price-compare results for meta vendor sites


06 November 2006

Half A Million Books

Half a Million

My sibling saw the post above and wrote:

Wow. Half a million!

I wrote back:
I know, the number seems outrageous. There may be around 50 dealers with a figure like that operating through half a dozen mega-sites with tens of thousands of smaller booksellers and millions of titles offered. Each of these mega-sites has unique search and buy features (with various policies for re-reimbursing the sellers who handle and ship the books. Prices are usually bumped-up above the seller's price to cover this. There are exceptions, however, on some mega-sites).

Most of the big dealers limit their business to within the continental USA because it costs more to ship beyond borders. BUT within the States, the biggest dealers somehow keep their shipping costs lower than the independent small vendors (who bite the bullet when shipping overseas).

Pick a stack of your own books, then surf to addall ( to search any title you've picked -- especially books published by a major publishing house. You will notice for popular editions that many titles are offered for $1. The only way in hell these operators can be making money is by charging handling and shipping costs to cover the difference between a price way below market value and the bill paid to have it delivered. E-Bay's website must be doing something along these lines with remaindered titles (publishers' overstock it's sometimes called). A book published, say, five years ago that made NY Times 10-bestsellers list (when it sold from $27 to $38) is being offered for 75 cents in many cases -- big jobbers handling remainders normally paid publishers a quarter to fifty cents per book for 1,000s of remainders per order.

Look at Catherine Cookson titles (or pick your own author) at You find the following, with merely a couple hardback titles standing above the pack nearer $7.50:

Catherine Cookson
. . at eBays

The Fifteen Streets: Catherine Cookson
Hardcover, 2002 - Buy it for $0.75 (Save 97%)


Kate Hannigan: Catherine Cookson
Hardcover, 2004 - Buy it for $0.75 (Save 97%)


Mary Ann and Bill: Catherine Cookson
Hardcover, 1979 - Buy it for $1.08 (Save 87%)


The Mallen Streak: Catherine Cookson
Hardcover, Large Print, 1999 - Buy it for $0.75 (Save 97%)


The Menagerie: Catherine Cookson
Hardcover, 2002 - Buy it for $7.10 (Save 71%)

Certainly, the entire phenomenon of what's happening with the mail-order book trade on the Internet needs to be researched and described to inform the general public. A big aggregator of used books, now a dealer that went commercial the E-market trend expanded, Advanced Book Exchange, has switched over it's website in Germany so that now they deal exclusively in the nearly new, the so-called publishers overstocks. Will abebooks move in this direction outside Germany as well?

All this needs to be analysed (or at least those in the know should be telling those who are in the dark the score.) Publications such as Publishers Weekly were full of news when bookstores were MAKING MONEY on the Internet. They are silent now that many of the same bookstores are LOSING THEIR SHIRTS.

Is it truth or myth that Amazon went onto the market and purchased many used books to sell them from their own warehouses? Why would Amazon even bother, when there are so many independents who remain in the market to do all the plebe work of handling and shipping DESPITE the fall in prices and the squeeze on profits? Why NOT just take a percentage on every sale by remaining the intermediary instead of the source?

Are the postal services overcharging for shipping to customers who shop online?

Well, these questions and the impact any real world scenario will have on used bookstore owners and their trade add up to as many reasons for starting this blog:

Cy Butterfield

1 comment:

Blogaulaire said...

Above I wrote "the biggest dealers somehow keep their shipping costs lower than the independent small vendors (who bite the bullet when shipping overseas)."

Two points: the mega-sites have members, large and small, around the globe. The Internet, being global, leads to having buyers transacting anywhere for their books. So if in Japan a buyer finds a seller and a price that's attractive, he or she can and does buy from Canada or anywhere in the world.

But on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble (via, I believe) or abebooks, if the bookstore member does not declare and negotiate a special rate for overseas buyers (this can be an added paper work burden book-by-book), well then the dealer sometimes loses money on a sale in the price minus shipping costs equation. Same thing can happen inside Canada due to a byzantine structure of postal rates. It costs more to ship a parcel from Montreal to Alberta than to anywhere within the USA.