Adam's Picks

Thank-You Everyone

As a past reader of the (SYBO) blog, I thank you for your interest.  If you’ve been to the blog within the past year you’d know it hasn’t been updated.  The reason is simple and not complicated; I lost the passion.

I sent out an email a few months ago to all of you asking for potential buyers and I found one!  Jonathan Brown has taken ownership of the blog.  I know firsthand that he is dedicated used-book seller and is passionate about what he does. He will also bring a new perspective being a long time book seller of out of print books and owner of one of the largest book buyback companies of out of print books. He has a lot of new ideas for the blog and I’m sure he will be able to continue to uphold the quality content I strove to provide as well.

With that being said, I bid you farewell and wish you all the continued successes in your online business.

- Adam

Category Adam's Pick

Amazon FBA’s Labeling Service: A No-Brainer or Yet Another Fee?

I haven’t sent in a FBA shipment in some time due to other priorities.  However, I recently received the latest FBA newsletter and found out that Amazon is now offering to label items for you.  That’s pretty sweet!  That has been a desire of mine for a long time.  The biggest hassle with FBA has always been printing out all those damn labels and sticking them to each and every book.  It turns a 1 hour job into a 3 hour job.  I’ve sent in some shipments that literally took me 8+ hours to process when they could have been much, much less.

It looks like they’re charging 20 cents/item which doesn’t seem to be too bad.  I typically had 200 books in a shipment.  If I were to choose to have Amazon label them all for me, I’d be out $40.  In my opinion, that would be a small price to pay to shave half the time out of processing.  This definitely wouldn’t be for the penny books though.  With the recent fee hike, that really hurt much of the low-price, commodity books being sold via FBA.  Taking another 20 cents from the already paper-thin margins wouldn’t be feasible.

Here’s the breakdown of the service:

  • They will label just about anything that qualifies for FBA however it has to have a scannable barcode.  This means NO pre-1970 books folks.  If you do have these items, you’ll have to label them yourself however they’ll have to be in a different shipment.  There’s no mixing and matching labeling service items with self-service labeling.
  • You’ll be allowed to use the labeling service on a per-shipment basis.

It looks to be a pretty straightforward process.  You tell them which items you want them to label and you pay 20 cents/pop.  Are you going to use this service?  If so, I hope you’ve figured this new expense into your total expenses.  This would be a PERFECT reason to use a service like eBizControl to keep track of all these little expenses. wlEmoticon smile Amazon FBA’s Labeling Service: A No Brainer or Yet Another Fee?  Feel free to sign up for the mailing list or check out the site and get registered for the beta once it’s available.


Category selling-more-books

Selling on Consignment and the Benefits of Listing Low-Demand Items

Hey guys, Adam here.  I apologize for the long delay in blog posts.  I’m concentrating the huge majority of my time now on building my first web application called eBizControl.  I’m really excited about it because it’s going to save people so much time and also give them some deep insight into their expenses so that you can concentrate on what’s making the most money and forget what’s not.  When I first started it, I was in WAY over my head.  Building a full-featured web application like this is much more than what I had anticipated.  This is why it’s taken over 2  years to get where I am now. icon smile Selling on Consignment and the Benefits of Listing Low Demand Items    Anyway, enough about my new online endeavor.

If you can believe it, my own book business is still kickin’ albeit not as profitable as it once was.  At it’s peak, it was grossing ~$10K/month.  Nowadays, I literally spend less than an hour a week managing it.  Even though it’s not near what it was once, it’s still grossing $2-4K/month now.  How?  2 reasons.  FBA and selling on consignment.  You see, when I was hitting it hard spending 10-15 hours/week sourcing, listing and fulfilling orders along with two employees helping me I seem to have accumulated a large backstock of books; one of the benefits of not just listing low sales rank books.

These kind of books known as "long tail" books were the books that would scan as a low selling price of $50 but would have a sales rank in the 3,5,6, even 10 million range.  Some people thought I was nuts for messing with those books but I’ve always been one to think for the future; not for the now.  I figured as long as I had the space I was going to fill my warehouse from floor to ceiling with these high sales rank books.  They’ll sell SOMETIME, right?  Yep.  They didn’t sell right away of course but I’m still selling a couple books/day now that I’ve had sitting on my shelf for over 3 years just waiting for that special person to come along.

