Jun 082006
 June 8, 2006  Posted by at 6:24 pm  Add comments

Since the early 1990’s, the collective independent book store population has undergone a significant upheaval, through the advent of the large chains, then followed by the emergence of Amazon and the internet. Still, the financially strong have survived and reached a symbiotic balance between themselves, Amazon, and the Barnes and Nobles of the world. The secondary book market has not faired as well.

The secondary market is composed of three primary avenues, being overrun books (i.e. discounted new books), used books, and antiquarian or collectible books. Whereas the primary market for new books has three established outlets for sales, being chain stores, independent book stores, and the internet store, the secondary market is in turmoil as all three threads compete in the same marketplaces. As a result, at this time, the collectible book market is quite unstable.

There is no firmly established marketplace for overrun books, used books, or collectible books on the internet. Instead, each competes for space in the same market places. The three main markets are the specialized internet listing entities, such as ABE, the auction entities, primarily eBay, and the subsidiary services, such as Half.com and Amazon. In the case of all three, there are significant issues to overcome for the collectible bookseller and book buyer.

The crux of the issue is that the prospective buyer for overrun books, used books, and collectible books is a very different consumer, and yet all three consumer groups are searching in the same markets. Because of this, the three market places are orienting more and more toward the largest consumer class. The collectible market, being the smallest of the three, is being shoved aside as the market places adjust and orient toward the overrun and used book markets.

The collectible comic book market and sports card market do not experience this same issue. There is really no significant used comic book or used sports card market; the collectible markets dominate and eBay is the defacto market maker, providing liquidity for the professional seller and the collector.

Where is this leading? I’m not smart enough to figure it out. It is going to be difficult to establish a ‘collectibles only’ book market. The collectible book industry is too fragmented to speak in ten voices, much less one. Something akin to the eBay model is probably preferential, with its low barrier to entry, transparency, and liquidity, and would need some modifications to properly service the collectible book market (longer auction durations, painless reserves, etc…). The problem is that eBay is dominated by the used and overrun seller and buyer.

Does anybody have any viable solutions?