EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1556 - June 08, 2007     3 of 4

AbeBooks Survey Reveals Trends in Online Bookselling

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Used-book marketplace surveyed 1,949 of its US booksellers and found the profession of online bookselling appeals to entrepreneurial "Silver Surfers" eager to escape the 9-to-5 rat race. The poll also reveals that long working hours and knowledge of technology are key aspects of the job.

Key findings include:

  • 79% are aged over 45 - more than half have a degree or a higher qualification;
  • Most sellers had left white-collar careers to become booksellers - the most common previous professions were jobs in teaching, libraries, sales, and management;
  • 11% work between 51 and 60 hours per week, and 9% are working more than 60 hours a week with the online cataloguing of books being the most time-consuming task;
  • 25% will increase their online book inventory by between 10% and 25% in 2007;
  • 21% plan to launch their own e-commerce website;
  • Sellers acquire books through a large number of sources - many of which require time on the road - including library sales, estate sales, private sales, and auctions. 26% had traveled up to 100 miles to buy a book and 9% had gone abroad to buy books;
  • Many sellers also sell through other online marketplaces and 74% had set up their Internet selling operation without outside IT assistance;
  • 60% of sellers polled operate purely online - the others had bookstores or showrooms;
  • 64% of the sellers offer mostly out-of-print books and most specialize in a number of genres - history, fiction and children's books are the most common;
  • 68% list falling book prices as their biggest fear for the future but 38% are also concerned that fewer young people are reading books now;
  • Despite their long working hours, 33% read between five and 10 books per month.

"Hard work is the key to successfully selling secondhand books on the Web," said Hannes Blum, CEO of "Although this profession is relatively new, it requires dedication to build up an online inventory of books and considerable effort to find books ideal for the Internet. We're seeing a commitment to put more used books for sale online - sellers already offer over 100 million books through AbeBooks so that could expand to 120 million by the end of 2008, which is great news for people who love buying used, rare and hard-to-find books."

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

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