Rare Book MonthlyNew Letter
Letters to the Editor
. July 28, 2008
Catching up with back issues after being gone for a month and have just read
Karen Wright's delightful book buying trip article and I have a tip to pass
on to her.
We also use Motel 6 on buying trips and this last trip I discovered a great
help for the "Motel 6 Smell". I took along a big can of Lysol Disinfectant
Spray in "Crisp Linen Scent". The first thing I did when entering a smelly
room was to spray the drapes, the top layer of the bedspreads and some into
the ceiling air return vents if there was one.
By the time we unloaded the luggage, the smell was always gone. Only in one
motel did I need to spray the carpet and rarely did I need to re-spray if we
I will never travel without it again!
The Old Book Shop
. May 09, 2008
re: Abebooks Price Increase
Dear Bruce & AEMonthly:
I think you're missing some of the ABE increases (1) and the bigger point (2).
1) ABE is now collecting a commission on books over $400. Before this, the commission was capped at a $400 maximum. They also announced plans to take over Discover and American Express card processing as well.
2) I need to raise shipping & sales tax 15.61% to recover the actual original cost/charge of ABE credit card processing and commissions. They were already making about 2.5% on shipping by virtue of their 5.5% credit card processing fee, which is about double what the credit card companies charge them, thus making their actual cut on shipping about 10%.
. May 06, 2008
Re: Abebooks' Price Increase
Where did this "Michael Stillman" come from? The one that wrote the article on the ABE commission on shipping? It appears he was giving us good reason as to why ABE should take this commission and telling us to live with it! Well here is what I run into a lot with shipping.
I'm a Canadian small bookstore located in Langley, British Columbia, I charge a $9.00 shipping fee (which is cheap for Canada, our postage is enormous); average size book from BC to Ontario costs me $12.60 shipping. I shipped a $10.00 book to customer in Ontario:
$10.00 book charge + 9.00 shipping = 19.00 total
minus shipping to ON = 12.60
minus book cost = 2.00
minus credit card = .85
minus 8% = 1.52
minus packaging = 1.20 (envelope/labels/printing paper/cartridges) invoices
TOTAL = 18.17 costs - 19.00 = .83 _ OH YES I FORGOT MY MONTHLY FEE! Wow so now I'm paying to sell! So with Abe taking their 8% of my shipping .72 cents yes that will leave me with a profit of .11 cents (maybe).
ABE is in it for the $ not the customer, small book stores are going broke with ABE, many of us want to leave and are looking for alternatives. ABE recognizes that we do not have many choices and plays on that for their profit. They are unethical. Abe should go after the dealers they say are messing with the shipping. Abe needs some heavy-duty competition, they are worse than our Canada Postal Service when it comes to squeezing money out us.
Please don't say to increase your shipping fees, that will only give me fewer customers and ABE more money. ABE has not done one thing since I have been with them, about 6 years, to increase the seller's profit, only to increase theirs!
Any help with this would be sincerely appreciated.
Mole's Collectibles (Books)
Langley, BC V3A 1M2
It was not my intention to take sides in this issue but simply to report on what happened. As a result, I published both AbeBooks' explanation and the objections we heard from booksellers.
In terms of advising sellers to "live with it" or move on, my observation over the years is that while Abe does have forums to hear their sellers concerns, ultimately they call the shots and rarely roll them back in any substantial way. That being the case, I don't see much else a bookseller can do besides either cutting the cord or living with the rates, though that may require increasing your prices, since you cannot make up for unprofitable sales with volume. If there is a third way, I and many others undoubtedly would be interested in knowing, but such things as boycotts rarely seem to have an impact.
. May 02, 2008
re: Abe Fee Increases
While you write about the new ABE fees on shipping, you FAIL to note that this also applies to those of us who collect sales taxes which under ABE are billed as extra shipping charges. Currently with a credit card transaction, we lose money on each instate transaction since we pay a credit card fee on the sales taxes. With the new fees, we now also pay ABE a NEW fee on sales taxes since they are billed as extra shipping. Thus with a 8.25% sales tax that we pay the state, we will now only collect $7.14 on every $100 sale while we need to pay the State $8.25. Thus an instant loss of $1.11. ABE refuses to make the collection of sales taxes free of their fees.
. May 01, 2008
re: Abebooks' Price Increase
Thanks for the updates. In respect to ABE price increase they are also charging 8% on top of required State Sales Tax.
Bookseller ABE and Biblio
. April 01, 2008
I realize you've probably heard more than you ever want to about the issues with ABE, but thought you might find this interesting. I've had 8 cancelled orders because of credit card errors with ABE in the last 6 months, and every one I've called, or contacted the customer, and the credit card number was just fine, and I've completed the sale.
