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Category: Ebay collapse demise betrayal Page 1 of 2

ebay reprise

Hiya bookies. I haven’t written about ebay for a while (and yes, to the snarkier among you, I know that I haven’t written anything at all for a while), but now I don’t have to. The following article and link say just about everything current about the once-great king of the little guy.

For those with short memories, back in 2008 I began writing about ebay’s war against its greatest enemies: its sellers. That’s right, the little guys that sold on the site were ebay’s mortal enemies. So they eliminated their right to leave negative feedback for the buyer, thus opening the seller up to possible extortion demands. “Listen seller, I received the item you sold me, and it’s exactly as you described it, so if you give me half my money back I won’t leave negative feedback.” Negative feedback kills a seller in many ways, so you have to avoid it at all costs. Nor would ebay do anything about this, although they said otherwise. So I quit happily and have never looked back. (That happened to me once, before I stopped selling.)

They also raised their seller fees to exorbitant levels to drive the little guy away, and gave preference to mega-sellers (oh goodie! Yet another site to buy Dockers pants!) on the search results.

So as you read this financial analysis, remember it’s the CEOs fault if their stock continues to languish. I have lots of cool things that could sell on the old ebay, and they could take a reasonable cut of my profits, but until and unless they change back, they won’t get another dime from me.

Why eBay Will Never Be Great Again

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz Posted 3:30PM 08/24/11 American Express, Amazon.com, eBay, MasterCard, Visa

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http://www.blogcdn.com/www.dailyfinance.com/media/2011/08/ebay-240cs082411.jpgThere was a time when eBay (EBAY) was the cool place to shop.

When Tickle Me Elmo dolls, classic vinyl records, and Beanie Babies ran scarce at area retailers, folks would flock to the auction marketplace to see if they could outlast rival bidders to victoriously nab hot items.

This doesn’t mean eBay isn’t popular these days. eBay’s marketplace helped sellers move $14.7 billion in gross merchandise, excluding cars, in its latest quarter. The company’s PayPal juggernaut is now up to 100.3 million active registered accounts, serving as the middleman for $28.7 billion worth of net payments during the second quarter alone.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better, though.

Shares of eBay are trading essentially where they were five years ago. The world has passed eBay by, and the next five years aren’t likely to be much better.

eBay Was a Hotbed for Cottage Industries — Until It Went Condo

Browsing through eBay.com used to be like strolling through an artisan garage sale. These days, it’s loaded mostly with cookie-cutter merchandise.

The homogenization of eBay is a sad thing. Original arts and crafts have been replaced by the art of crafty merchants selling the same stuff from drop-shipping companies as everybody else.

Where did the magic go? The flagship site has been pulled like taffy in different directions. Escalating fees, PayPal platform requirements, and listing tweaks repelled many longtime sellers. The leveling of the dot-com playing field also wooed away popular Power Sellers.

Niche specialty sites such as Etsy for crafts attracted some of the sellers behind the more distinctive items that used to populate eBay’s listings. It also has become easier to get noticed without a conglomerate marketplace. Skillful self-promoters can milk Twitter missives, Facebook fan pages, and WordPress blogs to drum up sales. Those willing to spend on promotion can bid pennies for leads through search engine keywords.

Entrepreneurial sellers no longer needed eBay. eBay, in turn, decided that it really didn’t need entrepreneurial sellers.

Auction Apathy vs. Instant Gratification

After watching Amazon.com (AMZN) deliver year after year of heartier growth than itself, eBay began to embrace many of the e-commerce giant’s characteristics.

Sellers were encouraged to offer “free shipping” promotions, even if it meant sacrificing margins. The thrilling ride to the finish line could now be interrupted with “Buy it Now” prices for folks who didn’t mind paying up for instant gratification.

Companies evolve, and not every change at eBay has been for the worse. However, it’s telling that just 37% of eBay’s marketplace volume came from the United States in its latest quarter. Acquisitions and international expansion have helped mask a company that while growing — even domestically — is actually dying inside.

