If you shrivel at the sight of competition, maybe bookselling isn't for you.

A first post by a new writer here at The Bookshop Blog. Scott Davis runs an Amazon Store as well as an eBay Store. Check out his sites..

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What Doesn’t Kill You Only Makes You Stronger

As an online bookseller on Amazon, I’d grown used to perusing the local thrift shops at my leisure; my area was not exactly a hotbed of booksellers. Of course, there were many Ebay sellers who sometimes grabbed obviously expensive books, but until recently, my smartphone and I had our way with the locally available “inventory.”

Until late last year …

A competitor showed up, complete with fancy phone and a scouting service. And she was buying “my” books. I was flabbergasted, and, after some thought, more than a little worried. After all, I was a small seller, comparably, and got a good portion of my inventory from the local thrift shops. To share the wealth, so to speak, would greatly reduce my wealth.

I was not a happy scouter … until I remembered an incident when I first started selling online.

I was in a thrift store, looking at the books, saw a set of six Left Behind books, and grabbed them. A gentleman who also was looking at the books asked me if I was a reader or a dealer. Feigning innocence, I said reader, and asked him what he meant by “dealer.” He went on to explain to me about book selling, Amazon, etc., information that I already knew. I innocently asked him how much he made selling books. While I don’t remember the exact amount he told me, I remember being astounded, and, to be honest, somewhat skeptical. But, I decided at that point, that if good money was to be made selling books, I was going to get a piece of the proverbial pie. After several months of heavy book scouting at that location and others, I realized that I had never seen that gentleman again.

Did my entry into the marketplace force him out of the online book business? I don’t know. However, with the situation now somewhat reversed, I could either meekly accept the increased competition, and lower income, or I could use this perceived adversity to kick my business up a notch.

I chose the latter, and haven’t looked back.

Next time, we’ll talk about scoping out your competition.

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Discussion

  1. Nora

    I like having competitors. There’s four used book stores, including my own, in a two block area here. By and large our inventories don’t overlap. There’s no chains. If you want new books you either drive out to the strip area or get the best sellers at the local drugstore.

    Each time one opened, there were dire predictions that one of them would fold as each new one was added. (mine is the oldest) Nope. Sales have steadily increased. The only one that left was a place that sold nothing but mysteries and they actually just moved to an address in a different, more affluent town. (they left when there were two others in town)

    We could probably still take a few more bookstores in the area, no problem. Right up the road is a town with 220 antique stores! I kid you not. It’s a mecca for antique buffs. Stuff a few more bookstores here in town and we could do same for books. Already have a few people that come up from New York city for the day to do the tour. (that they’re all in so small an area helps enormously)

  2. George

    My own reading, my own experience and from studying the book business for the last 20 years from every angle I have been able to stumble upon – I have learned the best booksellers are not competition – they only complement and expand the book business in the long run and provide a real service to their communities.

    The ratholes which used to call themselves bookstores are mostly gone now and we all owe a debt of gratitude to the rising costs of rents for their demise – but the stench they left in their wake still haunts some of us.

    Our real competition is anything which distracts our customers and our potential customers from attending to themselves and what is actually happening in their own personal affairs – sports, sensationalistic journalism, news dealing with so-called celebrities, nonsense spouted by politicians and the inane repetition of the “news”.

    In other words – anything that “distracts and stupifies” people is our competition.

    Everyone who is working hard at building up the book business in and for your community is your ally – but those seeking “quick bucks” by shipping your community’s books hither and yon are doing the community a disservice, whether they realize it or not.

    Anytime worthwhile knowledge leaves an area, with little likelihood of it ever returning, a community is diminished.

    Start building or supporting the best brick and mortar stores in your community now and encourage them to work even harder at being a keystone to the community and providing all the service they are capable of – you and they owe it to your community.

  3. Bob Lewis

    Two good responses – but what both Nora and George missed was that Scott appears to be an ‘online-only’ bookseller. I have heard it said that B&M booksellers don’t have competitors – only colleages. Online-only sellers don’t have colleagues, only competitors.

    Bob

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