Update Announcements

by Craig Stark

#92, 16 April 2007

Will BookThink's Top 10 on eBay see a sea change of winners next month? Likely so. UK sellers have consistently outnumbered US sellers on our lists for months, but that will almost certainly come to a screeching halt. As threatened, eBay eliminated all UK listing visibility on its US site at the beginning of March, and we may have seen the last of Fleming, Rowling and Tolkien - though this month (February), as you might suspect, all are well represented. Join Pamela Palmer today on her regular tour of eBay's best.

As a regular buyer of P.G. Wodehouse books, I didn't welcome eBay's action. Now I'll be compelled to run searches on two eBay websites instead of one. This isn't good news for many UK booksellers either, many of whom have enjoyed robust US sales over the years. Ostensibly, eBay made the change to eliminate many millions of non-collectible items that had begun to flood the US venue - and, to be fair, there is something to be said for this. To date, there has been at least some talk of restoring visibility (later this year) in categories that have been severely impacted by the change - notably books - but don't hold your breath. eBay has long since established a track record of bookseller unfriendliness. Contrast this with Amazon, which has introduced some remarkably effective promotional tools in recent years to increase our sales.

More bad news on the international front. Effective May 14, you will no longer be able to step up to your USPS counter, slap down an international package, and say, "Put it on a boat." As demand for international airmail services has increased in recent years - so explains the USPS - a corresponding drop in demand for surface mail has resulted, both increasing costs and decreasing efficiency.

Flat-rate (large envelope) Global Priority will become flat-rate Priority Mail International - with an increase of $1.50 for both Canada (previously $7.50) and other participating countries (previously $9.50). One wonders if the name was lengthened to suggest added value. In any case, no more Airmail as such. This now becomes something called First-Class Mail International - with another price increase, though this could well be a cheaper option for lighter packages. Rates will vary depending on weight and destination. Fortunately, Airmail M-Bags will be retained. I suspect that many postal clerks will be forced to field lots more inquires about them. Let's hope they do their homework and stop pretending it isn't an option.

On the domestic front, the news isn't any better. There will be significant increases up and down the line. Flat-rate Priority envelopes will jump to $4.60 (previously $4.05), $9.15 for flat-rate Priority boxes (previously $8.10), and there will be similar increases for First-Class and Media Mail.

Complete rate tables can be viewed here:


How do we booksellers combat this? The same way we combat every nickel and dime increase, no matter who's bleeding the turnip. Sell better books, and you'll insulate yourself against almost anything.

Finally, given the number of emails I received after last week's special Friends of the Library (FOL) issue, I had originally planned to write a follow-up article this week, but two of the emails expressed different sides of the issue so well that I thought it would be best to simply publish them here with no explanation. Lots of food for thought.

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