Which Listing Service is Right for You?


In the beginning, there was AB Bookman’s Weekly.  For years the bookselling and buying community awaited its weekly arrival and flipped through the pages of Books for Sale and Books Wanted advertisements and sent off quote cards and phoned or mailed in their orders. Many a bookseller’s eyesight was ruined by poring over the tiny print by the flickering candle light.  And then Interloc came along and the world started to change.

Interloc was an automated tool for booksellers to match their wants against others’ listings. It worked through a dial-up connection, was relatively expensive and was clearly designed for professional booksellers rather than their customers. And then the Advanced Book Exchange and Bibliofind started up more or less simultaneously and the pace of change started to skyrocket and the world of antiquarian and used books changed forever. These services were designed to link the actual customers (the civilians, if you will) with the sellers, rather than the closed bookseller-to-bookseller model of Interloc – and they were web-based on the logarithmically growing Internet.  Both services are still going strong – ABE is still owned by its original founders and is one of the leading high tech employers here in Victoria where this article is being written;  Bibliofind was sold by its founder Michael Selzer to Exchange.com who shortly sold it in turn to Amazon.com, in whose hands it remains.

Interloc belatedly moved its operations to the World Wide Web as well but remained a distant third compared to the original two. Metasearch services like Bookfinder and Addall appeared on the scene. Other services like Bookavenue and Global Book Mart started operations. Interloc morphed into the controversial Alibris – a sort of combination on-line bookseller and listing service. Partnerships began to be the order of the day with arrangements between ABE, Alibris and the giant Barnes and Noble and others, more obscure. Amazon encouraged sellers to list their used books first on zshops and then Marketplace. All the while the Internet auction sites (we won’t even touch upon them in this article) were injecting their own notes of insanity into the increasingly complex world of online bookselling. Ebay developed a fixed-price site to complement its wildly successful auctions and called it Half.com.

Booksellers are attempting to take control of their destinies by starting organizations like the IOBA and starting their own owner-owned listing service Tomfolio.  Is it complicated out there? You betcha. Are there some decisions to be made? Yup. What’s the independent bookseller to do? Hopefully the following information will help you to make your decision on how and where to sell your books.

The following chart provides a comparison between all of the major and most of the minor listing services. One of the joys of Internet Publishing is that you can keep your information current and can fix your mistakes so if you see anything factually wrong in this table please let us know.  We will try to keep it updated as services change and evolve.

Just as we were going to press Amazon announced that Bibliofind was being merged (read terminated!) with zshops and Marketplace and that Bibliofind subscribers were eligible for 6 months free listings on the Amazon services. So long Bibliofind and thanks – you were an important part of the Internet revolution in on-line bookselling and you will be missed. We have printed the survey information as is since it hopefully will provide a resource for the many Bibliofind sellers who now must find a new home.  As for Amazon’s actions, perhaps the less said, the better!

Website Monthly Fees Special Features File Formats B A Comments
ABE www.abebooks.com 0-500 : $20/month
501-4,000 : $35/month


4,001-10,000: $40/month


10,001-20,000: $50/month


20,001-30,000 : $75 month


30,000+ : $100/month
10% Discount Required for B&N Program
Pictures
Free Software for Cataloguing and Uploading – available to anyone who wants it.
No cost to sellers for Ecommerce capability.
Text Delimited
UIEE
FTP, BDIS uploads
Y Y More whistles and bells than anyone. Multiple Bookseller Programs of which only B&N seems to produce much business for anyone.A slick Ecommerce facility paid for by the buyer. Shopping Cart only available if this service is used.

Clearly the largest of the services in terms of # of books and sellers.
Good reputation for service and support.

Bibliofind www.bibliofind.com Currently No Charge Used to have a nifty secure card ordering system – now removed after the hack.
Full text search of all fields.
Text Delimited
UIEE
No longer allows FTP uploads
Y Y The credit card hack occurred midway throught this article, making this longstanding service’s future uncertain at time of writing.
Now certain – R.I.P.
Alibris www.alibris.com No charge to list
20% Discount required on sales
Shipping Covered
Free software for booksellers now allowing ISBN lookup. Text Delimited
UIEE
Y Y Most controversial of all the services – considers itself a dealer rather than a listing service.Mandatory 20% discount. Also sells their own books. Listers’ names do NOT show up on Alibris listings.

Various partnerships inc a First Screen arrangement with Barnes and Noble.
High profile advertising campaign

zshops www.amazon.com $39.99 for 40,000 listings on zshops, Marketplace
and Amazon Auctions.