Robbing Peter to PayPal Paul

PayPal has been the best — if not the only — reason to invest in eBay in recent years. Despite recent signs of life in eBay’s marketplace business, PayPal remains the real driver here.

Things seem to be going well for the Web-based financial transaction facilitator, and eBay revealed in its most recent conference call that it will begin testing point-of-sale integration with a major U.S. retailer later this year. If things go well, PayPal hopes to add as many as 20 national retailers by the end of 2012.

If Visa (V), MasterCard (MA), and American Express (AXP) weren’t threatened by PayPal before, they will be taking the fast-growing platform more seriously now. Credit card marketers and issuers know the juicy transaction fees and interest payments that are at stake.

If they don’t do something about neutralizing PayPal, technology probably will.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

If you’re not already familiar with near-field communications — or NFC — you will be soon. More and more smartphones are coming out with NFC chips, simplifying mobile payments for goods and services. eBay is no dummy: PayPal is testing its own NFC applications. However, the flip side here is that NFC will also help traditional credit card companies catch up to PayPal when it comes to electronic transactions.

In the past, PayPal could count on users to treat idle cash in their accounts as “found money” when they hit an online checkout screen. Unfortunately, eBay killed the PayPal Money Market Fund this summer, giving accountholders one less reason to keep dormant funds there.

Where is the “Sell it Now” Button?

This may seem to be the wrong time to be writing about eBay’s demise: Revenue in its latest quarter soared 25%, to $2.76 billion, though net margins narrowed.

It’s also not as if eBay shares are overly expensive. The stock is trading at a reasonable 14 times this year’s projected profitability. However, it’s hard to see eBay’s marketplace continue to be relevant once it runs out of companies to buy. PayPal will be challenged. It sold its majority stake in Skype too soon.

When’s the last time you bought something cool on eBay? It was probably around the same time that you should have sold the stock and moved on.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of eBay, Google, and Visa.

See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/nQYNSo

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Back to bashing

Good morning bookies! A quick blog to let you know that I haven’t forgotten my minions in all of the doings about Billthebookguydom. Today’s news byte is a new look at an old enemy, ebay. Yep, as with all bad things, the greedy giant is still getting bashed and is still sinking into the sunset, even if it’s slower than some thought. Here’s a nice little article from The Street that many of you will identify with immediately. It’s clear the author gets it.

Greedbay ebay still adrift in dangerous waters

 

ebay’s latest round of seller bashing

Good day bookies! Just a quick comment on the latest nonsense from ebay.

*** So ebay is, once again, changing the rules of their game. Are they finally giving their hard-pressed sellers a break and letting buyers share some of the responsibility for a sale? Nope. They are, yet again, bashing their sellers over the head and stomping on their toes. Buyers who want to scam sellers have a virtual license to do so from ebay.

I stopped selling there in April, 2008, and boy has life been sweet ever since. (Except for all the parts that aren’t so sweet, that is) And even though I left with 100% positive feedback and before they began whacking small sellers in the face with a shovel, I still had some problems with deadbeat buyers. I can only imagine the nightmare it must be today. In essence, a buyer can hold a seller hostage. Once an item is received, all the buyer has to do is claim that it is not as described, and the burden of proof falls on the seller to prove that it is an described. How does one do that, exactly? Well, one doesn’t. Thus the problem. Or a buyer might claim that an item did not arrive. ebay and Paypal will always side with the buyer, regardless of what evidence is presented, at least according to every forum and message board that your friendly neighborhood bookseller frequents, which is quite a few.

It should be remembered that ebay does not want you to sell your homemade candles there anymore, or your one-of-a-kind embroidered shawl, or that rare book that never comes up for sale. They are doing everything they can to make small sellers leave, because small sellers are too…well, small. ebay doesn’t want interesting, quirky items on the site anymore. They want homogenization, they want sameness and blandness, they don’t want ‘neat.’

Here’s a link to their announcement of all the new rules.