I've contacted ABE numerous times about the problem, and they seem to believe there isn't any issue. So, the moral of the story is to continue contacting your customers directly.
. April 01, 2008
re: PayPal "Funhouse" Article
The seller could have fixed the problem in 2 minutes or less by adding the extra
incorrect email to their emails registered with Paypal. We have a number of common
typo/spelling errors that we leave registered just for this problem.
On Paypal as soon as you add the email you can go in and accept the pending payment
and if you don't wish to keep that email on Paypal you can then delete it.
If the seller has the email wrong in their listing/s they should leave it registered
until they have fixed the error in all the listings.
Thank you for another nice issue.
. March 02, 2008
re: Transy Thieves
I enjoyed the story but a bookseller, preservers of the written language that we
are, should know that the term is hare-brained, not hair-brained.
. February 07, 2008
Just a quick note to say thanks. Your services have certainly increased our bottom line. We make it an effort to tell everyone we meet about your great site and services.
As an aside, wanted to let you know that the tome you mentioned in this month's newsletter "An Unhappy Story: a deal gone bad" was recently re-listed and sold for approx. the same amount. Everyone in the state of ... knows ... [names deleted]. Strange but we knew it was him just from the book description. At any rate thanks again and keep on booking.
timbookski February 06, 2008
I appreciated your article highlighting some of the problems with eBay. Because of the problems you highlight (plus others), I rarely eBay any more. Over the past years I have made many purchases on eBay as well and have come to the conclusion that I am not saving any money. When I subtract the losses because of items that were not described correctly, did not arrive, or I missed something in the description, it turns out that it actually costs me more on eBay. You could argue that I should not count "my mistakes" but other modes allow me to make mistakes and have some option for correcting it. Also, I believe that many sellers purposefully write the descriptions in a way that make it easy for you to miss the important details.
Forgetting the financial losses on eBay, I just find it too aggravating to deal with these people. It always ticks me off when I get burned on eBay but makes it all the worse when they leave me negative feedback for complaining.
In conducting far more transactions on ABE than eBay, I have not been burned once. I do not think anyone can say that about eBay.
. February 05, 2008
Great! I'm going to upgrade to the monthly membership today.
I also wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your website and AE Monthly. I'm a relatively young collector, and websites such as yours have provided me with both entertainment and education as I build my collection.
Keep up the good work!
. February 05, 2008
As to your deal going sour on eBay, I'd like to make a few comments:
1) unless one understands that eBay's motto for buyers is "caveat emptor', a certain number of eBay purchases will disappoint. Some are the consequence of deliberate deception by the seller (as the one you mentioned apparently was), but others are the consequence of the seller's complete ignorance of what he's selling. Sometimes it's difficult to tell (as in the case of a seller who recently asserted a 1582 copy of Calvin's Institutes was complete, when the index ended at Galatians 3: 8, with a catchword for the next entry; I'm sure he didn't know how many pages were missing - it was 22, but as a full-time bookseller he certainly should have known some were. I managed to get him to send me privately a picture of the last page present, but the unfortunate winning bidder evidently didn't).
This notwithstanding, by bidding on the mostly antiquarian Bibles and theological books in which I specialize and by being fairly careful most of the time in buying, on balance I do quite well in buying and have gotten some really wonderful bargains. In selling (almost entirely books on subjects in which I don't specialize) I take care to describe the books carefully, especially taking pictures of any faults - something which tends to result in glowing feedback. A number of booksellers buy from me; I both expect and want them to make a profit, as they're doing me a service by paying good money for books I would otherwise be unable to sell.
2) eBay's feedback system is badly broken and I don't think the forthcoming change will improve it at all. Previously unethical buyers and sellers could leave retaliatory feedback without respect to the legitimacy of the complaint. Now only buyers will be able to do this ... and sellers will not be able to warn other sellers about non-paying bidders. EBay's proposals for their new system are woefully inadequate, particularly as its efforts to police the system seem only to be exercised with a view to enhancing its bottom line and without a care for honesty and integrity. PayPal seems to be run with the same end in view.
3) I always leave negative feedback for non-paying bidders AND for sellers who seem to be deliberately deceptive in some way; to date I have 3 negative feedbacks, all retaliatory: two as a buyer and one as a seller (I've received a total of over 3000 feedbacks, I should say). I feel that if one is not willing to risk this, the eBay system has no integrity at all.
4) The only reason the eBay system works at all is that most sellers and most buyers are honest - and I commend them all for it.
