Sunday, January 31, 2010

Selling Used Books Online : The Complete Guide to Bookselling at Amazon's Marketplace and Other Online Sites by Stephen Windwalker (Paperback 2002)

Selling Used Books Online: The Complete Guide to Bookselling at Amazon's Marketplace and Other Online Sites
To quote the 20th century literary critic and memoirist Anatole Broyard: "To own a bookshop is one of the persistent romances, like living off the land or sailing around the world."
     This is my very first book review on this blog, and as such I decided to address an issue that has come up many times since I started selling books in January of 2000. "How do you sell books and make any money at it?" A valid question but not always easy to explain in a quick conversation, but if you are serious about exploring online bookselling I cannot recommend a better place to start. Windwalker is a successful bookseller as the owner and manager of Windwalker Books, an online bookseller since 1999, and a former long-time member of the American Booksellers Association and owner his own independent retail bookstore. He gives his wealth of experience to the newbie in this crash course for booksellers which is filled with simple and detailed information anyone can apply without great effort or understanding of the bookselling business as a whole. The book was influencial on my all aspects of my new venture into e-tailing, plus gave my mind the insight of practical business methods that would become the model for my standards down the road.
     On the front cover it makes the following claim - " For Online Booksellers, Authors, Independent Publishers, Public Libraries, and Software Authors. Whether your bookselling vision is brick-and-mortar, click-and-mortar, dot-com or dream-on, this is the book that will take you to the next level."
     For some readers who question if my opinion is valid as an independent bookseller alone, here are a few other industry persons and their quotes on Windwalker's work : "A wealth of information about the bookselling business, including descriptions of major online bookselling resources complete with detailed fee structures."- News Update, A Friends of Libraries U.S.A. Publication..."Incredible business resource.... an experienced authority candidly describes the pitfalls and the realities of ... book dealing with no punches withheld." - from Bob Spear, Heartland Reviews, October 2002..."Thousands of book enthusiasts are selling books online. If you'd like to join their ranks, this book is a must-read."- Rebecca Hanneman,, October 2002. These are just a few praises for Windwalker and his books.
     The author was not only influencial with this book, but has remained a big name in the book biz to this day. On the right I have inserted a current picture from his current work with Amazon Kindle and its promotion / marketing.
     When I got a copy for the first time, I had been selling for over three years - and I found that this book not only explained what I had already learned in detail, it also predicted the pit falls that I would eventually find as I progressed longer in the used book industry. It discusses every issue of bookselling in basic terms and makes no assumptions about your level of business savvy or experience. This book is a little outdated in one sense, the bookselling market of today has expanded greatly since it's publication. Yet it is still informative enough to be useful, and there are very few books that cover the span of information that is relevant to the newbie or the expert bibliophile equally. It covers a wealth of topics that every used retailer  of books should examine to be successful at any level - acquisition of books, choice of books, where to sell, rating / accurate descriptions online, posting / pricing guidelines, mailing / postal services, packaging / delivery issues, business organization, taxes, customer service, inventory management, order fulfillment and planning for the future expansion of your home business. Windwalker covers in some detail the different third party sites that existed at the time of publication including Amazon, Abe, Alibris, Ebay,, Biblio, and Tom Folio. All of the information is still useful in making informed decisions on joining with any of these sites currently. Today there are just more independent sites available to the selling market than before. Windwalker eludes to this predicatively, and gives opinions of the future market that he sees in the future. As I said, the only downfall of this book is that it is becoming outdated - yet still is probably the best primer of its kind for the used book retail industry.
     But I cannot express the intent of the author better than quoting from the book itself : "The advent of online used bookselling has greatly lowered the stakes involved in failing as a used bookseller. Instead of losing anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 and having to hire a lawyer to negotiate one's way out of a multi-year lease and a mountain of publisher and distributor debt, a failed online used bookseller might lose $500 and a lot of time and effort. But it remains true that many will fail. It doesn't have to be this way, so our mission with this book is three-fold:  First, we hope that by providing a candid look at the nitty-gritty of used bookselling, to persuade a significant number of people to do something else for which they may be better suited; Second, we believe we can provide and organize information and suggestions that may accelerate progress on the learning curve and make the difference between success and failure for a significant number of current and future online used booksellers; and Third, we hope to improve the overall quality and market strength of online used bookselling by helping sellers to raise the bar when it comes to customer service and fulfillment, business practices and efficiencies, diversity of offerings, and pricing strategy, so that the ensuing improvement in customer experience will ultimately mean more customers and more selling for the sellers." - Stephen Windwalker, Selling Used Books Online, 2002.
     With this little book in hand, anyone can master book scouting and selling like a pro. If you are just looking to make some extra money with as little hassle as possible, this book will guide you accordingly. It is an easy read that I personally still have a copy of in my personal book collection to this day.  
     Thanks from all your fans Stephen.

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