Sticking it to sellers, reprise

 

Good news, new news and bad news

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

The ‘life comes at you’ stuff that has eaten up my time in the last few months has been at it again, so my apologies for not having a blog up lately. This could continue for a while yet, but I hope not. Anyway, let’s get to today’s news and comment.

*** Ah, leave it to the French to make something good out of something very bad. In this case, the very bad part was surrendering to the Germans during World War II. Sure, the downside was pretty drastic, having German soldiers getting big discounts and the best tables in all of the swankiest restaurants, putting up with those drab Gestapo men standing on street corners giving you the creeps. No fun. But the upside! Ah, the upside. If you were a madam in a bordello, or even just a common streetwalker, those were the best of times.

At least, that’s the claim in a new book that has France all a-twitter. (No, not Twitter, a-twitter.) 1940-1945, Erotic Years by Patrick Buisson is a history of the French sex business during the German occupation. According to many of those Buisson interviewed for his book those years were an absolutely howling good time, business was booming for brothels and the Germans were just fun-loving teutons far from home who only wanted to have fun.

Quite predictably, the French aren’t wild about this book, portraying as it does a harsh reality many would like to forget, namely, that not only did the French Army gets its butt kicked badly but the French people weren’t all that upset about it. C’est la vie!

When the Germans came it was party time for the French!

*** I’m a big movie buff, especially good war movies, and double especially war movies about World Wars 1 and 2. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of good WW2 movies, but far fewer about WW1. I mean, once you’ve shown the horror of living in a mud-filled trench for months at a time, with machine guns ready to slice you in half and the occasional artillery barrage that might obliterate all traces you were ever there, there just isn’t all that much left to portray. Except for the very small number of movies about the war in the air. And one of the best of those was The Blue Max. George Peppard was great, of course, but the whole thing was well done.

Did you know that it was based on a book? It was. And that book’s author has, sadly, just passed away. Jack Hunter was 87 and lived in one of the great cities of America, St. Augustine, FL.

Blue Max author has written his last chapter

*** I have to admit that reading stories about great book collections being auctioned is something that I always find fascinating. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s just the chance to see what other people collect, to wonder where they found this or that rarity. Anyway, he’s a short piece about a major collection going under the hammer down under.

New Zealand collection auctioned

*** When Burt Reynolds posed for Playgirl magazine there was quite an uproar. How could a man possibly be a pin-up? Women didn’t want or need that sort of thing, did they? It was considered bad form and, to a male eye, with good reason. But Burt wasn’t the first, oh no, not by a long shot. No doubt some ancient Roman had his likeness carved into a wall somewhere for the admiration of the girls. But even if Trajan wasn’t a pin-up in his day, we know someone who was: Hermann Goering.

That’s right, the Reichsmarshall himself, was once a glamour boy for women of the Reich to swoon over. Hitler’s Number Two was considered an ideal of German manhood, at least, he was before he gained so much weight that he looked like a bipedal walrus. And, largely forgotten today, Goering really was a hero of the First World War. He was an ace, a very good pilot and the last commander of the famed Richthofen Flying Circus. Goebbel’s propaganda machine had some actual grist for its mill with Goering, which must have surely irritated the club-footed little doctor no end, since the two men could not stand each other.

I do take exception with one piece of the article, however. National Socialism wasn’t so much a fascist regime as it was a hodge-podge of whatever kept the economy from collapsing at the moment.

Thank God he wasn’t wearing panty hose

*** Just when you thought Ebay could not do anything more stupid than they already have, along comes John Donahoe to prove you wrong. The doofus who ruined the company last year is now saying it may take another 3 or 4 years to completely destroy it. Not in so many words, mind you, but from the beginning nothing this man has said has come through, none of his changes have proved beneficial, the stock price is less than half of what it was…one can only wonder what he’s got on the board of directors that allows him to keep his job.

Ebay’s Donahoe says more stupid things to go along with all of the other stupid things he’s said

*** Here’s something you don’t see every day: Holocaust victims being pursued as terrorists. Jews in Lithuania who escaped captivity when the Nazis marched in, who then went on to fight a partisan war against the Nazis and their countrymen who helped the Nazis, are now being investigated for those actions.

