A Look at Half, Part 1: Some Half Booksellers Not Embracing eBay?
By Ina Steiner
eBay's confidence that it could convert its Half.com booksellers over to the eBay site may be eroding: in mid-June, eBay decided to delay the deadline for Half's closing from July 13 to October 14. eBay said sellers wanted to continue selling on Half through the back-to-school season (textbooks are big sellers on the site). The two sites vary in the way they structure seller fees, and at least some Half sellers are not happy with the eBay system. On Half.com, sellers pay commission fees only when an item sells; on eBay, sellers pay fees to list items, in addition to commission fees.
In 2000, eBay acquired Half.com, which sells books, CDs, DVDs, video games, software and electronics. Joshua Kopelman founded Half.com in 1999 with the idea that every item on the site would be available immediately for at least half price. Sellers paid no listing fees and could easily list items for sale by typing in a UPC code, ISBN, or model number, selecting the item's condition and setting the sale price.
eBay made the decision to roll Half.com into the eBay.com site almost immediately after acquiring the site, with a deadline of 2004. It merged Half User Names and feedback information into the eBay site in March 2002 (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y02/m03/i21/s01).
In order to entice Half sellers to eBay, it rolled out its own "Pre-fill Item Information" catalog system this year in the Book and Entertainment categories to enable sellers to enter a product code or ISBN number and have the system populate "Item Specific" fields, or product attributes, from a Catalog of product information.
In order to encourage the use of "Item Specifics," eBay eliminated subcategories in the Books, Movies and Music categories, causing a painful transition for many sellers. Some long-time eBay sellers claimed their sales suffered as a result of buyers having to learn how to use the new method of finding items, which was search-friendly, but not as "browsable" as under the old structure.
So can eBay keep old-time booksellers happy and attract Half booksellers? One reader of AuctionBytes-Update newsletter explained her thoughts.
Reference Closing of Half.com:
I started on half.com in April of 2001. I listed about 50 books I had around the house. I would get so excited to sell one. From there I started picking up books at garage sales, thrift stores, Goodwill, FOL sales, and I now have about 3,000 books listed. Half.com has given me a nice steady income to use for all those extra's that pop up like a new well, pool repair, etc. I am incredibly dismayed that half.com is ending. I must say this 3 month extension has been great for me. I have done very well this summer. It may be because I have less competition as others have already left. On half.com there is also the effect of your book finally rising to the top of the list. Most of my sales are from books listed within the past 3 months but nearly daily I sell something from 2002 or 2003. Putting the month and year in the notes has been a big help to us in finding the books. We keep them arranged by title. Our biggest frustration is selling a book and not being about to find it on the shelf because the "title" and the order title are not the same. If there is a picture of the book that can usually give us a clue.
I think ebay had a good thing going with half.com. Why they are closing it is beyond me. Selling my books on ebay for a 7 day listing is not very practical. I looked long and hard at the stores. So far I have decided not to go that route. I have chosen to take up Amazon on their 3 month offer of being a Pro Merchant for $19.95 a month. I will hate to pay the $40 a month (which I didn't have with Half.com) but I am thinking this is the best route. Some things on Amazon I like better. I like that the entire NOTES is there for the buyer to see as opposed to only the first 40 character on half.com. I swear no one ever clicked on
more info and read the rest of my notes on half.com. I like the packing slip on Amazon better. What I don't like is that Amazon only shows the five cheapest books on the first page. Half.com showed the cheapest 4 in each of the BN, LN, VG, good and ACC categories was hands down better, in my opinion. On half.com you had to confirm each order. Amazon assumes you have the book so if you can't find it you just can't cancel, you have to refund. Amazon seems to care less about feedback. It's certainly not as obvious where and how to leave feedback.
At the present time I am listing some things on Amazon, something on half and something duel listed. (A dangerous practice unless you are incredibly careful to keep track and delete it from the other venue once it sells). Half.com had nicer reports, easier to understand finances all around. Half.com had a way to manage your inventory that I don't find on Amazon. On the other hand a Will from Amazon actually telephoned me the other day to see how things were going which no one from half.com every did. So that's impressive!!
I guess the biggest difference is that on half.com you could list your book and when and if it sold you would at least get 75 cents. I wish that Amazon had a floor a bit higher than one cent. Why people are listing for one cent is beyond me also. Obviously there are many things I don't understand and have yet to learn.
Sad at half.com's demise.
In Part 2 of "A Look at Half," AuctionBytes freelance reporter Mark Lewis talks to a few booksellers to get their thoughts. And in Part 3, readers voice their opinions.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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