Table of Contents - Book Industry Study Group

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[copy for cover, title page and (as abbreviated) half-title page]
[front cover]
[title] Used-Book Sales
[subtitle] A Study of the Behavior, Structure, Size, and Growth of the U.S. Used-Book
Market
[additional cover lines.]
Prepared for the Book Industry Study Group by InfoTrends, with data provided by
Abebooks, Alibris, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, Biblio, eBay, and Powell’s, as well as
data provided by booksellers and consumers through surveys created and conducted for
this report.
1
[back cover]
[head] The first comprehensive report on used-book sales
How big is the used-book market and how fast is it growing?
To find answers to questions like these, the Book Industry Study Group, Inc., arranged to
collect sales data from the leading online book vendors and to perform extensive primary
research with hundreds of independent booksellers and thousands of consumers.
This study reveals and analyzes the results of BISG’s wide-ranging research.
Used-Book Sales is designed for publishers, booksellers, authors, agents, analysts and
media people who focus on publishing, and segments of the public.
Its pages provide:

estimates of the total size of the used-book industry

figures on the growth of used-book sales

information about the impact of used-book sales on publishers and traditional
booksellers

analyses of used-book distribution channels, including:
Used-book stores
Independent new-book stores
College stores
National bookstore chains
General retailers
Online marketplaces
Online retailers
Online specialists
Libraries
Thrift shops and resale stores
Book fairs and yard sales
In-depth analysis of used-book purchases and used-book sales by students and by
other consumers.
[bisg logo]
2
Published by the Book Industry Study Group, Inc., the publishing industry’s trade
association for policy, standards, and research.
3
[Title Page – Same copy as front cover]
Used-Book Sales
A Study of the Behavior, Structure, Size, and Growth of the U.S. Used-Book Market
Prepared for the Book Industry Study Group by InfoTrends, with data provided by
Abebooks.com, Alibris.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Biblio.com, eBay.com,
and Powell’s, as well as data provided by booksellers and consumers through surveys
created and conducted for this report.
4
[Copyright Page]
© 2006 by Book Industry Study Group, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this report may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without the express permission of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc
(www.bisg.org; 19 West 21st Street, Suite 905, New York, NY 10010).
Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use of specific clients is granted
by the Book Industry Study Group, Inc., provided the appropriate fee is paid directly to
Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Dr., Danvers, MA 01923. For those
organizations that have been granted a photocopy license by CCC, a separate system of
payment has been arranged. The fee code for users of Transactional Reporting System is
0-940016-87-7/2005/.$.75+.50.
The conclusions and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and not
necessarily those of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc., its officers and members.
Used-Book Sales
Printed in the United States
[ISBN 0-940016-87-7]
Book Industry Study Group, Inc.
www.bisg.org
info@bisg.org
5
[Note to typesetter: Bold and indents indicate heading levels not type spec choices; if
you like, we can redo to your specs]
6
CONTENTS
[need page numbers]
Sponsors
Partners
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Objectives
Definitions
Methodology
Primary Research
Secondary Research
Used-Book Market Sizing
Executive Summary
Used-Book Market Size and Growth
Conclusions
Used-Book Distribution Channels
Bookstores
Used-Book Stores
Independent New-Book Stores
College Stores
National Bookstore Chains
General Retailers
Online
Online Marketplaces
Online Retailers
Online Specialists
Other Locations
Libraries
Thrift Shops and Resale Stores
Book Fairs
Yard Sales
Bookseller Survey Findings
Methodology
Sample Profile
Summary of Findings
Size of Company
Revenue
Units
Hardcover vs. Paperback
In-Print vs. Out-of-Print
Units by Sales Method
Inventory
Returned Books
Browsing vs. Targeted Purchasing
Availability of Used Books
7
Impact on Sales of New Books
Prices of Used Books vs. New Books
Formal Buy-Back Program
Sourcing for Used Books
Impact of Used Books on Booksellers
Impact of the Internet on Booksellers
Consumer Survey Findings
Methodology
Sample Profile
Summary of Findings
Annual Book Purchasing
Profiles of New- and Used-Book Customers
Spending by Channel
Shopping Frequency and Habits
Availability of Used Books
Used-Book Spending by Category
Spending on Used Books Instead of New Versions
Used-Book Spending by Format
Book-Shopping Habits and Preferences
Price Sensitivity
Worst Condition of Used Book Willing to Purchase
Overall Value of Used Books
Satisfaction with Used-Book Purchases
Students and Consumers Selling Used Books
Considered Selling Used Books
Used-Book Market Size
New- and Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales by Category
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales by Category
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales by Channel
