Knowledge vs. Technology in Book Selling

What is Your Razor Edge Business Strategy?

knowledgeToday I have some advice for the bookseller but it translates loosely across many seller categories. I talk about book selling because that’s what I happen to have my experience in. To get something out of the article as an online seller just replace the word book with your particular product.

I have been struggling lately with a few thoughts that I find discouraging. Yesterday, though, was a bit of an eye opener and one that I think should be shared with booksellers. I feel more encouraged.

As more and more people jump on the bandwagon of becoming scanner laden (a technological tool that helps determine a book’s worth) the market becomes diluted with books otherwise known as sleepers or just not found to sell online. Pricing can quickly become an issue if the same people who have these tools are more interested in widget flipping than book selling. There are myriad issues involved with an uneducated seller. I wonder how much loading people with a tool which virtually has no learning curve and sending them into the field would aversely affect the book selling market. I am not nearly as concerned as I was once, but still have cautions in my spirit about doing so.

Here’s why I am not as concerned about loads of people having scanners (especially in my neck of the woods). We went out scouting yesterday at our local Goodwill. Mike and I both had scanners. After about 15 minutes of scanning we each had a book or two which should profit us $20 each. Mike went to the CDs and VHS tapes while I wondered over to cookbooks, children’s and general non fiction. I was able to find Little Dog Lost, The Church Mice at Christmas ISBN 0689307977, Felix Joins the Circus ISBN 0789206323, and McCall’s Sewing Book ISBN 1968039410033. The books should yield us $150 (conservative figure).

My point is that my husband is dependent on his scanner far more than me. (I ‘m not knocking it but making a point). Mike didn’t see any of those books, and I could have scanned two with ISBNs but knew that the three children’s books were worth picking up from a) past experience and b) research. I have featured all three on our lists in the past. The McCall’s Sewing Book I will have to have my children take a few vintage dress pattern pics and feature it as a reference volume rather than a vintage sewing book. So, yes, a bit more work it will take to sell this book but I think it’ll yield an extra $30 or so for the effort.


So, it’s important to remember not to get lazy with our tools, and the more experience you have the better at book selling you will become even with owning a scan tool (or any look up tool). However, I believe and have suffered the temptation in the tendency to become dependent on the tool which diminishes my knowledge banks. I find it much much easier to farm out all the listing, pulling, and packing, and sometimes even the acquisition in our business. I hardly have to work this way. Essentially all I see are the titles and final value numbers in my email or on AOB because many times there are no pictures, and by the time I do a bulk ship they’re already wrapped. I am finding I am becoming less aware of the market this way.

Two things I have done to remedy this situation is first I have made my research a service to others so I *have* to do it. Second, I go in and browse the pulled sold books while they are laying on the to be packed table. 🙂

So what do you do to stay on top of your field? Do you research? Do you get trade magazines? Do you browse closed auction listings or descriptions to pick up tidbits of information related to your field? Do you use a service but still study even when titles are mentioned? Do you at least do some sort of educating yourself and your book finding helpers through collating the paid for information? We’ve recently put my pictures of valuable books on the PC to make a slide show for February’s issue. I plan to back it up with a CD. With over four years of this research I have no pics to reference. That is lazy and deplorable, IMNSHO, especially when we tell others to do it!

Much of your trade information can be learned for free. You may join Yahoo group email lists, go to forum boards, or sign up for free newsletters revolving around the topic you are interested in. Be warned though, the discussion lists can be an energy sucker both in time and attitude. While many great things in life are free, well, there is a tendency to complain openly on these forums. This is where I recommend a paid for newsletter or membership forum. The idea of having paying members alone just dictates a more professional community. The idea of having paying members alone dictates a more professional community, and often a level higher in information

It’s been said – if you think education is costly try ignorance. Don’t be afraid to invest to increase your knowledge base. It will only profit your business by staying informed in your line of sales. Check out this link.

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About Julie Schultz

My name is Julie Anna Schultz. I live in rural upstate NY. I have eleven children, one husband, three chickens, a bunny and a dog. Not acquired in that order. :) Since 2002, I’ve been teaching people how to buy and sell children’s collectible books online. Learn More

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