An Update on AE's Books for Sale
Listing books puts them on the map.
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.
An Update on AE's Books for Sale
On average an inquiry is generated every 71 hits
We are also studying other comparative factors which, if we find they yield meaningful data, we will add them to the statistics we provide. For the moment it's simply a new tool: one more way to understand the otherwise invisible process of selling books, manuscripts and ephemera on line. In a world where knowledge is everything it's a step in the right direction.
While the number of "views," inquiries and sales will be useful they of course will not be the only or perhaps even the most important story. As a serious site a principal goal for AE is the fostering of enduring relationships between buyers and sellers. Selling one book pays the light bill. Building relationships builds collections and a business. Sellers report they are building these relationships.
For those who are listing and to those who are inquiring and buying we appreciate your involvement. If you are one of our Matchmaker members who is eligible to post but is not yet doing so we encourage you to do so soon. It's worthwhile.
If you are a research member you should consider to upgrade to Octavo membership. The difference is $98.60 for a year, a price at which there is essentially no downside.
If you have questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415 823-6678.
To join click here. To list books select the Octavo level. Once you are signed up we will contact you within 24 hours.