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales via Online Channels
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales via Bookstores
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales via Other Locations
Average Sales Prices
Used-Book Five-Year Growth Estimate
Conclusions
Used-Book Market Battles
Major Data Sources
About BISG
8
[new page]
Figures
[need page numbers]
Figure 1. U.S. New- and Used-Book Consumer Expenditures and Units
Figure 2. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market by Category—Units and Sales
Figure 3. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Units (million)
Figure 4. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Revenue ($ million)
Figure 5. U.S. Used-Book Store Population—Physical Stores
Figure 6. Independent Used-Book Store Profile
Figure 7. Independent New-Book Store Profile
Figure 8. Bookseller Respondents by Category
Figure 9. Bookseller Respondents by Annual Revenue
Figure 10. Bookseller Respondents by Number of Locations
Figure 11. Percentage of Bookseller Revenue by Category
Figure 12. Annual Book Sales—Units
Figure 13. Used-Book Seller vs. New-Book Seller Average Sales Price Comparison
Figure 14. Percentage of Bookseller Sales—Units
Figure 15. Percentage of New-Book Units by Category
Figure 16. Percentage of Used-Book Units by Category
Figure 17. Percentage of Units, Hardcover vs. Paperback
Figure 18. Percentage of Used Units, In-Print vs. Out-of-Print
Figure 19. Percentage of Units by Sales Method
Figure 20. Percentage of Used Books Sold via Third-Party Sites by Source
Figure 21. New- and Used-Book Inventory
Figure 22. Months Book Is Kept in Store or Warehouse Before Removing
Figure 23. Percentage of Online Book Orders Returned by Customer
Figure 24. Customers Browse Used Books or Have Title in Mind
Figure 25. Months from New Book Being Published to Availability of Used Book by
Type of Bookseller
Figure 26. Months from New Book Being Published to Availability of Used Book by
Annual Book Sales
Figure 27. Effect of Used Book on Sales of New Book with Same Title
Figure 28. Used-Book Price as Percentage of New-Book Price
Figure 29. Have Formal Program for Buying Back Used Books from Customers
Figure 30. Percentage of Used Books Acquired by Source
Figure 31. Impact of Sales of Used Books on Company
Figure 32. Impact of Internet on Company
Figure 33. Consumers by Age
Figure 34. Consumers by Gender
Figure 35. Consumers by Level of Education
Figure 36. Consumers by Employment Status
Figure 37. Consumers by Household Income
Figure 38. Consumers by Area in Which They Live
Figure 39. Number of Books Purchased in Last 12 Months
Figure 40. Amount Spent on Books in Last 12 Months
9
Figure 41. Mean Spending per Book
Figure 42. Respondents Who Purchased Used Book in Last 12 Months
Figure 43. Profile of Book Customers by Key Demographics
Figure 44. Profile of Nonstudent Book Customers by Key Demographics
Figure 45. Considered Purchasing Used Book in Last Year
Figure 46. Reasons for Not Purchasing Any Used Books
Figure 47. Change in Type of Books Purchased
Figure 48. Percentage of Spending on Books by Source—Students
Figure 49. Percentage of Spending on Books by Source—Nonstudents
Figure 50. Number of Times Books Purchased over Last 12 Months
Figure 51. Books and Spending per Purchase
Figure 52. Number of Times Respondent Has Purchased Books by Category
Figure 53. Bought Used Book and Later Bought New Book by Same Author
Figure 54. Price Comparisons—Students
Figure 55. Price Comparisons—Nonstudents
Figure 56. Availability of Used Version of Title
Figure 57. Percentage of Spending on Used Books by Category
Figure 58. Most Recent Used-Book Purchase—Students
Figure 59. Most Recent Used-Book Purchase—Nonstudents
Figure 60. Used-Book Purchases Instead of New Version
Figure 61. Percentage of Spending on Used Books by Format
Figure 62. Reasons to Purchase Hardcover Used Books
Figure 63. Book-Shopping Habits and Preferences
Figure 64. Influence of Factors in Purchase of Used Book vs. New Book
Figure 65. Highest Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Very Good Condition
Figure 66. Percentage of New-Book Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Very Good
Condition
Figure 67. Highest Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Fair-to-Good Condition
Figure 68. Percentage of New-Book Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Fair-to-Good
Condition
Figure 69. Worst Condition Acceptable for Used Book
Figure 70. Percentage of Used Books by Condition
Figure 71. Overall Used-Book Value vs. New Books
Figure 72. Whether New Books or Used Books Are Better
Figure 73. Satisfaction with Used Book-Purchases
Figure 74. Would Recommend Purchasing Used Book
Figure 75. Have Sold Used Book
Figure 76. Number of Used Books Sold over Last 12 Months
Figure 77. Percentage of Used Books Sold by Channel
Figure 78. Percentage of Sales of Used Books by Category
Figure 79. Considered Selling Used Book
Figure 80. Reasons for Not Considering Selling Used Book
Figure 81. Used-Book Market-Sizing Methodology
Figure 82. U.S. New- and Used-Book Consumer Expenditures and Units
Figure 83. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market by Category—Units and Sales
Figure 84. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Units, Sales, and Average Sales Price Summary
10
Figure 85. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Units (million)
Figure 86. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Revenue ($ million)
