Beginning the last week of 2008

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment to start this last week of 2008.

*** Here is the almost obligatory article on the collapse of Ebay. This time it’s from a site that is no fool, The Motley Fool, and is a better than average inspection of why Ebay is falling.

Ebay is dying, so what else is new?

Along with this article, let’s look at a discussion of Ebay squashing honest sellers from having discussions on their forums, something they vehemently have denied doing, even though everyone knows they do. Kind of like Baghdad Bob, the guy who denied US tanks were in even in Iraq as you could see M-1A’s clanking by in the background.

Ebay caught lying yet again

But if you really want a nice article on why ebay is dying, step away from the traditional sources and read something from someone who knows this story from the inside. This is the best article yet written about ebay’s collapse. Except, of course, for those I write.

The real reasons ebay is dying

*** Famed playwright and novelist Dale Wasserman has died aged 94. I am familiar with his movie work, ‘Man of La Mancha’ and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’, but not most of his body of work. It doesn’t matter, as Renaissance men like him don’t seem too much in evidence anymore. Yours truly excepted, of course.

Dale Wasserman dies at 94

*** The influential author, editor and professer Samuel Huntington has died aged 81. Best known for his writings on the clash of civilizations, East and West, probably his most famous work is The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, which appeared in 1996, and has since been translated into 39 languages. 39! That’s a lot it you think about it. Between English, Arabic, Chinese, German and Spanish, that’s only five and would cover most of the world.

Samuel Huntington


*** The holocaust memoir Angel at the Fence has been canceled because the author admits he made parts of it up. Okay, bookies, you all know I’ve said this is just people worrying about nothing and I’m keeping that opinion. Publish the thing as a novel and be done with it. Jeez. The Hitler Diaries were bad fakes, a complete fraud, but people forked over millions to publish them. This guy made up stuff about a love story?

Survivor made stuff up

*** A very old and rare book about the Holy Land, the earliest one published with hand-colored lithographs, has been discovered hiding in a British library. The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt And Nubia by David Roberts, a three volume set that was published in only 400 copies of the first edition, was found at the Yorkshire Museum.

York is a wonderful city and if anyone is traveling there seeing this book would be a terrific diversion. It’s been a few years since I was there but, when I was, there were some quaint and delightful used bookstores.

Not only that but our hotel in York has an actual coal-burning fireplace, the first (and only) time in my life I have sat before such a fire, harkening back to the days of Dickens and belching chimneys and soot-blackened buildings. Cool.

Rare Holy Land books found

*** As usual, the New York Times gets it wrong. Seriously, why anybody still reads that paper is beyond my understanding. ‘All the News That’s Fit to Invent’. Anyway, yesterday this guy wrote a long article about the demise of the used bookstore because of the internet (nothing like being ten years behind the curve), whining and moaning about amateur sellers killing off brick and mortar shops. Describing penny sellers as if he alone discovered them, like De Soto claiming to have discovered the Mississippi River, they didn’t exist before he wrote about them. Of course, the return of the b&m because of those same amateur sellers inability to run a business will be his article 5 years from now, when things will have changed again.

See, it’s like this, bookies: an online business isn’t much different from a regular business. You have a reputation to uphold and if you continually peddle incorrectly described crap, then you will never build up a customer base because no one will trust you. Who cares if you buy a book for a penny plus shipping if you get the wrong book, or its moldy? Much like any other business, the details count. And while delving into this idea he fails to mention why penny sellers such as the one he dealt with come and go so quickly: if you sell a book for a penny on Amazon.com, you will be paid, by them, about $3 for the book and shipping combined. And that’s if you’re a Pro-Merchant at $40 a month. If you’re not, deduct another dollar. So you get $2 to sell and ship a book where the least amount of postage possible is $2.23 on a paperback, without materials cost factored in. You lose money on every sale but I guess this guy assumes you make it up in volume.

If you are honest, do your best and try to provide a quality service, then you might make it selling online. If you work hard, at least as hard as you would at any other job. And if you’re shrewd, and if you can keep costs under control. Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. It’s no different from any other business. I, for one, am continually looking at ways to lower overhead. Why can’t this guy get that part? It’s really not that complicated.

Note: someone asked why I’m so apparently bitter toward this guy. Let me clarify: it’s not this guy in particular, but the whole genre of ‘journalists’ who pontificate about what is going on and make themselves out as experts, when they clearly have only a very shallow understanding of their subject. The whole ebay thing is a great example: mainstream journalists are clueless about what is really going on, but the blogosphere is not. If you read the so-called mainstream financial guys, ebay’s failure will be due to technical factors, or auction-versus-fixed price sales or something equally wrong. Very few will even mention the pissed-off sellers, and even fewer will make the connection that ebay’s biggest buyers were those same sellers, of whom I am a perfect example. Run off your best sellers and you also run off your best buyers. Not exactly rocket science, unless you’re John Donahoe or a journalist.

Those journalists moan and complain about bloggers not being real news people, yet it’s the journalists themselves who are unable to keep up. And now you have today’s ‘comment’ part about this blog’s news and comment.

New York Times business writer closing in on the lead book story of 1999

Editor’s note: I have been told by several sources that I am dead wrong about this guy, he’s one of the good ones, I should take back what I’ve written. I’m not going to do that, but I am putting up this note, in a highlighted color, to give another side to this story. Apparently he is a book collector and friend of the used book industry. Therefore, since I am by no means infallible, I will say that perhaps I was a bit harsh and perhaps it’s me that’s wrong. We’ll see.

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