From The Editor

by Craig Stark

#130, 6 December 2008

Many booksellers who have entered bookselling since the ca. 1990s launch of eBay are perhaps experiencing one of the most challenging seasons ever. In response, some are working harder, others are scaling back to pursue more profitable income producing activities; and still others are exiting the business outright, often with no intention of returning.

And, wouldn't you know, lots of new booksellers arrive daily - for the time being, anyway. Startups always abound in recessions and in fact are a major driving force of recoveries.

But this time you may not only be wondering when the market will recover but also if it will. Bookselling has an even greater challenge to meet than temporarily tough times: As content evolves ever so steadily from print to digital formats, the demand for books, especially those purchased for content, will necessarily decrease. Does this mean that we should be formulating our own exit strategies? Accepting the inevitable?

This would depend. Have you been paying attention to booksellers who are calling it quits now? Have you been reading their stories on forums? Have you been examining their inventories at liquidation sales? I have, and I can tell you that in almost all cases it's obvious that these sellers built their businesses heavily on the acquisition and resale of "commodity" books - those purchased for content - as opposed to "artifact" or collectible books.

Let's face it; it was (and for the time being still is) much easier to buy and sell commodities than it is to actually learn something about books. But the easy stuff always goes away, driven out by competition every time; and if you insist on continuing to pursue easy things, you'll likely condemn yourself to hopping from one marginally profitable thing to another perpetually.

There's only one sure way to succeed at bookselling, and it's nothing new: Learn about books. Unlike books themselves, you can't hold knowledge in your hands, but you can certainly build it into your books and thereby elevate values - in fact, if you want to make this gig work for you long term, you'll have to.

There - I've had my say. Enjoy the newsletter!

This just in ...

A fellow bookseller is having some medical challenges and will be closing her Amazon business. Her inventory is viable (not junk), and perhaps amongst our many thousands of subscribers there is somebody who could turn this into a win-win situation.

AMAZON BOOK INVENTORY FOR SALE. Selling on Amazon for 9 years with 5 star (99%) rating. 5,000+ inventory. Bookcases and remaining bubble mailers included. Forced to sell; I have to have a stem cell transplant and the outcome is uncertain.

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