Searching The Old Book Sites&#58;<br>Just Who Is The Best?

- by Michael Stillman

0901

Amazon offers a cacophony of choices that does not make it easy to find old books.


By Michael Stillman

There are two sides to every internet sales story, buyer and seller. Most of what you read is taken from the seller's perspective. How many customers visit the site, how easy is it to upload your material, and most importantly, how much do they charge? This month we look from a different perspective, the buyer's. Not just any buyer. No, we take it from the slow-learning technophobic easily confused buyer's point of view. If you're a seller, you know him. He makes up about 90% of your business. I am totally qualified to speak for him.

Just to elaborate on that last point a bit more, some of you may say "you should have just clicked this link," or "you should have done..." fill in the blank. Probably. But remember, most people are not as well versed in these sites as the average person reading this article. For a site to perform up to its potential, it needs to work for the ignorant as well as the learned.

This is not to say dealers should choose which sites to list on based on how well they work. Dealers should post their listings based on which make them the most money. This will be a factor of how many books they sell, what commissions they charge, how much time you have to spend to place books on the site, and factors like these. Many booksellers will gravitate to Amazon because, with their large audience, they have the ability to move a lot of books. If not always the most user-friendly site, to paraphrase John Dillinger, it's where the customers are. Still, it is worth looking at a site from the buyer's perspective, as in time this will make a difference.

We looked at seven sites: the two major regular booksellers, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the two largest primarily old book sites, Abebooks and Alibris, two bookseller organization sites, the ABAA and ILAB-LILA, and the biggest search engine, Froogle (brought to you by Google). We also tried the IOBA site (Independent Online Booksellers Association). We found only one copy of one of the books we searched, so it was not very productive. However, there did seem to be many low-priced other books available there, so it might be worth a look if you are searching for not very rare items at bargain prices.