Todd is led away, and I presume that he becomes a prisoner. This makes Todd the fourth prisoner, yet the same statement is made about the three prisoners. Oops. That's the problem with adding content and not considering how it affects other parts of the text.

Both texts have some flaws in logic, but since the original text is more fleshed out, I regard the original text as a better story.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Nancy Drew #18 Moss-Covered Mansion

In the revised text Nancy Drew #18, Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion, Nancy Drew travels to Florida to help her father with a case. As usual, Nancy's friends Bess and George are able to travel with Nancy, which is rather convenient. Even more convenient, Nancy's destination is Merritt Island, and it just so happens that Ned's parents have a property there. Of course, they are having a house party and are inviting Burt and Dave to come. The core group of six all end up in Florida with Mr. Drew as well as Hannah Gruen.

This is the first of the travelogues, at least when the books are read in numerical order. Other travelogues, such as #36, were published many years before this revised text was published. The reader learns a lot about the Space Center.

Many collectors criticize this book for the absurdity of the explosive oranges. That part of the plot does not bother me at all. I do find it a little hard to believe that all of the government officials so readily share information with Nancy. They share information because of Mr. Drew, but that does not make it logical that they would give Mr. Drew's daughter the information.

While the young people are at the Space Center, Hannah chances to meet Herb Baylor, who is an acquaintance and just happens to have seen the truck with the explosive oranges. He also saw a newspaper that came from the truck. He remembers the ad from the newspaper and recites it for Nancy. I find it strange that Herb would just happen to remember the exact wording of the ad.

The codes in the newspaper ads strike me as a bit stupid. It seems to me that since all of the villains know about the hideout at the moss-covered mansion that they could have met there every few days to keep updated on developments. For that matter, couldn't they just talk on the phone?

On the subject of phones, Nancy is fully aware that Mr. Billingsley's house has multiple phone extensions in different rooms and in the orange packing house. At one point, Nancy hears part of a call and tries to figure out who was on the phone. In spite of her awareness of the extensions, Nancy calls Mr. Drew on the house phone and tells him everything. This is foolhardy.

Nancy and her friends suspect that the people who live in the moss-covered mansion might be involved with the explosive oranges case. Oddly, they decline to tell the authorities about their suspicions. Days later, Nancy and Ned sneak into the mansion. When Nancy and Ned fail to return quickly, their friends call NASA and report their suspicions. At this point, the reader knows what is happening inside the mansion, but Nancy's friends do not. Based on what little Nancy's friends know and had known for many days, the authorities arrive and enter the mansion. Why did Nancy not call the authorities days before?

The original text, The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion, is a completely different story. The only similarities are that part of the mystery occurs at a moss-covered mansion and that wild animals are involved.

This quote in the original text, page 10, is priceless. "'We must run while there's time,' Bess pleaded nervously. 'Nancy, you know it would never do for us to become involved in some tragic affair. It might ruin our vacation.'" Indeed, that would never do.

Ramo learns about June Campbell's fortune by eavesdropping. The reader knows what is going to happen, and this type of plot exasperates me. I hate reading about a villain getting the upper hand, knowing about every step in the process. I would actually have preferred not to have known about Ramo's success at eavesdropping. I would like to have figured out on my own that the heiress that suddenly appears is an imposter. Of course, I would have already realized it immediately, but at least I would have been left to wonder about the circumstances a tiny bit.

Nancy and her friends have close encounters with wild animals in both the original text and the revised text. The encounters in the original text are a bit more unbelievable to me, since it has a lion loose in the woods. Nancy also encounters a tiger inside the mansion and keeps it back with a chair. Nancy missed her true calling; she should have joined the circus.

I enjoyed reading both texts. Since both texts are completely different, I lean towards the revised text as a more favorite story. This does not mean that the revised text is better, just that I like it a little bit more.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

4/7/12 Book Finds

Central Oklahoma has three Barnes and Noble locations. I had visited the two that were closest a couple of days ago in search of the Nancy Drew bag. Only one of those two stores had the bag. Today, I checked the third store, which is farther away than the other two stores. The third store did not have the bag. This matches what others have reported. Many of the stores do not have the bag.

The trip was not wasted, since I took the opportunity to check one antique shop and two book stores.

Jill at Hazelmere is a UK children's book that remember seeing previously in that antique shop. This time, I decided to buy the book. Since purchasing books from other countries is quite expensive, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to read a book that I would not otherwise purchase. From the synopsis and first few pages, the book sounds like it might be a good story. The book is from the same publisher and set as the UK edition of Mildred Wirt Benson's book, Quarry Ghost, titled Kristie at College in the UK.

The Judy Bolton book, Double Ring, has the four glossy illustrations and is the first printing. I also found two Tom Swift, two Trixie Belden, one Hardy Boys, and one Sandy Steele book. I might decide to read the Sandy Steele book to see what I think of it.

It's always fun to come home with a few books.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Barnes and Noble Nancy Drew Bag

This bag is currently available in Barnes and Nobles stores.

The bag costs $1.99. The bags began showing up in stores around a week ago. Some Nancy Drew fans have had trouble locating a store which has the bags in stock. Other fans have reported that their stores have many bags.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nancy Drew Original vs. Revised #1-17

Now that I am halfway through the original text Nancy Drew books, I thought I would compile a list indicating which text I prefer for each title.

#1 Old Clock - original text
#2 Hidden Staircase - original text
#3 Bungalow Mystery - original text
#4 Lilac Inn - revised text
#5 Shadow Ranch - revised text
#6 Red Gate Farm - tie
#7 Diary - revised text
#8 Mysterious Letter - original text
#9 Twisted Candles - original text
#10 Larkspur Lane - original text
#11 Broken Locket - revised text
#12 Hollow Oak - original text
#13 Ivory Charm - original text
#14 Whispering Statue - revised text
#15 Haunted Bridge - original text
#16 Tapping Heels - original text
#17 Brass Bound Trunk - revised text

I like 10 original texts better while I like 6 revised texts better. I like both texts the same for one book. Since I read only the revised text books as a child, I am more likely to favor the revised text for the books in which the revised text is a completely different story.  For the revised text books that are condensed versions of the original text, I tend to favor the original text since the writing is better.

For #18-34, I suspect that I will tend to favor the original text for the majority of the books. For most of these titles, the stories are exactly the same and have been condensed for the revised text. This usually results in a revised text story which is not quite as good as the original text.