Closing fees of 5% on first $25, $1.25 + 2.5% for >$25 & $25.63 + 1.5 % for items greater than $1,000
Pictures
Crosslinking to Amazon listings.
Ecommerce facility – paid by seller
Tab-Delimited Text
UIEE
Mandatory Field Names
N N Notoriously difficult to use but generates lots of business for those who persevere.
High fees and commission rates.
Must have US bank and address.
Antiqbook www.antiqbook.com > 500 titles EURO 18,.15 [appr. US$ 17.00]
1,001-10,000 titles
EURO 31.76 [appr. US$28.00]

Each additional cluster of 10,000 titles EURO 7,94 [appr. US$7.00]
Secure credit card facility. Text Delimited
UIEE
BDIS, email uploads.
Y Y Based in Holland and has a strong European flair.
Well respected for its very high level of customer service.
Tomfolio www.tomfolio.com $250 (until June 1, 2001 then $450) one time
charge to purchase co-op share. No longer a requirement to list on Tomfolio.


1 to 4k  pay $35
4k to 10k pay $40
10k to 25k pay $45
25k to 50k pay $60
50k to 75k pay $75
75k to 100k pay $90
ea 25k thereafter increment payment $15.
Pictures
Elaborate and functional Category system allowing buyers to browse virtual shelves and which will include ephemera, works on paper and original works of art.


Because it is a coop they offer member benefits such as insurance.
UIEE
Text Delimited
FTP
Y N In many ways the most interesting of the services

Owned by the members of ABookCoOp. Member ownership in the CoOp was a requirement for listing but effective April, 2001 is no longer required.
An attempt by booksellers to operate independently from the other listing services.
Marketplace www.amazon.com $.99 + 15% – $.99 fee waved if Pro Merchant subscriber – $39.95 for 40,000 items on zshops, Marketplace or Auctions

$2.20 Shipping Credit
Listings show up right on the Amazon page for that item.
Pictures.
Tab-Delimited Text
UIEE
Mandatory Field Names
Must have ISBN
Y N Must have US bank and address.
Price can be no more than 80% of Amazon’s price unless item is classed as “collectible”.
Controversial with authors and publishers because used copies are being sold at the same place as new.
Half.com www.half.com 15% Commission
Shipping reimbursement $2.20 Media Mail (.83 additional) , $4.30 Priority ($1.70 additional).
ISBN Book Entry.
Ecommerce system.
They recommend a price at 50% of list but books can be listed at any price level.
Online Entry using ISBN. Y Y Owned By Ebay.
Must have US address to sell or buy.
Bookavenue www.bookavenue.com Basic Service allows up to 200 records, no upload facility for $5 month0 to 1,999 records $9.95 per month

2,000 to 24,999 records $19.95 per month


25,000 – 99,999 records $29.95 per month


100,000 + records  $49.95 per month
Pictures
Auction site as well
Secure Credit Card Facility
UIEE
Text Delimited
FTP, BDIS, on-line and email uploads.

Limited Mac Support at this time
Y N While Respondents indicate that it doesn’t produce as many sales as the big guys, they do say it is a good secondary source of sales and consistently pays for  itself.Offers an optional group insurance plan to members.
Justbooks www.justbooks.co.uk Transaction based @8% of selling price. Designed to be hub of multiple European sites.
Free Listing Software
Pictures
Rating System
Access
Excel
Text Delimited
Y Y Still pretty new but initial feedback is positive and the staff seems energetic and innovative.
Bibliopoly www.bibliopoly.com By Invitation only at this time with no fees. Says that fees can be expected to be higher than the other services because of the advanced software. Mutilingual
Highly definable search categories.
Designed for book values at £100 or more
N N A project of Quaritch’s, the venerable London Bookstore. Clearly designed for the true Antiquarian trade with a large number of searchable categories.
Biblion http://biblion.com/ £15<1000 books or £150 /year£25>1000 books or £250 /year
or
Pay-as-you-earn 10% of completed sales
Free .co.uk domain name included.Free cataloguing software. Text-delimted Y Y Emphasis on British books and booksellers.
ILAB www.ilab-lila.com $50 setup fee
<10,000 books $35.
$ each add’l 5,000 books.
Unique route feature which allows one upload which will then be forwarded to other sites.
Full text search of all fields.
Pictures.
Free software – also has a paid version.
UIEE
Text Delimited
CSV
Secure Ordering
Bilingual Searching – French and English
N Y Must be a member of one of ILAB’s national organizations to join.
Should be a good test of the effectiveness of the ILAB brand on the Net.
Bibliophile www.bibliophile.net No charge and apparently likely to remain so for some time. Pictures
Multilingual – ordering & searching in English, French, German or Italian.
Web Design and Site Hosting
Any database format.
UIEE
N N
Secure credit card transmission.

