To list or not to list – the defect dilemma

By Sharon Fussell, January 28, 2014

It’s difficult as a bookseller to decide not to list an item if the condition is ‘doubtful.’ Sometimes it can seem okay to list a book that may have a few defects but is in a readable condition (e.g. fit for purpose) especially if it is listed as acceptable and all defects are honestly described, or it has rarity value.

I admit it breaks my heart when I have to discard books due to poor condition, e.g. photographs coming loose or other defects that render them too poor to sell on Amazon or other sites such as eBay.

Of course there are also books in wonderful condition that I decide not to list, simply because they are too heavy to make any profit (this often happens when supply outstrips demand and forces prices downwards).

I especially hate study books that have been replaced with a newer edition – the newer copy selling for many pounds over the older copy and, in these instances, I tend not to list as it’s very uncertain that a buyer will want to buy the older copy in preference to the newly updated edition, even if it is priced lower.

The method I use to buy stock often results in duplicate copies of books that I already have on the system. I rarely list more than one copy of any book, with the exception of books I know will sell as quickly as I list them (the sales ranking has to be extremely high for me to this though).

These are some of the main reasons I discard books to give you some guidelines for your own sorting:

  • Ex Library copies
  • Books with large ugly personal dedications (e.g. gift inscriptions)
  • Books in poor condition
  • Hardcover books with no paper jacket (fiction only)
  • Duplicate Listings (to my inventory)
  • Books too heavy to render a profit when sold
  • Books with no real niche value and low sales rankings, e.g.:

– Over 2 million for non fiction
– Over 1 million for niche fiction
– Over 8000 for ‘popular’ fiction

  • Out of date study books
  • Books with missing information
  • Books with loads of highlighting/markings
  • Children’s books with scribbling inside
  • Children’s books with personal dedications
  • Children’s books with previous owners name inside
  • Books with a strong odour

It really is best to err on the side of caution when listing books for sale. While most customers will read your comments and description, some will not and end up leaving adverse feedback.

Always ask yourself the following questions:

‘Will it be worth the hassle if a buyer is unhappy with the condition of this book?’

‘Would I be unhappy if this book arrived through the post?’

This is usually the decider for me and sometimes quite valuable copies end up in the recycling bin for this very reason (with me wincing all the way!)


What do you think?

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