EBay is not and I think eventually as currently constituted it will end, as a result of its losing one of the various law suits being brought by 'name' brand high fashion merchants against eBay's polite fiction that it's not running an auction, but merely providing a forum for sellers running auctions for willing buyers (and thus claiming that eBay is not responsible for cheap rip-off imitations). Though I've done quite well in buying and in selling on eBay, simply as a matter of justice I hope that eBay loses these suits and loses it's collective shirt as a consequence.
Meantime I wish you well in your eBay buying.
Bookseller February 04, 2008
Regarding the ebay book buying experience.....as an experienced ebayer, you should know that if a deal appears to be too good to be true, it usually is. I'm not defending the seller who did not disclose the flaws in the book (he most certainly should have). But buyers on any site need to assess whether a $200 book would be selling, without reserve, from an experienced and knowledgeable seller, for $70. Red flags should have been raised.
Response from Bruce McKinney -
The book was hardly too good to be true. EBay realizations run from 20% to 40% of typical retails. In my view it was priced to be a reasonably good copy and the experienced seller simply ignored poor condition in the apparent expectation the buyer would accept what they received. The seller's relatively high starting price implied it was a good copy and the description supported this expectation.
. February 03, 2008
I see that ... [the seller in McKinney's eBay article] has relisted the defective copy of History of Orange County without modification for condition defects you describe. Inexcusable in my view. Perhaps eBay's feedback changes starting in March will improve seller service. Sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback to buyers, thus eliminating the threat of retaliatory feedback routinely practiced by some sellers. I'm not sure this is entirely fair to sellers but we'll see what happens. Thanks for the AE Monthly. It's great!
. February 02, 2008
I have 100% rating on ebay but, it means little...I have a five star rating on abe - that means even less...
I have been burnt more then twice by books that I have purchased. Yet, I have won bargains more then twice....it all equals out in the long run. ebay is not a true auction house, rather a crap shoot.
Books that are described as rare finds seldom are. Books that are under-stated may turn out to be gems.
Xanman February 01, 2008
I read with great interest your e-bay experiences. I personally feel that the whole feedback system is without any merit. There have been numerous articles in the past couple years about sellers with perfect feedback, glowing compliments, and they were arrested for selling 10s of thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise, even a San Diego Deputy Sheriff.
I have only recently ventured into the netherworld of e-bay, and I must say, that in many cases it has been a bust. I've received books that were described as beautiful, pictures show them as beautiful, and when removed from shipping box, they're in pieces. I've had material that the seller has assured me is complete, and out of the past 25 auctions, 5 have been missing plates, pages, or illustrations. Some have been good about returns, some not.
I think I just may have to opt out.
. February 01, 2008
Just a note to let you know I really enjoy reading your AE Monthly. The article about ebay must have hit a nerve with ebay, they are in the process of restructuring their feedback system. Sellers will no longer be able to leave anything but positive feedback. I have been selling online for four years now, mostly on Abebooks, Alibris, B/N, Biblio, and Amazon, but also a few on ebay (10 -12 a month). In four years I've only received one negative feedback, which was the Postal Service's fault.
. February 01, 2008
re: Ebay Article
I read with interest. Like you I have purchased several items and so far knock on wood the only ones that were less than expected were as you said I failed to really read the descriptions.
However, that said, I have had several problems with books from ABE. The latest this past month. This seller had a 5 star rating. The book was listed as "Description: 300 p. Illus. 22 cm. Includes Illustrations. Great Value. Prompt
delivery with tracking. Satisfaction guaranteed. Author's autograph
presentation copy, no.7. Book seller's advertisement laid in. Bibliography:
What I got was an exlib copy with pocket ripped out, title page stamped all over, not signed, not a presentation copy shipped in a brown paper sack duct taped. It arrived with a broken spine. I have no idea if it was that way prior to shipping or after. I contacted the seller and received no response. This went on for a week when I turned it over to ABE with photos of the book, sales listing, shipping material etc.
They did issue a refund but as in your case the so called 5 star seller never did respond.
I think an interesting article would be on the use of scanners and the phone services. Everyone talks about them ripping off the average seller at FOL sales etc. but no one really says how they use them and if its a worthwhile investment vrs good old fashion knowing your business. Just a thought.
Editor's Note: Abe's ratings pertain only to the sellers' fulfillment rates, not to factors, such as accuracy of listings, quality of customer service, etc., that most people think determines whether a seller is honest and good.
. February 01, 2008
Just received and read the Feb. 1 issue. It's terrific. Especially enjoyed your eBay experience. By the way, we're going to do the Santa Fe Book Fair again this year. Keep up the good fight!
Gunstock Hill Books
. February 01, 2008
Another good issue of AE Monthly.
