Amazon vs. Ebay

Of course these aren’t the only two web sites you can sell with, but they are the biggest and will give your books the widest exposure.  In the dawn of online commerce the two companies were quite distinct.  They aren’t as different from each other now, as they both aspire to be all things to all people, but there still are distinctions which may make one or the other a better choice for your group.

Ebay retains a more relaxed feeling to its marketplace, reflecting the informal yard sale nature of its beginnings.  The seller has flexibility in setting shipping schedules and charges.  Almost anything is eligible to sell, making it the site for old magazines, sets of books, theater programs or other ephemera that you might have.  Established sellers may set up “stores” and offer items at a fixed price rather than an auction.  Fees are generally small but plentiful.

Amazon is highly structured.  Sellers are required to ship orders within two business days and expected to answer inquiries daily.  The shipping allowance is the same for all books regardless of weight.  The site was designed to sell new books which carry ISBN numbers; the number of books was limited and identification of each certain.  The addition of a used book marketplace has created a large but messy catalogue with many duplications and inaccuracies.  The fees are rather high for individual items but lower with greater volume of sales.

Both sites handle all the financial parts of the sale.  Amazon collects payment from the buyer first, sends the seller a shipping notice, and pays the seller (you) when you confirm shipment.  Ebay sends the seller a notice of a purchase before payment is made; the buyer pays through PayPal, which sends a notice that the transaction is complete and you can ship the item.  Both sites allow you to put your store “on vacation” when you don’t want to handle sales.

Customer trust and confidence is a serious issue for internet business.  The customer is being asked  to buy something she can’t see, touch, or evaluate from someone she doesn’t know.  Amazon aggressively protects its corporate good name by offering the “A to Z” guarantee – the contemporary version of “the customer is always right” motto of Marshall Field and other retail pioneers.  Amazon extends this guarantee to the products of all the independent sellers in their marketplace.  Sellers are required to accept returns and issue refunds in most cases, even when not at fault.  Ebay has problems with criminal sellers of fraudulent or stolen merchandise.  Buyers are given a limited “Money Back Guarantee” on most items that covers seller error but not buyer remorse.  Both companies use customer feedback to rate sellers.

Most of my store’s sales are through Amazon.  I don’t think there’s any argument that it is the most important online book market (whether that’s good or bad you can argue) so I recommend it.  Ebay is a good option if flexibility is important to you or if you have collectable ephemera and non-media items to sell.  It allows you more time to process sales and freedom  to set higher shipping fees when needed.

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