So, in a nutshell, do not rely on low sales rank of even sales rank at all sometimes in your decision-making as to what to purchase and list.  If you’re hard at it now, you may be like me someday where your book business may become a small side business/hobby and you’ll get to enjoy nearly completely passive income.

Another thing I wanted to mention was my first endeavor into selling books on consignment.  I wasn’t really looking for such an arrangement but word got out that I sold books online and a guy approached about it.  Turns out he has a lucrative source for textbooks but doesn’t want to mess with the listing and fulfillment process.  I was hesitant at first because I really wasn’t looking to expand the business but after careful consideration I figured it was better that risking my own dough buying inventory when I could get it for free. icon smile Selling on Consignment and the Benefits of Listing Low Demand Items   After almost 6 months of selling textbooks on consignment I can gladly say it’s worked out well for my pocketbook but not for my time management.

Being a web programmer now, the first order of business I did, but far don’t expect everyone to do is to develop a small web script to give to my consignee.  This allows him to scan books before handing off to me to ensure he will ONLY give me the books I’ll accept.  He scans a book, it checks Amazon for weight, low price and  few other things then runs through my rules and outputs an either ACCEPT or REJECT.  It’s working out very well.  He’s able to scan everything he has and I can then pick up the books that I know I’ll able to make some cash from.  I’ve decided to release that here if anyone else is a web programmer or may know someone that can help you implement this.   I’ll also offer to help with this at a cost of $50/hr with a 1 hour minimum.  If you’d me to help out, please email me at adam [at]  DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRICE CHECKER HERE.

Selling on consignment along with selling your own books under the same account can sometimes get a little hairy.  This was a new venture for me and I really learned a lot along the way.  I thought it would be beneficial to you guys to share a little of what I had learned.  Here are a few tips that will help you selling items on consignment.

  • "Tag" your consignee’s items

This is essential to keep track of what’s yours and what’s theirs.   Depending on what software you use (if any), this can be very different.  I use Monsoon so I setup a specific classification for my consignee’s books.  This classification gets remembered when the order comes in.  I can then easily run some custom reports that I created to pull out those books to get sales totals.  If you don’t use any listing software, you could probably use a SKU prefix such as "CONS-ABC123" meaning this is an item you’re selling on consignment, for example.

  • Settle on fair compensation for each sale

It’s going to get hard but you’re going to have to get used to a fairly low sales percentage you get to keep.  I’m keeping 35% of the total PROFIT from every order.  This is 35% of the total sales price minus Amazon fees, shipping supplies, postage, etc.  Be sure to make it clear what’s expected ahead of time.  Is it a percentage before or after all expenses are paid?

  • Set your minimum sale price accordingly

If you’re now only getting 35% of what you used to, you have to jack up the price considerably to still make it worth your while.  Run the numbers like you did (you did, didn’t you?) to figure out what your minimum sale price will be prior to listing.  You don’t want to get into a situation where you’re losing cash after you’ve paid your consignee.  This also means keeping your repricing strategies different as well.

  • Do not  accept ALL books

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous tip.  The reason I mention this one last is because I’ve came across so many books that I’ve been given that simply have no value.  I simply assumed the books I was given were valuable.  Always spend the time to check prices ahead of time.  You’re just wasting your time if you’ve got a minimum price of $15 bucks set in your pricing rules and you list a book that’s worth $5, that book’s going to be sitting on shelf for years.

I hope this long overdue post has helped some of you out.  As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

- Adam

Apple E-textbooks: What Does It Mean For the Used Textbook Trade?

By: Susan Scheck

Last week there was a big announcement by Apple that it is entering the textbook market, with “an upgraded 2.0 version of its iBooks app that now supports interactive textbooks, while also releasing a free Mac application, iBook Author, that lets people create electronic textbooks on their computers” according to Cnet.

One of the questions being raised is about pricing: how much cheaper will college e-textbooks be, and how will their sale impact the used textbook market? Apple has priced its high school e-texts at $14.99, however there’s still no word on the price of college e-textbooks. The price of a traditional text can run considerably higher, sometimes upwards of $100 for one brand-new book. (And as many college professors insist on the latest, greatest editions, sometimes there is no choice but to buy it.) Anyone who has a child in college, as I do, cringes every semester at this “cost of doing business”. As a parent, I wouldn’t mind paying 75 bucks or thereabouts for a semester’s worth of e-texts.