In truth, Lithuania had no good choice. In 1940 they ceased to exist as a nation when the Soviet Union overran them without a fight. Stalin wasted no time in rounding up and executing thousands of Lithuanians who might oppose his rule, so is it any wonder that when the Germans came through on their anti-Bolshevik march the Lithuanians supported them as liberators?

That’s not to make excuses, merely to point out that things aren’t always as cut and dried as they seem. Anyway, this relates to books because much of the evidence against one of these so-called criminals is his memoir, The Partisan. The claim is made that members of a partisan band executed Lithuanians who aided the Germans. Seems pretty thin to me, but then again, I’m not a Lithuanian prosecutor.

Be careful what you put in your autobiography

*** For lovers of fine literature, fans of compelling thrillers and researchers of obscure history, this week brought the worst possible news: Dan Brown has written a sequel to The Da Vinci Code. That’s right, as if writing the 2nd worst book of all time wasn’t bad enough, now this hack has to slaughter a whole new generation of trees to publish more worthless nonsense. The only question for me is, after using every cliche known to the English language in his previous book, what will he do for an encore? Use the same ones again? Find cliches from other languages?

Fortunately, I won’t read this tripe and won’t care. May God have mercy on those who will.

 

Long time gone

Good day bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

First of all, I know it’s been a while since the last entry. Apologies, but all of those pesky realities of life are still leeching away at my time. I’m dancing as fast as I can!

*** Government, again. We seem to be entering an era where governments of all kinds feel it their inherent duty to throw as many obstacles as possible into the life of those who make a living through ecommerce. First the lunacy of the ink-in-lead issue, which appears to have gone sadly un-protested by the sheeple, and now the state government of Kentucky. That’s right, a new law in Kentucky may force those trying to sell a used microwave on Craigslist to buy some groceries to have an auctioneers’ license.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before, by the way. Usually the bots in the legislature in question have the good sense not to knuckle under to the auctioneer lobby and vote for something that would likely get them booted out of office. But not always. The requisites for holding public office these days seems to be that you A) always vote to expand government power to encroach on people’s lives, and B) be too stupid to know or care about how your actions affect your constituents. Of course, those in favor of this bill say it would have no effect on online activities. And, if you choose to believe them, that’s your business. But given the track record of government actions on small business people, I wouldn’t bet my livelihood on them being right, and that’s exactly what you would be doing.

So, all you Kentucky Bonanzlers and Ebayers, got a spare thou for that auctioneer’s license laying around?

Kentucky wants blood

*** Had I been around during WW2 and destined to fight, I think the most frightening job would have been as a merchant mariner. Swabbing the deck on a tramp freighter might not seem like something dangerous, boring, maybe, but not dangerous, but it was. Lurking out there were submarines waiting to sink you. Ships in the Pacific weren’t in so much danger. Japanese official policy was for submarines to seek out US warships, not attack the US supply lines. Few allied ships were sunk by Japanese submarines.

German U-Boats, however, were a different story. If your ship went down in the Atlantic you might have a long wait until rescue. Even as part of a convoy, torpedoed ships could not be guarded, they had to be left behind at the mercy of the submarines. Sometimes, the U-Boat captain would give them food and coordinates, sometimes the sub would machine gun the survivors, but mostly they would just sail off and leave them to the mercy of the Atlantic.

A new book Merchant Mariners at War: An Oral History of World War II by George Billy, gives the men who manned these most vital ships a chance to tell their story.

All hail the Merchant Marine

*** Ebay. Seriously, I don’t think I could make this up if I tried. After a year of John Donohoe’s inane ‘disuptive innovation’, of screwing up anything and everything that was ever good about the site, of alienating and insulting every honest seller the site ever had, ebay has decided that it’s future market is to be…the ebay of old. That’s right, abandoning their quest to become an Amazon clone, ebay has decided that it needs to be ebay.

