The Big World of Ebay Alternatives
Many ebay sellers are unhappy due to the unleashing of sweeping changes right before the holiday selling season – including forcing the use of paypal, setting shipping costs for books and other media, and suspending sellers if their feedback falls to merely “good.” The books category is also being swamped by a single seller, buy.com, which accounts for nearly half of all books listed (user id: buy).
This has reignited a search for alternatives that might offer fewer rules and lower fees. And they do exist. None have much reach as yet, and their book listings are nothing compared to books-only databases. But some of these alternatives are taking the “marketplace” concept in new directions, making ebay look as old as it really is (Internet years are even longer than dog years). New sites incorporate “Web 2.0” features that ebay and the databases don’t have, such as instant online communication between buyers and sellers, interactive events, and new functionalities for tagging, search, and browsing.
Sellers seem most excited about sites that recognize this is 2008, not 1998. One in particular that has caught my eye is bonanzle.com, a new start up that is seeing a record ramp up in just a few months, because it is everything ebay once was and now isn’t: fresh, simple, easy to use, and with some great new features, like smart categories and live chat. While it is still a work in progress, it has the instant usability and the viral appeal that made ebay such a phenom in its day. And it seems to be attracting the same antiquarian/vintage crowd that started ebay off.
Another important consideration is that the way people search is changing. Rather than going to a dozen different sites, a lot of people just hit up Google. So, there is much buzz about marketplaces that enable you to easily build a de facto storefront, and then automatically upload your items to search engines like Google. Ecrater.com seems to be the leader here, with 1.4 million listings. Bonanzle, buyitsellit, and blujay are other sites that offer this functionality as well.
Two other sites seem attractive on the surface because of their size, but they have issues. Ioffer.com has been around since 2001 and has 5.6 million listings; ebid.net, started in 1999, has about 1.1 million. Ioffer seems to be attracting mostly new merchandise – at least, judging by the list of buyers’ recent searches, it screams “outlet mall.” Ebid.net is primarily a UK site. It has a US overlay but little actual US business as of yet. It seems “old,” but then it is the most “ebay-like,” if you are just looking to stay in your comfort zone.
You can track metrics for some 20+ alternative sites at Power Sellers Unite. The forums on PSU also are a good place to see which sites are generating the most interest. None of the alternative sites may be the perfect answer, but they do provide some new avenues to explore as ebay moves aggressively toward a retail catalog model, and buyers (who still have no idea how to find abebooks) focus more on top-line searches.
Rebekah Bartlett, Coelacanth Books