by Craig Stark

#128, 29 September 2008

As many of you already know, beginning September 16, eBay lowered insertion fees for Fixed Price listings of books and other media to a flat $.15. Prior to this, fees started at $.25 and quickly increased on a graduated scale, depending on starting or reserve prices. This is, therefore, a significant discount. There's more. An excerpt from eBay's announcement page reads: "We're also offering 30-day duration for no extra cost - that's 4 times the exposure for about a penny a day!" The 30-day option is swell, of course, but under many circumstances it won't produce "4 times the exposure" because in most search scenarios matching results will show titles ending first at the expense of those ending later - which means that your 30-day Fixed Price books will likely spend much of their useful lives buried under shorter-term Auction items. Only when they're closer to aging off the system will exposure become competitive.

Still, overall, it's potentially good news, right? Not so fast. This fee reduction is accompanied by a whopping fee increase on final values - namely, to 15% for books selling at $50 and under. 15% is more in line with most fixed-price venues, most of which don't exact monthly insertion fees - or, if they do, it's not an ongoing monthly expense (Amazon being a notable but not exactly parallel exception). So, unless eBay can deliver significantly more sales on the same items than other venues can, this essentially ... stinks.

Yes, eBay Stores are a much better bargain. Or they would be if sales were good. The trouble is that Stores get far less exposure than anything now, and most sellers are reporting a significant reduction in 2008 sales - I mean, that is, the sellers who haven't altogether bailed. Many have, and it's comforting to know that BookThink's Reesa Turner is out there tramping the hinterlands for new possibilities!

Given these revolting developments, I've settled on a short-term strategy. Or experiment. I've decided to convert 1,000 Store listings from one of my Stores to Fixed Price listings for a period of three months, beginning October 1. These 1,000 will be concurrently listed on eight additional venues, so there will be a ready comparison. I'll report back in January with results.

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