I’m not kidding.

A year ago their stock was around $34. Today, it’s around $12, and flirted with $10 for a few days. It might do so again. And for this the moron heading the company is being paid millions and millions. Which just goes to show that it’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s not even whether you are competent or not. No. It goes to show that PT Barnum was right, there’s a sucker born every minute, and some of them comprise the ebay board of directors who hired this clown.

ebay: everything bad is good again

*** There was a time when books were special. You just didn’t see them every day, they were expensive objects of art, cherished and handed down as heirlooms. And some few of the most special eventually wind up in museums, where they may be enjoyed by any and all.

A grand home for a rare treasure

*** In the never ending pantheon of books concerning the Nazis and World War II comes yet another in the newest sub-genre, which I have dubbed ‘German Angst.’ Nuremberg was and is not one of Germany’s biggest cities, but where the Nazis are concerned it may be the most recognizable. So how, after the war, did those Nurembergers deal with the sudden juxtaposition of their status, from favored city of the Nazis to outcast by the Allies? A new books seeks to explain that very question. Haunted City: Nuremberg and the Nazi Past by Neil Gregory Yale does a seemingly fine job of looking at how a people and a city dealt with a history that befriended and gave succor to evil.

Nuremberg and the Nazis

 

Big losses and a Big Loss

Good Friday, bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

Five days without a blog? I know, it’s inexcusable, I’m sorry, I really am. Life comes at you fast and all that. My inbox has been clogged with irate emails wondering what’s going on, I can only plead busy-ness.

*** By now, everyone knows that Philip Jose Farmer died Wednesday, aged 91. I never met him, but like so many others I will miss him. Who can read To Your Scattered Bodies Go and not be immediately captivated with Riverworld? He was one of the last of the all-time greats, a contemporary of and one of the very few who compared to Heinlein, Asimov, Zelazny or van Vogt. He cannot be replaced and the world is a sadder place for me, knowing he is no longer in it. On the other hand, he is probably roaming Riverworld even as I write this.

Philip Jose Farmer, RIP

*** Harlan Coben is finally getting some attention from the movies and TV. It seems TNT is interested in a series idea of his, and filmmakers are negotiating the rights to a remake of Tell No One, which made good money as a French made film.

Those who know me, know that the Myron and Win series was one of my favorites. Great interplay, lots of fun, an author who didn’t take himself too seriously. Those same people also remember that I casually commented on a message board that I didn’t care for his latest book and suddenly, who shows up to bash me for daring criticize his work? That’s right, the author himself. This mega-millionaire writer (he had just signed an $8 million deal) is so thin-skinned that he had to pop up and fight back against one guy who had loved all of his previous work, but didn’t care for the new one. How dare I not love him! Who did I think that I was?

Anyway, from that point forward I realized he was one of those people who seemed like a great guy, but was not who he seemed to be. I am glad he’s having success, I hope he has more in the future, but Coben is in that small list of crime writers, with Patricia Cornwell, who are so disagreeable that if they never sold another book I would be glad for the trees whose lives were saved.

Coben finally breaking into films and TV

*** Going into Harry Potter withdrawal? Apparently some people are. Bidding for a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is already way over previous auction records. And in the category of ‘you never something new every day’, I was not aware that softcover books got this kind of auction action.

Harry Potter bringing in the big bucks, again

*** A quick ebay update. The stock is tanking again, as I write this it stands at $10.76. When I started following this story last year, it was trading at $34. 2/3 of its value is gone, much worse than the stock market as a whole for a company that should be gaining business as people try to sell anything they can to make ends meet.

Anybody want to hire John Donohoe to perform disruptive innovation on their company? I’ve said for months that future students of business will study ebay to find out what NOT to do, but even I had under-estimated just how incompetent this guy could be.

Is ebay approaching the point of no return?

 

Mostly Ebay updates

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

I’m a lucky guy. The latest book I’m reading is John Maddox Roberts’ latest mystery featuring Decius Caecillius Metellus, The Oracle of the Dead. I’m only on page 22 and I’ve already laughed out loud six or eight times, much to the annoyance of all living creatures within earshot. The full review won’t be out until the ILAM in December, but I can tell you that this series appears to only be getting better, if possible.