But what does all this mean to the online used textbook market? This time, answering as a publishing professional with 20 years in the business (nine of them at a university), I say: Old habits die hard. While many young people might feel comfortable with a software version of their texts (provided they or their parents could cough up an extra $500 for an iPad to read them on, while paying thousands already to attend school), their professors of a certain age may not feel as comfortable. And many professors have preferred texts – which, right now, I’m guessing are not among the Apple offerings. However, if these professors decide to write their textbooks on iBook Author, that could change.

The big three textbook publishers — McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who together make up 90% of the industry – have joined with Apple in this venture, presumably because they see recurring sales of new e-textbooks, and no resale market. E-texts must be bought new and students are not allowed to resell them, as with a traditional textbook. So there would be nothing cutting into their profit margins, as the used book industry does. Right now, though, e-textbooks are not much of a threat: According to textbook distributor MBS Direct Digital, only 6% of textbook sales will be digital this year. But, we can and should expect a heavy push from both them and Apple to open the e-textbook market wide open.

My gut feeling, though, is, for right now and at least a few years into the future, that the online used textbook market will still be viable. There are just too many used texts in circulation and too many students out there that need them instead of their outrageously priced brand-new versions. Still, keep your ear to the ground on this one: the speed of adoption of new technological paradigms can be lightning fast, as we all know.


Category selling-more-books

Finding Hidden Gems in University Libraries

Hello, all!  Yes, I’m still alive but judging from the last post I would have probably thought I was dead.  The reason for the long post hiatus was simply a strategic time management decision.  You see, this blog, my used book business, my new web app eBizControl, my full-time job and my family take up a lot of time.  Oh, don’t forget about sleep.  I’ve decided to trim some of the activities and regular blog posts was one of them.  I hope you understand.  In any case, I recently received an email from Susan Scheck for a request to write a blog post.  I said absolutely!  You’ll find that Susan’s stories may closely resemble your own.  This is why I really enjoy these types of posts.  Thanks for being a reader!  – Adam

I’d like to share with you a source that, on occasion, can turn up some decent, if not amazingly profitable, books: university and college libraries. Most libraries, as we know, have periodic or ongoing book sales, and university and college libraries are no different.  If you live in an urban or suburban area, there are likely to be several within a comfortable distance. For example, I live within a half-hour’s drive of six colleges and universities, and another three more can be found within a 45-minute drive, so there’s always a ready source of books close by.

Once you’ve called your local libraries to find out book sale details and to make sure they are open to the general public (chances are they are), you can start scouting. I use ScoutPal on my cell phone, which for the last week has been a free trial (I’m new to serious scouting). Yet, in the last week, I’ve purchased about 35 books from one library, all in new or used-like new condition, without the usual library markings. In fact, in speaking to the sales clerk I found out they had been donations—and she also told me that it happens frequently enough that dealers come there to buy books. Music to my ears, even though I have some competition.

Below are some paperback books I found today, typical of what I have found so far:

Exchange Is Not Robbery: More Stories of an African Bar Girl (Paperback)
New: 9 from $17.99
Used from: $7.48 (Used: acceptable)
Rank: #1,954,335 in Books

Religion and Healing in America (paperback)
12 new from $31.41
19 Used from $20.00
Amazon Sales Rank: 347,724

Rethinking God as Gift: Marion, Derrida, and the Limits of Phenomenology
(Perspectives in Continental Philosophy)
12 New from $22.00
4 Used from $22.85
Amazon Sales Rank:1,183,918

And now, the hidden gem:

Religion, Revolution and English Radicalism: Non-conformity in Eighteenth-Century
Politics and Society
List Price: $74.00
15 All from $71.46
12 New from $71.52
3 Used from $71.46

Amazon Sales Rank: 532,574

You will notice that this last book is selling used from within $3 of the list price, and the new and used prices are pennies apart. The icing on the cake: the sales ranking. This is an expensive book that is on track to sell fast. In fact, I suspect it might be on more than a few required reading lists for the upcoming semester.  That’s another plus when sourcing from university libraries: the books are scholarly or semi-scholarly, so they may command higher prices and be in high demand several times a year, at the start of each academic semester. The flip side of this is that it’s common to find rankings in the three or four millions, yet it’s just as likely you may find books with a higher rank and with the potential to command a higher price. When you pay 50 cents or $1 per book, like I did, it’s just too good an opportunity to pass up. So go back to school—and bring a backpack.