Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2020 Issue

eBay is not another Abe or Biblio


The book listing sites have been around for more than two decades and once upon a time there were many.  But not so.  eBay saw the number of listing sites shrinking and shifted, in books anyway, to mimicking Abe and Amazon with different pricing and discount features.  It remains to be seen how these pricing models will coexist.


eBay’s formula originally was primarily as an auction but lost faith in their business model and fell in love with Abe’s.  That was pathetic!   Instead they split their old and used book business into twin unequal options, retaining their now anemic auction site while building up their fixed price service to encourage higher listing prices with a mechanism to create faux bargain hunting by offering regulated discounts.  Their prices even so seem very full.  This is basically a phony discount strategy.  It’s a Potemkin village.


What’s lacking are references to reality such as: 


When was a listing first posted?  What and when were changes in the listing made such as:


  1. Listing date, price and description including number of days listed
  2. A complete history of all changes and dates
  3. A record of all inquiries and/or sales of this item [if more than one] on eBay


In other words prospective buyers would pour over the listing history, become informed, become interested or perhaps disinterested if they saw something like “this listing has been posted for 3,491 days.”


And I understand that eBay wants to keep their sellers’ identities secret because they don’t want buyers to get into open conversations with their sellers.  That’s understandable given that their only real interest is to earn a sales commission.  But let’s remember the primary motivation for listing is to sell.


At first glance the Abe platform seems better.


At some point Abe, eBay or Biblio will become dynamic because the listings are essentially inert and do not entice interest, and at some time their financial people are going to ask what they need to do.

Posted On: 2020-05-01 09:32
User Name: jea888

Hello Bruce

Objectively - your points 1,2 and 3 aren’t available on abe either. I can’t speak for Biblio.

Actually no 2 - a list of all revisions is available on ebay - under the Description tab (not on mobile) there is a link “View all revisions”
And at the bottom of every listing where the seller owns a shop - there are full contact details - telephone number and email address under the heading “Business details”
I agree that both sites could do with improving. I list on abe and ebay and I wish abe would give better photo options and longer description boxes as well as (for a seller) the ability to get paid right away rather than a week later!
I know a lot of people hate ebay but - having sold on both - ebay is better for me overall.

Posted On: 2020-05-01 14:13
User Name: papapossum

eBay’s greatest weakness is its lack of traffic. Otherwise, its flexibility in constructing listings, with multiple photos, enhanced graphics, and almost limitless space to describe and “sell” an item, is a real boon for dealers.

However, auction-style listings are simply going away, not because of a decision eBay made, but because for the most part, consumers don’t feel that they have time to deal with them. And indeed, from the seller’s perspective, they are a loser’s game. I set my “Buy It Now” prices to what I think the market can bear, based on how the item has sold in the past on eBay – information, which of course, is available under “Sold” listings. (This very close to “3.” on your list of desiderata, although it only goes back a few months.)

If someone wants to pay my price, good. If not, they can move on. I will sometimes knock off 15%, sometimes not. I don’t have time for extended negotiations with low-ballers, and I do not include the “Best Offer” option with my eBay listings. If the book has value, what’s it to me if it sits around for three or five years? It’s not in a dusty shop depending on foot traffic – it is for sale in front of the entire country.

With the decline of auction listings, and the increased availability of information educating sellers on what they have and what it’s worth, bargains are not as common on eBay as they once were. Based on this article and the one you posted back in the fall concerning eBay, it sounds like you’re dealing with some degree of bitterness about this fact.

Posted On: 2020-05-06 20:16
User Name: zbooks

Hi Bruce, I was recently offered a 30% discount on a buy-it-now item in my watch list. I happily purchased it but was interested to see the sale was recorded by Ebay at the regular price, with no mention of the discount. If this is standard procedure, the sales records need to be taken with a big grain of salt. Stay safe and sanitized. Kurt Zimmerman

Rare Book Monthly

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