*** You all know how much BBG loves lists, so here’s one that’s pretty subjective but has some of my favorites, so I’m including it. Funniest books is hard to categorize, but as you read the list I can only agree with the fellow who commented: ‘anything every written by PG Wodehouse.’ Note the great photo of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry as Wooster and Jeeves. It’s also hard to go wrong with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

A list of the funniest books

*** A while back ebay teamed up with Microsoft to run this fabulous sounding cash back promotion. Now, I have to admit that I shopped a bit looking for a bargain, it sounded almost too good to be true. I almost pulled the trigger on a juicy book on obscure German armored vehicles from WW2. Almost. Then I remember with whom I was dealing. Ebay, King of the Broken Promises. I demurred.

So here’s the inevitable article about the broken promise: the cash back offers have not come through yet and I feel like a prophet.

Trust ebay? Ha!

*** Okay, today seems like a decent enough time for something of an ebay-crash update, so here’s the third article in a well-thought out look at the history of the site’s demise. Current Numbskull-in-Chief Donohoe didn’t start the collapse, he merely accelerated it. Think of it this way: remember the old Three Stooges episode where they are duck-hunting in a small boat and Curly accidentally shoots a hole in the bottom? With the boat sinking, Larry starts drilling more holes to let the water out. That’s ebay. Meg Whitman shot holes in ebay’s bottom, then Donohoe wandered along and began drills more holes to let the sellers out. What buffoons. Even I couldn’t screw up the site as badly as those two have managed, but in case you’re in doubt as to who has done more damage, by far it’s Donohoe.

Ebay’s wandering course to oblivion

*** Never one to mince words, the Motley Fool has a look ahead at ebay’s upcoming share-holder meeting. Boy do I wish I could be there for that. Can you imagine what tricks Donohoe and company must be planning to try and convince the stockholder’s that while the market is down a whole lot versus last year, ebay has managed to grossly under-perform even so, losing more than 60% of its value? Ha! And it has done this during a cycle when it should have been way up, given that ebay’s format lends itself to people selling their personal items to make ends meet. Worst of all, it has plunged while Amazon has soared. This could get bloody.

How much BS will ebay stockholders swallow?

*** I warned you that today was beat up ebay day, didn’t I? could it possibly get worse for the once-fun, once-loved company? Well, sure it could. Because the one thing that ebay has always failed at doing, its one long-term unresolved issue, customer service, has officially hit bottom. With all of the negatives surrounding the company it could not even improve on the one area that was historically its weak point.

Ebay’s customer service continues to disappoint

 

Feeling snarky

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

And the comment part needs an apology in advance. The day is again cold and overcast, downright gloomy, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a laughing matter. So if I’m a bit grumpy don’t blame me, blame the weather. And then do something about it.

*** As many of you know, or even if you don’t, your friendly neighborhood bookseller depends quite heavily on the US Post Office. Make that, completely depends on the USPS. And over the past few years he has noticed the level of service at his local post office plunging. It’s not good. That’s not to say that the fine people working the counter are to blame, they’re not. Some are faster than others, true, but overall they work hard and fast and BBG has no complaints. Except that there aren’t enough of them.

My post office has 5 windows and usually only two are manned at any given time, regardless of how long the line may be. Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, there are three. A few weeks ago I walked in, the place was jammed with customers, but all five windows were manned and the employees were flying around like they were possessed. I knew at soon as I walked in that some bigwig must be in the house, and so it was: the local postmaster was paying a visit. Amazing what you can do when the boss is watching.

Anyway, we now learn that the post office wants to cut back on delivery days. Unlike the private sector, where poor service that leads to lower business means somebody gets the axe and somebody else increases the quality of the service provided, the government decides that if they can’t serve you in the proper fashion and you take your business elsewhere, instead of improving themselves they will just cut back on the level of service they provide. Brilliant. Instead of delivering mail 6 days a week they want to cut back to 5. Why 5, then? Why not 4, or 3 or 1? That would save lots of money.

