Ebay dying, Auctions, Grafton, Burke & Burma

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

>>> Warning, warning. Rant coming. Turn your head if you don’t want to read it.

Ebay is dying. If you have read this blog for any length of time then you know how I feel about this. Watching a once-great company commit suicide is both painful and fascinating. But if you need further evidence, yesterday the stock closed at $11.17. Eleven freakin’ dollars!! Last July, in my political blog, I was commenting that the stock had been at $34 when they began to tank. Now, I know the stock market as a whole is down 52% on the year, I get that. But Ebay is down about 70%, at least as of opening of business today. And this at a time when every desperate family out there should be looking to sell anything they can to make ends meet, where the old Ebay was the ideal place for this. It should have been a boom year, instead it’s a bust.

Here’s one very significant quote from the Yahoo Finance Board: “eBay has seen a steady decline in page views throughout 2008, and in October suffered a precipitous drop of over 30% compared to the same period last year, according to data provided by Nielsen Online. “

Page views are down 30%, or, put another way, nobody is shopping on Ebay anymore. Why? Because when Donahoe and the idiots bobble-heading along with his inane ‘disruptive innovation’ scheme declared war on their own loyal sellers, they forgot that those sellers were also their most loyal buyers. The fools don’t even know their own market well enough to realize how it works. So in the name of cleaning up the marketplace they ran off the people who actually make up the marketplace. Think of a large square in a city, a place where vendors come to buy and sell their goods. It’s fun, but there’s lots of fakes and rip-offs along with the good stuff. Instead of weeding out the bad sellers, you simply clear the place of everybody. Now, sure that wipes out the fraud, but it also wipes out the legitimate commerce.

Ebay pages views plummet because of their own stupidity

Apparently this is beyond the understanding of the airheads running Ebay.

Rant over.

*** I love auctions. I’ve never actually been to one but they sure do look like fun. Especially those with books and manuscripts and really rare stuff, historical stuff. Like Jay Snider’s collection of early Americana, most of it relating to Philadelphia. It went for less than the estimate, a mere $2.3 million, a real shame it didn’t all come to me.

Expensive but amazing stuff

*** In answer to all of those queries I’ve gotten about whether or not they sell books in Burma, the answer is: yes, they do. (I know they call in Myanmar now, I just like the sound of Burma better) And here’s an article to prove it. But don’t expect rosy tales of people piling their homes full of books. It seems sales there are a bit lackluster these days. But the truth is that people everywhere seem to appreciate the process of learning, which I find highly encouraging.

Books in Burma? Who knew?

*** “Mystery Writers of America says it plans to name the authors James Lee Burke and Sue Grafton as the recipients of its 2009 Grand Master Award. The scribes will be honored at an event to coincide with the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe‘s birth next year. The organization said this is the first time since 1978 that it has presented dual Grand Masters.”

Two deserving award recipients

I’ve met both of these authors and I am certainly glad to see them gain this recognition. Two fine people. Burke has the distinction of selling the same book over and over again, with a different title each time, while Grafton more or less invented the serial-theme for mysteries with the alphabet books. (Did you know that her father was also a mystery writer? Tis true. Your friendly neighborhood bookseller even has a couple of his books for sale, straight from my private library.) If that comment on Burke sounds a bit snarky, sorry, it’s true.

Every Robicheaux book has the same plot, and often the same plot elements, too. Evil white guy got rich oppressing poor down-trodden minorities who were forced into a life of crime. Dave drinks too much, beats people to a pulp and sanctimoniously tells everybody else what’s wrong with their life. Stuff gets destroyed, occasionally a wife gets murdered, Clete runs amok. From anybody else this would have spelled end-of-career long ago. Burke gets away with it, however, because he really is a supremely talented writer and is one of the nicer guys you’re ever going to meet. So, unlike some writers out there who value themselves way too highly, JLB is one of those guys you genuinely want to make good.

As for Grafton, the first time I met her she was due to show up at a signing at 5 pm. By 4 the line was out the door and around the building. But, lo and behold, Ms. Grafton arrived about 4:20 and immediately got to work. Friendly and fast, by 5 pm the line was taken care of, she signed anything and everything. What a great lady.

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