The Ever Changing Online Marketplace

- by Carl Burnham


This “Texian” survived terrible sufferings.

As an online marketplace that was originally designed for collectors, eBay has continued to evolve their business model to become a one-stop, generic shop. Many of the "enhancements" that are made by eBay (which are always issued with an exclamation point, as if an amazing innovation has been unleashed), usually elicit groans by eBay veterans, especially sellers. For advanced sellers, the improvements are many times viewed as getting in the way of more efficient listings. eBay has realized that it makes improved profits on common items that are more widely available in the marketplace. This equates to more listing fees charged and volume for eBay. With the upcoming shutdown of as the result of a patent infringement court case, eBay clearly saw the need to initiate more finite control over how modern ISBN designated books are listed and found. When listing books, you can now choose to enter an ISBN and use pre-filled Item Information, but stock photos are not available at times and you have to be careful to describe a book accurately if it is any different from the image portrayed. I have not found it to be a timesaver.

Soon, eBay will be making changes to their Book categories and search engine that will be more beneficial towards listings for widely available ISBN books than for those seeking out or listing antiquarian books. This is also to encourage sellers to list their books with eBay, either in an auction or a shop. eBay (or rather, I should say the seller) still has to overcome the fact that sellers were not charged on until a book was sold, and could list a book until sold, and not have to bother with re-listing a book after a period of time as with an eBay shop. eBay listing services and developers are scrambling to account for these changes within their software.

From an eBay perspective, consider the example of the one time listing and sale of an antiquarian book on eBay. They make significantly more by having multiple sellers listing, re-listing, and selling copies of a modern edition ISBN era book a thousand times during a given month compared to say one rare book. You can see the reasoning for eBay making the streamlined changes from a pure profit standpoint, away from their beginnings to focus on more high volume items. With sniping software available, buyers are now becoming more savvy at placing bids automatically on eBay at the last minute to get the best value. That is a good thing for buyers, but tends to result in lower sales for sellers, as fewer bids are made until the last minute. If a rare book, the importance of having a set price you are wanting takes some online research to accurately identify. Setting a reserve or listing for a rare book initially for a higher starting price is an important factor with listing. No one wants to list a book for $1, then have it sell for $1 to the highest bidder, when its actual market value is $100 or more. I can never understand why a seller would do this, other than not being aware of the true market value of a book.