The truly ironic part about this linked article is how it would affect ebay sellers. You have to laugh, don’t you? Ebay, which should have been flourishing as people try to sell their stuff to makes ends meet, is dying because of gross mis-management by a con man, and now the USPS wants to cut back because of mis-management. Ebay sellers must think they have been forsaken. Glad I’m no longer one of them, although I do depend on the post office.

I think I agree with the commercial: put firefighters in charge and get out of the way.

Post Office is tired from working semi-hard and needs a break

*** Speaking of ebay, their newest, and possibly their one-day-to-be biggest competitor, Bonanzle, topped the 1 million listing mark the other day. Pretty impressive stuff. The site now has over 23,000 members and the page hits are approaching a quarter million.

*** And while we’re on the ebay thing again, the con man John Donohoe has a new scheme up his sleeve: Fulfillment by Ebay. Essentially, sellers will ship their items to a central Ebay warehouse, who will them send them to the customers. Oh boy, doesn’t that sound like a good idea. The guy who drove the stock from $34 down to the $12-13 range wants sellers to trust him to deliver the goods. Really, you have to laugh. But what’s the most humorous is that some people are going to take him seriously and actually debate the merits of this lunacy.

*** The world has changed and I can now admit this: growing up, I was a comics guy. That’s right, I read and collected comic books, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I am, however, ashamed to admit that I sold them all off long ago. At one time I had a decent copy of X-Men #1, Spiderman #3 (and up), Conan #1-up, Avengers 1-66…well, I had some great stuff. Anyway, I wish I had been as smart as the guy in the article below, keeping them until I could donate them to a library and take the tax write-off. Not that I need a tax write-off these days.

Old friends in a new home

*** There is a project to digitize the books in the Library of Congress, to make them available to everyone. Assuming that whoever puts together the website where these could be used knows what they are doing, I think this is a fine idea. But, seeing as how I’m feeling cold and snarky today, I have to wonder whether a library maintained for the use of Congress has ever been used by one of the elected leaders in the Congress today. And I have to doubt it. For the Founding Fathers, of course, it was virtually mandatory. Indeed, after the British burned the original library it was re-started by Jefferson giving his personal library to the country. Today’s politicians seem too self-absorbed, though, too busy stepping in and out of limousines and giving press conferences, to actually sit down and read something. So if this project makes the rare works in the Library of Congress accessible to those who will read them, I think that’s just dandy.

*** Keeping with today’s theme, me being cold and tired of winter and overly critical, here’s an article on something that just offends the heck out of me: authors as brands. James Patterson and Stuart Woods are two examples of this, writers who don’t so much write as disgorge material that is, supposedly, theirs, but which I suspect is thrown together by others from some passing thought the Branded Writer throws out. Maybe that’s just me being cynical, but does James Patterson have time to actually write the 40 or 50 (or however many it really is) books that come out every year with his name on them? Is it even physically possible to do this? I know they use about an 18 point font and probably don’t have more than 30,000 words per book, but still.

Oh well. Maybe I just know too many worthy authors who either can’t get published, or can’t get noticed behind the stacks of Patricia Cornwell’s latest monstrosity at the chain bookstore. I think of all the good stuff out there lost in the drek and am sad. Or maybe it’s just me. I’ll let you decide.

Authors as Corn Flakes

 

A New Year already?

Happy New Year’s, bookies! Once your bleary eyes get focused, stand by for news and comment.

First, I want to thank all of you who have read this bit of doggerel throughout this blog’s first year. I have asked before that if you wish to see anything in particular, just let me know and I’ll do what I can to make it so.

I’ve never written a daily blog before so it’s been a pretty steep learning curve. I usually start in the morning during my second cup of coffee, when the neural synapses are beginning to fire but before they tire. It’s fun, it’s keeping me up to date with my industry and it’s allowing me to maybe do a little educating, too. But without loyal readers it’s nothing but narcissism, so to each and every one of you, thanks.

