There&#146;s a <i>Reason </i>It&#146;s a Big River — A Guide to Swimming in the Amazon

- by Renee Roberts


The cyber-equivalent of the Mall of the Americas.

Let’s take a look under the hood. There are two primary ways to sell on Amazon. You can market through “Amazon Marketplace”, i.e. as a link off the main, ISBN-driven page that Amazon uses to sell its own books. Or, alternatively, you can create your own, individual identity in “Amazon Z-Shops”, a cyber-space dedicated to individual sellers that resides on Amazon’s servers and uses the same payment engine as Marketplace. To determine the best way to move your inventory, you should examine the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Marketplace is, by far, the more visible Amazon real estate — and visibility, as a rule, is the key to sales. Customers using Amazon’s standard search engine will be directed to the page or pages where books that have ISBN numbers (current or assigned) are listed. Used books of all types, including rare, antiquarian books, can be listed by anybody, on the spot, as links off of these pages. College kids listing their used books, people buying and reselling from yard sales — anybody selling the same titles as you — will be sharing these pages with you. Additionally, when buyers seeking books use search engines such as or, these engines will find Marketplace listings and return them to the customer.

In exchange for this very high visibility, Amazon currently charges a fixed 15% commission for sales through Marketplace, plus a piece of the fixed shipping allotment. The commission is 15% whether the book sells for $12.00 or $1200.00. In Z-Shops, on the other hand, Amazon collects closing fees determined by the sales price: 5% for items selling from $0.01 to $25.00; $1.25 plus 2.5% for any amount greater than $25.00 to $1,000.00; $25.63 plus 1.25% for any amount greater than $1,000.00.

Item Sales PriceAmazon Marketplace Fee Amazon Z-Shop Fee
$25.00 $3.75 $1.25
$100.00$15.00 ($1.25 + $2.50) = $3.75
$1200.00$180.00($25.63 + $15.00) = $43.63

The difference is huge, and it gets grotesque when you reach the higher price ranges. For this reason, we list most of our inventory in both places, hoping that customers looking for additional books will browse our Z-Shop, where we can sell more profitably. However, the power and exposure of Marketplace are so great that we have found it an exceptionally effective place from which to sell rare books, even despite the higher fee. And, of course, our selling price can be adjusted upwards to a certain point (determined by market pricing) to absorb at least a portion of the increased fee.