Figure 87. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market—Online Channels
Figure 88. U.S. Online Used-Book Market by Category—Units (million)
Figure 89. U.S. Online Used-Book Market by Category—Revenue ($ million)
Figure 90. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market—Bookstores
Figure 91. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market—Other Locations
Figure 92. Used-Book Average Sales Price by Category
Figure 93. Used-Book Average Sales Price by Channel and Category
Figure 94. Online Used-Book Average Sales Price by Category
Figure 95. Five-Year General Trade Used-Book Sales Projection
11
[Financial Sponsors page]
[head] Sponsors
The following companies contributed financially to this study:
[logo] HarperCollins Publishers is one of the world’s leading English-language
publishers, with headquarters in New York and operations in Canada, the U.K.,
Australia/New Zealand, and India. Its publishing groups include HarperCollins General
Books Group, HarperCollins Children’s Books Group, Zondervan, HarperCollins U.K.,
HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand, and HarperCollins India.
HarperCollins is a broad-based publisher with strengths in literary and commercial
fiction, business books, children’s books, cookbooks, mystery and romance books, and
religious and spiritual books.
Harper was established in 1817, Collins in 1819. Today, the company has 3,000
employees worldwide and revenues that top $1 billion annually.
In Fiscal 2005, HarperCollins had 103 titles on the New York Times bestseller list,
highlighted by fifteen titles that reached the number-one spot. HarperCollins U.K. had 41
titles on the Sunday Times bestseller list, with seven titles that went to number one.
HarperCollins Publishers dominated the July 29, 2005, Wall Street Journal list of
bestselling nonfiction, with eight titles making the list, including five in the top ten.
[logo] John Wiley & Sons, Inc., which was founded in 1807. provides essential content
and services to customers worldwide. Its core businesses include scientific, technical, and
medical journals, encyclopedias, books, and online products and services; professional
and consumer books and subscription services; and educational materials for
undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners. Wiley has publishing,
marketing, and distribution centers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and
Australia. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols
JWa and JWb. Wiley’s Internet site is www.wiley.com.
[logo] Penguin Group (USA) Inc., is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned
Penguin Group. A leading U.S. adult and children’s trade-book publisher, it owns a wide
range of imprints and trademarks, including Berkley Books, Dutton, Frederick Warne, G.
P. Putnam’s Sons, Grosset & Dunlap, New American Library, Penguin Books, The
Penguin Press, Philomel, Plume, Puffin, Riverhead Books, and Viking. The Penguin
Group (www.penguin.com) is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.
[logo] PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association, is a trade association of
independent book publishers. Founded in 1983, it now represents more than 4,200
publishers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Its mission is to advance
12
the professional interests of independent publishers. To this end, PMA provides
cooperative marketing programs, education, and advocacy within the publishing industry.
[logo] VISTA International is the leading worldwide provider of software solutions and
services for the publishing industry. VISTA is a committed business partner of
publishers, distributors, and booksellers supported by its systems throughout the world,
which are designed to fit all aspects of the publishing value chain, from author care
through production, rights, and royalties, to warehouse and fulfillment—all integrated in
an e-business environment, with full access to the analytical power of Publishing
Intelligence.
Complementing its comprehensive enterprise solutions, the full range of VISTA services
include applications implementation, applications management and hosting services,
offshore IT services, and publishing-specific business consulting, together with lifetime
customer support.
VISTA was founded in 1977 and has offices in Europe, North America, and the AsiaPacific region. Its Web site is www.vistacomp.com.
13
[Project Partners Page]
[head] Partners
Seven companies that sell used books online provided valuable data for this study. See
page [tk] for profiles of Abebooks.com, Alibris.com, Amazon.com, Barnes &
Noble.com, Biblio.com, eBay.com, and Powell’s.
The study also relies on data generously provided by:
American Booksellers Association. Founded in 1900, ABA is a not-for-profit
organization devoted to meeting the needs of its core members—independently owned
bookstores with retail storefront locations—through advocacy, education, research, and
information dissemination. The association actively supports free speech, literacy, and
programs that encourage reading. Each spring, it hosts the annual ABA Convention in
conjunction with BookExpo America. It is the sponsor of Book Sense: Independent
Bookstores for Independent Minds, a nationally integrated marketing campaign that
promotes books recommended by independent booksellers. ABA is headquartered in
Tarrytown, NY, and may be found on the Web at www.BookWeb.org.
