From The Editor

by Craig Stark

#73, 17 July 2006

Point - counterpoint: Last week we took you to Biltmore Estate - civilization in excess? Perhaps. This week we're off to the distinctly more primitive jungles of New Guinea with renowned explorer, conservationist, and yes, bestselling author Tim Flannery. Tim, who's been huffing and puffing on a whirlwind speaking tour in the United States, recently caught his breath and visited with BookThink's Catherine Petruccione. Topics range from exotic black-and-white tree kangaroos to climate change - and it's all unusually thought-provoking stuff. Booksellers, by the way, should file away this flashpoint: Some of Flannery's early titles are big winners.

A question: Has e-mail become easier or more difficult for you to use in the past year or so? On the vital and more specific question of buyer/seller communication, I think most booksellers would agree that it's gotten considerably more difficult. eBay severely restricts communication on the font end of sales, and some venues - Alibris, for example - shut down communication almost entirely. Also, some of you may have noticed that Amazon has been putting the squeeze on e-mail accessibility in recent months, and, as they drift closer and closer to the Alibris system, they have all but matched eBay's partial inaccessibility. Alibris remedies the e-mail restriction by absorbing most returns valued at under $100 and not exposing its sellers to potentially unwarranted negative feedback. Whatever your opinion of Alibris' system, if Amazon follows suit, given its transparent feedback system and policy of requiring sellers to absorb all returns, the consequences could be costly to booksellers. BookThink's Steve Weber looks at this revolting development in depth this week, and the questions he raises are vitally important ones for booksellers to ponder.

As BookThink's archives of back issues grow, I've been getting more and more questions from readers who have trouble finding things on the website. Previously, the only option was to click SearchSite on the menu at the left side of our web pages. To facilitate searches, we've installed Google/BookThink search boxes on a number of heavily traveled pages, and ultimately this will migrate to all pages.

Finally, the bookselling theme we pound the hardest at BookThink is this: Sell better books. Agreed, some of you don't live in inventory rich areas, and this may be easier said than done. One solution I've suggested is to start buying some of your inventory online. After all, where are most of the best books located? For most booksellers, however, especially those new to the business, buying online is significantly more difficult than buying books in the field. To facilitate this, BookThink has published a 4-part Gold Edition how-to. However, even if you've mastered the techniques I've suggested in these issues, you may still be struggling and/or having trouble finding the time to do what admittedly is a very time consuming task.

Or was until now. Software developer Ian Ashbury has come to the rescue. Ian has designed a tool for BookThink that will greatly enhance your ability to not only locate inventory online but also save you countless hours you otherwise would've spent slogging through listings at eBay. It's called BookHunt, and here's more information:

BookHunt is a powerful desktop tool designed specifically for locating book inventory online at eBay, though it may be used to locate non-book items as well. BookHunt's search process is similar to searching on eBay with several important differences.

One, BookHunt can be set up to run in the background and "pop up" when new items that meet your search criteria appear online. This allows you to purchase under-priced Buy-It-Now, Fixed Price, and eBay Store items long before many other booksellers could find them using conventional search methods. It also allows you to locate new auction items with low opening bids that you may want to enter hidden snipe bids on or, alternately, confine your searches to auctions with low or no bids that are about to end. Since BookHunt searches for you, you're free to do other things.

Two, BookHunt can run up to 10 different custom searches simultaneously. For example, if you were looking for an under-priced first edition of The Da Vinci Code, you could set up three searches to look for, respectively, Auction (and Fixed-Price) items, Buy-It-Now items, and eBay Store items and a fourth search to look for auctions with low or no bids that are about to close. By then setting the maximum price you would be willing to pay for a copy, you would be ready to take action almost immediately after BookHunt alerted you.

BookHunt also has a number of refinement options, including searching by category, item specifics, price, ending time, common misspellings and seller ID. You may also choose to search by title or both title and description.

BookHunt is $19.99 and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, no questions asked. If you decide it isn't for you, your full purchase price will be refunded. Purchase it here.

In addition, the 4-issue Gold Edition series on buying inventory online can be purchased along with BookHunt for only $10, a savings of $4.99 over the regular price - $29.99 total. Purchase the package here.

Look here for additional information.

Ian will be moderating a technical support discussion forum for BookHunt users here.

Happy hunting!


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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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