A Renewed "Half Life"<br>Half.com Lives
For my first search, I try a book of which I have absolutely no expectation of finding, the official History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis & Clark... from 1812. As a result, I'm quite surprised when the title comes up. Not surprisingly, I'm told that the book "is currently out of stock." A little more examination reveals that they never anticipated having the original, valued in six figures, but are out of stock on the 1973 reprint. Conveniently, both for me and them, they provide a search link to eBay. But eBay doesn't have it either.
Next I try Rudyard Kipling's With the Night Mail. This is a good test book as it is a century old, not that rare, but was rarely reprinted. It's a book that's easy to find on sites like Abebooks, but none are available on Half. So I move on to Howard Stansbury's 1852 Expedition to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, expecting to find nothing, only to be surprised. A search by the author's name finds no copies of his "Expedition," but does find a 1988 Smithsonian reprint of his Exploration of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. A list price $24.95 item, I find copies as low as $0.98! Not bad. I compare that to Abebooks, where the cheapest copy, even of this reprint, is $4.00. Half's $2.79 shipping does raise the cost to $3.77, but Abe wants $3.50 shipping for a total of $7.50. Half.com may not have won me over as a place to look for collectible books, but if I'm looking for more recent reading copies, I know who's going to be on the top of my list.
I go back and refine my search to include both the author's name and title for "Expedition," and get nothing, but if I enter just the title, Half tells me of a copy available on eBay right now. As said before, this is convenient, but there's a glitch in this search. On the eBay listing, the title was listed in the title field, but the author's name was in the description. However, the default search is only of the title field. So when I filled in both the title and author boxes on the Half.com search page, it sent both over to eBay, searched for both in the title field, and did not find any listings with the author's name in the title field, so it told me my book was not available on eBay. But, it was. When I only entered the title at Half (without the author), it found a match with the title at eBay. The lesson is if you're selling on eBay, include the author's name in the "title" field. More Half.com customers will find you.
Finally, I did a search of Death is Natural by Laurence Pringle, a 1977 children's book designed either to reassure them about death or give them nightmares. This is not a very "collectible" book. Depending on whether I wanted a first edition or reprint, hardcover or soft, Half.com offered copies for $1.10-$1.30. At Abe, the lowest price was $1.80. I know that's not a lot of money on an absolute basis, but on a percentage basis, the difference is substantial. Amazon was closer on this title, with a low price of $1.24, while Barnes and Noble's low was $2.07 and Alibris $2.95.