`The Home-Based Bookstore' is written by Steve Weber, who solicited this review from me and supplied me with a copy of his book. I expect this will not influence my review, but it is good for you to know this up front.
Before I opened this book, I posed some questions I thought the book should answer. These questions, with the author's response follow:
1. What are the criteria for choosing Amazon.com, eBay, or one's own site for selling a particular title?
The author clearly prefers Amazon over most other options, although he gives some good reasons for setting up your own web page.
2. How do you pick titles to sell? Some obvious examples, such as Stephen King hardcovers are really poor second hand sellers.
The author gives some very general suggestions on which titles to pick and which titles to avoid. I agree with him almost entirely, although I can think of some exceptions to most of his titles to avoid; however, that is based on special knowledge of certain fields such as cookbooks.
3. How do you acquire interesting titles cheaply? Whenever I browse a second hand bookstore, 99 out of 100 titles are pure junk. I have yet to find, for example, an important out of print cookbook at any used bookstore.
The author provides many good sources, including every one I could think of, plus one or two I did not think of.
4. How do you track your stock so you can quickly determine whether or not you have a title OR where you may be able to acquire a title for a book hunter.
The author gives many useful answers to this question, including some new technology options that really surprised me, based on accessing the Internet through your cell phone.
5. What is the best shipping option considering cost versus speed?
The author gives some very good analyses on the advantages and disadvantages of fast versus slow delivery options.
6. Is there any value to branching out to recordings?
The author never once discusses how to apply his suggestions to other merchandise, even though he does go so far as to consider expanding an Internet sales operation to a brick and mortar store.
One of the reasons the author does not deal with other goods is that marketing books through the Internet is so much richer a subject than I imagined, in spite of the fact that I am a major customer of these services. The amount of software written to support this enterprise is staggering.
In a nutshell, Mr. Weber has given us an excellent manual on how to do this very specialized, albeit very popular form of Internet marketing.
The first sure sign that Steve was not pulling the wool over our eyes was when he stated that while this activity can be really rewarding, it is still hard work. The plus side is that you get to keep all the rewards of this hard work.
Since running a bookstore was always one of my secret ambitions, I really appreciated almost everything Weber had to say about this adaptation of the corner bookstore. If I were to point out any one thing where the author was light on his recommendations, it would be with the fact that I think a person who really knows and loves books in the first place will do much better than the average entrepreneur. I suspect that one could get into real estate investing without a good knowledge of law, carpentry, or finance, but unlike houses, books are something which not everyone knows well. One test for an aspiring book merchandising operation would be to name the leading textbook authors in statistics, economics, symbolic logic, and organic chemistry. I cite these because Mr. Weber makes the excellent point that non-fiction books hold their value much better than fiction, especially current popular fiction. The author does not point this out, but a major exception to this rule should be manuals on computer software. No one has any use anymore for a text on Multiplan, dBase III, or Wordpro.
I especially liked Mr. Weber's recommendation that the reader consider specializing in a particular field, such as cookbooks. This is an especially good suggestion as everyone must eat and so everyone needs someone to cook for him or her. It is also a good field as there is a rich bibliography of out of print cookbooks which most foodies would love to have access to, such as English writer Jane Grigson's catalogue.
While Mr. Weber does not deal with any other type of goods, I suggest his suggestions would work almost as well for records, toys, or collectibles in general, as long as you know your subject.
I am very happy Mr. Weber provided his book to me for review as it is very unlikely I would have found it on my own, and it is an especially fertile plot of ideas, suggestions, and guidance regarding this enterprise. I am happy for him that he got his work into print when he did.