On-line  ISBN and pre-ISBN online cataloguing, and inventory management system under development.

 

*B – shows up on Bookfinder
*A – shows up on Addall

As part of the preparation for this article we asked online booksellers to fill out a brief survey on what services they used. We received 152 responses. This can be taken to be a representative sample of booksellers who are subscribed to lists and who don’t mind expressing their opinions and filling in forms.  This obviously tilts things towards the more activist-inclined members of the bookselling community and this is probably demonstrated for instance, in the high number of respondents who list with the co-operatively owned Tomfolio. Nevertheless it provides an interesting snapshot of how booksellers are marketing their wares in the first half of 2001.

We asked their opinions of ABE, Alibris, Antiqbook, Bibliofind,  Bookavenue, Justbooks, Tomfolio, Marketplace, and zshops. We were berated several times for not listing Half.com and Bookopoly. We make no excuses, we just didn’t. The survey was done at the same time as the Great Bibiofind Hack so results have probably changed already. Some respondents may have left Bibliofind but a number of responded indicated that they were either going to sign up or resign with Bibliofind now that it had no bookseller charges.  This can be expected to remain fluid as the Bibliofind situation evolves. After we had completed the survey the good folks at AbookCoOp announced that listing on Tomfolio would no longer be restricted to owners and that as of April non-owners would be allowed to list as well at the same price so big changes can be expected there as well and probably a much larger number of participating booksellers.

The respondents listed on the following services:

 

Service

Number Listing

%

ABE

142

93%

Alibris

55

36%

Antiqbook

17

11%

Bibliofind

129

85%

Bookavenue

25

17%

Justbooks

17

11%

Tomfolio

22

15%

Marketplace

34

22%

Zshops

60

40%

Average Services Per Respondent

3.24

 

 

The number of services used ranged from one to eight with 19 using just one service (13 ABE, 1 Alibris, 5 Bibliofind) and just one respondent using 8.

We also asked respondents to rank the services in terms of ease of use, support and dollar value of sales.

Ease of Use

Spring2001easeABE scored very well in ease of use, with a score nearly twice as high as Bibliofind, its nearest competitor.  Zshops, especially considering the fact that it is the third most used service, scored very poorly.  It has to be remembered that a higher percentage of respondents use ABE and Bibliofind so their percentages will naturally be higher in these questions.

When we looked at people’s second choices Bibliofind was first with 37% of the respondents and ABE was second at  27%.

 Support

Spring2001supportABE has a well-deserved reputation for support and this shows clearly in the rankings.

Looking at second choices, Bibliofind, interestingly enough was second at 28% and ABE pulled in at 13%. Several people said that they rated Bibliofind high here because they never needed support. A number of the smaller services showed well here considering the number of respondents that used them – Antiqbook book was at 4% on both first and second choice; Justbooks gained 1% as a first choice but was at 5% as a second choice and Bookavenue was at 3% for both first and second choices. A number of people specifically commented on the good support they received from Antiqbooks and Bookavenue.

 Sales Ranking

Spring2001salesWhen we asked respondents to rank the services by dollar value the picture changes, although ABE is still the clear leader.

The second choice follows the pattern with Bibliofind at 31%, ABE at 26%, Alibris at 12, zshops 7, Tomfolio at 2 and the rest at 1%.

 Which One 

Spring2001whichone

We asked respondents to choose which service they would list with if they could list with only one and once again the results were quite clear. Many of the respondents who chose zshops said that they would have preferred to choose one of the other services but the zshops sales were simply too important to them.

In summary, it is clear that most booksellers use multiple services and  will continue to do so. ABE has the greatest market penetration at this point and a high level of customer satisfaction. The situation is fluid with respect to Bibliofind and it is possible their share may have increased substantially in the brief period since the survey started. Bibliofind’s future is shadowy at this point.  More services, some quite specialized or with restricted memberships such as the ILAB and Bibliopoly are appearing all the time and they will be an alternative site for many sellers. We booksellers like to hedge our bets and in this market that looks like a very sensible precaution. Luckily there are enough alternatives that we will continue to be able to do so.

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website