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Mega Bookseller Launches Millions of Titles on eBay

A mega merchant that calls itself the nation’s largest seller of used books has loaded millions of listings on eBay under at least 9 different accounts. A reader noticed the listings are showing up on top of Best Match search results, but they are not yet available for sale. “They have flooded the site, making legitimate listings falling down in the views,” the reader said. Many of the titles are listed for $3.97.

Thrift Books was started in July 2003 in the state of Washington. According to its Wikpedia entry, it operates a number of subsidiaries: Green Earth Books, the Atlanta Book Company, Motor City Books, Blue Cloud Books, Yankee Clipper Books, Silver Arch Books, Books Squared, Free State Books, Sierra Nevada Books, Peach Land Books, Green Duck Books, Green Grass Books, Yellow Rose Books, Red Crab Books, Red Sand Books, Purple Mountain Books, White Stag Books, and Gray Sky Books. (They appear to be owned by a holding company Thrift Books Holdings, LLC.)

We checked nine eBay selling accounts that have anywhere from 61,000 to 570,000 listings; each account has zero feedback. If you click on a particular listing of any of those nine eBay accounts, you’ll see a message at the top of the page reading, “This seller is currently away until Sep 30, 2015, and is not processing orders at this time. You can add this item to your watch list to purchase later.”

The nine accounts are: Yankee-Clipper-Books, Silver-Arch-Books, Sierra-Nevada-Books, Green-Earth-Books, Motor-City-Books, Atlanta-Book-Company, Books-Squared, Blue-Cloud-Books, and Free-State-Books. Tallied up, they have 2.75 million listings on eBay.

Thrift Books had told the Auburn Reporter in 2009 that it did the majority of its business through Amazon.com and eBay, and said it also operated a website at Thriftbooks.com. An executive told the news site, “We negotiate at a higher level, and they send them to us by the truckload. It’s not unusual for us to buy up to 2 million books in a single month.”

On the Thriftbooks website, the company brags it has sold over 2.5 million ex-library books since 2005. It says it has 7 million titles and operates out of 10 warehouses around the country.

Like other mega booksellers, Thrift Books has received its share of criticism from smaller online sellers especially regarding grading book condition, including on this thread on AbeBooks. “Out of the six books I’ve received from this seller (so far) four have been damaged,” a seller wrote. Another wrote, “I’ve bought a fair number of books from the Thrift Books seller collective. They are usually the cheapest copy available. I know that they ship in a plastic bag offering little protection, therefore I only buy books where condition isn’t of paramount concern. I’ve only had to seek a return on one book for “not as described”. My cost was refunded and I was told not to bother returning it.”

Aside from the fact that listings that are not yet available for sale are ranking highly in eBay’s search engine, other sellers may be concerned about whether these Thrift Book accounts are getting free listings on eBay through its Diamond seller program, and whether eBay is allowing duplicate listings through the multiple accounts.

Comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.