*** Ebay’s year in review is given a pretty good treatment by e-commerce, touching on the low-lights of a dying company. No need for me to say more, read as you wish.

The Year Ebay became terminally ill

*** By and large your friendly neighborhood bookseller does not highlight articles about mega-booksellers, dealing in millions of books that are usually badly described or outright deceptive. However, this particular article seemed interesting, because while I’m not personally familiar with the seller, a lot of other sellers are. He seems to illustrate both the best and worst of booksellers, a ‘book person’ who has now warehoused his operations, uses automated pricing that is almost never correct, hires people who don’t know books and pretty much fits perfectly with sellers who cater to people who don’t care about the books they receive as long as they are cheap. But for buyers who DO care that what they are getting is what they thought they were getting, he seems to be in that classification known as ‘mega-seller’, those who employ people who don’t know or care about books, they only know how to stuff things into the mailbox.

Or, put another way, we are we and they are them.

A perfect example

*** Paul Hoffman has died, aged 96. If you never heard of him, click the link and read a little. He was a fascinating man, most known for this travel books, although by the time he wrote them he had already lived a full life.

Paul Hoffman

*** For someone like me, what could be better than a book about books? Of course, it’s a collecting sub-genre all its own, one I have, thankfully, not yet set my mind to collecting, but who wouldn’t like to spend a few hours studying one of the great book collections in the world via a book of photographs?

The Princeton University website puts it this way: “A new book, “Biblio” by photographer Natasha D’Schommer, offers a rare close-up look at many of the exceptional books and manuscripts that belong to the Scheide Library, one of the most significant private book collections in the United States, which is housed in Princeton’s Firestone Library. “

See, while I hate cold weather with a passion, good lighting, a roaring fire and a book such as this makes winter almost bearable.

A rare delight

*** I have met a knight. I didn’t know it at the time, and neither did he, but it’s true nonetheless. Terry Pratchett is on the list to be knighted and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. I guess everyone knows he is battling early onset Alzheimer’s, doing so in a very public way, but this will no doubt bring even more publicity to his battle and the need to do everything possible to find at least an effective treatment.

It won’t hurt Discworld sales, either, and with a series as brilliant and innovative as this, well, that’s all to the good. I know I’ve told the story before, but for those who missed it, Sir Terry was Guest of Honor at Midsouthcon a few years back and I attended to get some books signed. I waited in line for almost 3 hours, but before he got to me he had to attend a panel. I was told to return that night to get my allotment (2 books per person) signed. I did and he did. He looked exhausted. It wasn’t much after this that he was given his diagnosis. I got lucky.

The First Knight (that I’ve met)

 

New look at a heroic feat of arms

*** Researching this blog keeps me up on things that I really want to know about, such as a new book about 617 Squadron of the RAF and their amazing raid on the German dams during World War II, a raid that earned them the sobriquet of The Dambusters.

I’m not sure what new information has been dug up, or whether this is just recounting stories that might have been abridged elsewhere, or perhaps not told because they could not be verified. Oral histories give that latitude, they are more about what the person remembers than about what actually happened. But I was shocked, truly shocked, to learn that there is a remake of the 1954 film due to begin shooting next year, and that the screenplay is being written by Stephen Fry.

For those who don’t know, Stephen Fry is a brilliant British actor/comedian/novelist/humorist, whom I first encountered as Jeeves to Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster. Fry and Laurie were very well known in England long before either hit the international big time, Fry with his books, Laurie with the American TV show ‘House.’ If this film actually gets made I’ll look forward to seeing it with great relish. (No, not that kind of relish)

*** So, is your place of employment one of the best for 2009? One of the worst? Take a look here and see what you think. It’s an interesting article on a site that is gaining credence as a look inside corporate American. You will note, I’m sure, that ebay is one of the 50 worst places to work. What a surprise.

Glassdoor and the best and worst places to work in 2009

 

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