The Daily Ping

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February 17th, 2000

Three New Sites, See How They Run

It will be interesting to see how this concept and business model works out in the long run. The idea here is that a community of users get rid of their books on this site, but don’t actually charge anything for them. This allows interested people to get, essentially, free books. A buyer pays only a dollar and change for shipping, and the seller sends it to them and is reimbursed by The Book Cart. Users are encouraged to put their books in the pool, in the spirit of the site, though it’s not a requirement, as you might guess from the name, “The Friendly Internet Paperback Exchange.” The two questions I have: 1 — can a company really sustain themselves strictly through advertising (especially when it does cost them every time someone takes advantage of a free book), and 2 — will there be enough people interested in trading their books online rather than selling them to a used bookstore? Number 1 I’m not sure about, but for number 2, I think that the answer is yes, especially in the case of readers of romance novels. The few people I know that do read romance tear through their books like there was no tomorrow and are likely to trade them in for more books. Beyond them, I’m not sure how active the site will be, but it should be a fun trip along the way.

Take the variety of ebay and combine it with the navigability and informative nature of Amazon, and you have Essentially, this is a bunch of small shops and individuals selling music, movies, and books for at least 50% off of retail (meaning they are either used or promotional items). The nice thing is that, unlike ebay, the descriptions are actually useful (have you ever actually read through item descriptions on ebay? The sellers have no command of the language and seem to have a burning desire to use goofy ways to get attention, like urging you to “L@@K” at an item). The seller just has to enter an ISBN (for books) or the UPC code (for movies and music) and the information is grabbed from a central database. The individual sellers actually take care of shipping you the merchandise, so there is a level of risk involved, but sellers are given ratings, just like on ebay. Right now, they’re running a free shipping promotion, which works out well — I picked up 4 CDs (some new, some not-so-new) for $32 shipped.

This site actually surprised me — at first look, it seemed to be nothing more than a shopping portal. But, go into one of the many categories and you’ll see that this site is quite different. You enter the item you want and the price you want to pay, and a number of sellers will try to win your business for this item. It’s not just for big ticket things, either — I put in two requests for out-of-print CDs and in less than a couple hours got a response for one of them: $11 with free shipping. Nice. It should be interesting to see how this model does, as the seller has to take a much more active role in the process than the traditional online storefront. -ram

Posted in Technology

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