Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Good Time To Be Selling Used Books

by Jim Milliot with Ed Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 4/13/2009

Not all businesses do badly in a recession; one segment of the book market that appears to be holding up fairly well is used books. “People are looking for bargains,” said Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive v-p at the used bookstore chain Half-Price Books, “and Half-Price is a bargain hunter's paradise.” Brian Elliott, president of the online marketplace Alibris, said sales rose about 18% in 2008, slower than in previous years but still a solid gain in difficult times. Sales at Alibris slowed in September, but bounced back enough at the end of the year for holiday sales to increase 8%. Sales continued strong in January, slowed in February, but came back again in March, Elliott said. At Half-Price, sales in the July through February period were up 9% and the company is optimistic it will finish fiscal 2009 on an up note.

The recession has not only increased consumers' interest in looking for inexpensive items but also increased interest in selling old books to raise cash, which has bolstered used book dealers' inventory and lowered purchase prices. “We're paying less for our used books because we're seeing more of the same titles,” Thomas said. While the online marketplaces don't buy books, Hannes Blum, president of Abebooks, said many of the sellers who use its service have increased their inventory. Elliott noted that part of Alibris's growth has come from expanding its partnerships with retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

The higher inventory has helped slow what had been one of the industry's biggest concerns, sliding prices. “Prices have stabilized a bit,” Elliott said. “The enormous downward pressure on prices seems to have worked its way through the system.” Still, a key component of the success of the online marketplaces has been the tools they provide, which give sellers and buyers information on pricing trends. And not all parts of the online market have been immune to the economic downturn; high-end antiquarian and rare book sales have suffered from the same lack of discretionary income affecting other book segments. “Collectors have become more cost conscious,” Blum said. Elliott noted, however, that Alibris had strong gains in its rare and collectible segment after it revamped that section on its Web site. At Half-Price, cooking titles have been in strong demand, along with young adult fiction. “People underestimate that section,” Thomas said.

Half-Price just opened its 103rd store last month and plans to open two more outlets by Memorial Day. With so many great real estate opportunities available, Doyle said, the challenge now is to not overexpand. After a failed experiment with online sales in the late 1990s, Half-Price has been using Amazon to sell online and is beginning to use the other online marketplaces. Since its launch, Half-Price has had a strong environmentalist bent, and Thomas believes the chain is now benefiting from heightened interest in the environment. “The green movement has helped used books become a little more acceptable,” Thomas said, adding that Half-Price alone has “kept millions and millions of books out of landfills.”

Even though the used book market is still enjoying a growth spurt, no one is complacent. “Our job is to keep demand growing faster than supply,” Elliott said.


myra said...


Selling Planet Earth in Exchange for a Utopia? What’s the Catch?

Humans sold planet Earth for peace, but little did they know peace would come at such a high cost.

A long time ago, Humanity sold planet Earth to a group called the Evers in order to gain peace and a virtual utopia for themselves and for future generations. However, the cost of this paradise turns out to be too much for some to deal with and the humans soon find themselves ruled cruelly by the very beings who offered them salvation and at one point given them so much hope.

Humans that were originally treated with high regards, made to feels special, are now being treated as animals, some humiliated and shipped away to some unknown fate…each being told what they could or could not do, under the guise of it being in humanities best interest.

With a feeling of dread, a small group declares war on the more advanced Evers in hopes of returning things to the way they should be…to the way they had been. John and his make-shift crew of humans and hybrids (half human/half Ever) must not only find a way to break free of the mistakes of the past and find out the disturbing secrets that the Evers have hidden away, but they must also deal with their own personal issues and learn to live, grow, and deal with each others’ emotional issues of love, regret and fear.

Will man give up youth and perfect health to live in the past? And will John take the chance of restoring Earth to its former state even though there’s a good chance his life-threatening disease can return?

Publisher’s Web site: www.eloquentbooks.com/Everlasting.html

About the Author:
Myra Evans resides in Walterboro, South Carolina, a small town near Charleston. She is a C.N.A. for a large Veterans nursing home.

Tony333 said...
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Francesca said...

Dear Mr Nawotka,
my name is Francesca and I write from Milan. I am completing my Master of Science in Economics and I'm currently gathering materials for my thesis, which will deal with the used book market and it's relationship with the internet and new technologies. I am interviewing players from different portions of the value chain, online and offline... the idea is to discover and map new business models and to understand how the net is changing used books consumption and readers' attitudes. You already helped me with a lot of content I found in the blog... but I was wondering if you were available for a short email interview, especially on the internet portion of the thesis.
Thanks for your time.

Francesca Crescentini
Bocconi University - Economics for Arts, Culture, Media and Entertainment