Rare Book Monthly
An Update on <B>AE</B>'s Books for Sale
By Bruce McKinney
Books for Sale is a listing service for out-of-print and uncommon books, manuscripts and ephemera that AE introduced September 1st, 2006. It is now six months old and is working well. It is a free service for AE's premium subscribers [Octavo and higher]. Today 402,732 items are offered by 62 members. About 250 members are currently eligible to upload their materials to BFS. AE charges no commissions or fees.
Abe is the largest online listing service for used books. Their promotions mention a hundred million items. Whatever the numbers, whether higher or lower, they are impressive. ZVAB and their US counterpart Choosebooks have a piece of the market as does Alibris, Biblio, ILAB-ABAA and others. The market is a mosaic of large and small pieces. What they have in common is that they are impressive lists of available material and use availability as their starting point.
Books for Sale is designed for those who use research as their starting point. Members who collect look to the AED to know what is possible and look from there to what is available. Sellers who post in Books for Sale use the AED themselves, understand its complexity, and post their material as comparables and alternatives. In this way a dozen or so items are bought and sold every day: found items for the buyer and found money for the seller.
Selling is both an art and a science and in BFS we are elaborating the scientific aspect with tools to help sellers understand how their listings fare relative to the entire BFS database. This information is imperfect and improving but already useful because it's fresh. We do this by tracking results for individual sellers and the database overall but will share only overall statistics. Specific seller experience will soon be included on their home pages. During the first six months 64,304 items were opened. Of these, 846 have generated an emailed inquiry or request to purchase for an "open to inquiry" rate of 1.3% or 1 in 76. Anecdotally, because we have no direct knowledge, we understand that about 15% of all inquiries are by phone and associated with higher buyer motivation.
To help members better understand how their listings are being perceived we are also now tracking "opened records versus inquiries made" by price level. No doubt items that cost $5,000 yield different statistics than $50 items. Overall performance of BFS will be public while individual performance statistics will be accessible only to the sellers themselves. Such information will soon be available on Matchmaker account homepages.
If a seller's statistics differ substantially from overall BFS performance it may suggest prices are deemed too high or too low.