This caught my attention:
What happens when a deal goes sour on eBay? Do you dare leave negative feedback, knowing there will be retaliation?
If you had been bidding on AuctionExplorerBooks.com none of these horrors
would have happened.
As all our sellers are vetted dealers the description would have been properly done.
Hopefullly a book in this condition would never have been listed.
If a book proved unsatisfactory each dealer would be expected to take it back
for a full refund without question.
If there was a dispute between you and a dealer we would have been available
to mediate and find a solution.
If the dealer was in any way at fault he would have been immediately removed
from the system and prevented from selling (and buying) in the future.
Quite simple. Solves all the inherent problems of Ebay. As we say, bid with
Keep AE Monthly coming.
All the best,
. February 01, 2008
I read your article about buying on ebay & found it interesting. As a seller who tries to be honest (and who makes almost enough to pay my vet bills by being a 'bottom-feeder' bookseller) I get frustrated with the bad apples. However, an experienced buyer almost never gets shafted - we all know that if you want a free book, all you have to do is say that you never received it (if the book didn't come with tracking info) or just send back an empty mailer, supplying Paypal with proof of mailing. In either event, Paypal will refund your money, all of it. If Paypal is used, the seller has no control over refunds - any 'refund policy' is irrelevant. If a seller can't supply proof of buyer receipt (and emails/messages are not proof) or the buyer can supply proof of mailing something (anything, even maybe a worse copy of the book sold) money back to buyer, no questions asked. The 'dispute' process is impersonal, and does not favor sellers.
Also, beginning Feb. 20, sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback for buyers. I assume this means that buyers will be able to say whatever they'd like, without fear of reprisal. The pricing structure is changing also - less listing costs & much higher after sales cost. I assume this is because lots of us list most of our books on Amazon or other places where no fees are paid until the book is sold.
I was glad to see a free search box at Americana Exchange. I have several boxes of books that I cannot find for sale anywhere & so am unable to value & list. I'll try that out soon! Thanks.
P.S. I may be alone in this opinion, but I wish someone would censor Paypal over advertising 'free shipping labels'. Just about every item mailed using Paypal shipping is charged $0.18 over the cost, supposedly for tracking. Yes, the cost of tracking is less than that offered by USPS, but at Paypal, tracking is not an option. If I sell a book for a buck or two, I can't pay $0.18 to create a shipping label, tracking or no tracking....
. February 01, 2008
re: An Unhappy Story: A Deal Gone Bad
Bruce. I found your tale about Ebay very interesting. My experiences with the site
almost exactly correspond.
I have one negative feedback from a bookdealer in Toronto. The tale is as follows:
I bought a folding Marcus Ward card and when it arrived the fold was partly
detached. I e-mailed the seller to tell him and neither asked for a reduction or a
refund or even inferred that I wanted one. I got a grumpy reply stating that it was
fine when sent so I must have done it or it happened in transit.
It would not have been possible to tear in transit so I posted a neutral feedback
and the message 'condition less than description.' I got a negative feedback with the
rebuttal 'item was described photos prove it damage in transit would avoid in the
future.' Apart from the fact that the photos did not show a crack in the hinge as
they were face on, this reply seems excessive for my temerity in mentioning the fault
and posting a neutral on receipt of an arrogant and grouchy response.
The moral of the tale is to be very very careful of the feedback one posts
regardless of how in the right one is.
. January 03, 2008
Dear Bruce and Staff:
A Happy New Year to you all for a great job of keeping us informed. It's always a pleasure receiving your monthly newsletter.
Tyson's Old & Rare Books
. January 01, 2008
re: Great Homosassa Hassle
Suggest you warn unfortunate against including first class matter with books shipped. Better that be an email form letter. Delivery confirmation is a good idea. Insurance requires a 30 day waiting period. Am more glad now that I quit selling on Alibris.
. November 05, 2007
re: Streeter Sale
While I do recognize the total of over $3 million as a total, I have a mild comment about it being the "record" auction.
4,000+ lots over 3 years in 1966-69 dollars were indeed impressive, and I did use some of the Streeter catalog references in the 70's.
However, my father, William Hanzel, did sell 373 lots in one two-day auction in September of 1973 for a net (no buyer's premium back then) for $893,000.
I remember carrying 4 Washington letters to the photographer. It was still a trade business back then ~ Newman, Nebenzall, Fleming, Hamill & Barker (now there's a book story), Seven Gables and others.
I do still wonder where Washington's letter Fitzpatrick vol. 28, page 303 ended up ~ it reminds me every now and then to re-read and re-think 3 times before I send a serious email, and I talk about how writing in 1785 could be both well-thought and in good penmanship, since delivery was rather slower than we are used to.