Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2005 Issue

Using Overstock.com Auctions

A0513

A search for antiquarian and collectible books on Overstock.com


By Carl Burnham

As booksellers, we are always seeking new avenues to market our items to attract new customers. Overstock.com is one such avenue that we have explored for listing books on auction. Publicly traded on NASDAQ as OSTK, the Utah based company Overstock is a closeout retailer for brand-name items at discounted prices. Through their website, Overstock serves as an online distributor for suppliers to use to sell off their oversupply of inventory through shopping, books, music, movies, and travel sections. Recently, Overstock has expanded into providing a marketplace for buyers and sellers to come together through auctions. You may have also seen one of several commercials by Overstock that has the spokesperson Sabine Ehrenfeld, a model, behind a stark white background. Ehrenfeld has gained quite a following online just from representing Overstock through the national television commercial spots.

The menu structure is similar to eBay's, with the capability to search auctions by Department, and organize results by auctions ending first, newly listed, the lowest priced, the highest priced, fewest bid, and most bids. Each auction sort page also displays sellers, their ratings, and time left for each auction.

The categories which will be of interest in the auctions section will be primarily Books, Collectibles, and Entertainment Memorabilia. The active items that were listed in these categories were 5,206 Books, 6,364 Collectibles, and 476 items in Entertainment Memorabilia. The highest price book listed was an unpublished story by Hunter Thompson, going for $2,999 (no bids). The next highest book appeared at $299. A random search on "Franklin Library" (popular with our customers) revealed no books. A search on "signed" came up with 52 books. To be fair, this analysis was done on a Monday, the day after Easter, so there may usually be more items listed for auction.

By comparison, on the same day eBay listed 570,659 Books, 1,744,496 Collectibles, and 292,271 Entertainment Memorabilia items. The quantity of listings should be no surprise considering that eBay recently celebrated its tenth year anniversary online and has steadily increased its market. The highest price book listed was a Webster's Holy Bible and Companion Book from 1833 going for $18,500 (no bids). The next highest book that appeared was for the same price. The same search on Franklin Library revealed 459 books listed, while "signed" displayed 10,362 books.

Rare Book Monthly

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