Bowker. This leading source for bibliographic information provides searching,
analytical, promotional, and ordering services to publishers, booksellers, libraries, and
patrons through national and international brands, including Books In Print®, Global
Books In Print®, Books In Print IntelliMarket™, Syndetic Solutions™, Pubnet®,
PubEasy®, and Simba Information™. In the United States and Puerto Rico, Bowker is
also the ISBN and SAN Agency and a DOI registration agency for the publishing
industry. In Australia, Thorpe-Bowker is the ISBN Agency for Australia and New
Zealand, and publisher of Australian Bookseller & Publisher Magazine, the gateway to
the Australian book trade. Bowker is headquartered in New Providence, New Jersey, with
operations in East Grinstead, England, and Port Melbourne, Australia. More information
is available at www.Bowker.com.
Book Hunter Press. The publisher of the Used Book Lover’s Guide series, Book Hunter
has been tracking the used-book market in the United States and Canada since 1992. The
company maintains the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of nontextbook
brick-and-mortar used and antiquarian bookstores in North America. In 1999, it
published The Quiet Revolution: The Expansion of the Used Book Market, the first look
at the impact the Internet was having on the used-book market. In 2004, it published A
Portrait of the U.S. Used Book Market, an in-depth profile of both the bookstores and
online sellers that make up the nontextbook traditional used-book market. For more
information, visit www.bookhunterpress.com.
14
Monument Information Resource. MIR has been a resource for higher education
publishing professionals in need of accurate discipline and course intelligence for more
than ten years. It provides critical information on new and used textbook sales, book-inuse, and market share for college publishing editors, marketing managers, sales teams,
and management.
The National Association of College Stores. The professional trade association
representing the $11 billion collegiate retailing industry, NACS is headquartered in
Oberlin, Ohio, and serves as that industry’s leading resource and advocate. NACS works
to ensure the health and vitality of higher-education retailers through education and
research, critical programs and services, and the development of strategic partnerships
that enable members to better serve their customers.
15
[Acknowledgments Page]
[head] Acknowledgments
Research and analysis: InfoTrends, a global market research and consulting firm
specializing in the printing, publishing, and imaging industries. With more than 75
employees in the United States, Europe, Japan, and China, InfoTrends provides
information and advice to support business planning, product development, and market
strategies for leading technology vendors, paper manufacturers, commercial printers, and
publishers.
Printing: Quebecor World, an international leader in the manufacture of quality books
and directories for the consumer, educational, religious, telecommunications, and
specialty markets. One of the largest commercial printers in the world, Quebecor is a
market leader in most of its major product categories, which include magazines, inserts
and circulars, books, catalogs, direct mail, directories, digital premedia, logistics, mail list
technologies, and other value-added services. The company has approximately 34,000
employees working in more than 160 printing and related facilities in the United States,
Canada, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Finland, France, India,
Mexico, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. For more
information: www.quebecorworld.com.
Production: Richard Elman, a senior production manager at Random House.
Copy editing: Judith Stein of West End Editorial Services, Long Branch, N.J.
Design and layout: North Market Street Graphics, a prepress and composition house that
has served the publishing community for more than twenty years.
Proofreading: Michael Psaltis, editor of BISG Bulletin, head of Psaltis Literary, Inc., and
co-author of The Seasoning of a Chef (Doubleday Broadway, 2005).
16
Introduction
Over the past few years, anecdotal reports and studies of parts of the used-book universe
have fueled the belief that the book market’s used-book segment is growing fast. To shed
light on used-book sales across the entire industry, the Book Industry Study Group
(BISG) launched a large-scale project in the spring of 2005. Because BISG is a trade
association that represents all sectors of the book business, we were uniquely qualified to
survey, research, and analyze all aspects of used-book sales and generate a
comprehensive report.
A study of used-book sales has long been on the BISG agenda, and we had reviewed
several proposals without finding one that met our stringent requirements. Then the BISG
Research Committee took on the challenge. To fulfill its mandate to collect and distribute
information about the book industry, the committee continually examines data and
pinpoints areas that warrant extensive examination.
Exploring existing research on used books, the Research Committee quickly concluded
that a comprehensive analysis of the size, structure, and behavior of the used-book
market in the United States was needed. Target audiences for this analysis would be
publishers and booksellers of all sorts (including but not limited to those who are BISG
members); authors, agents, analysts, and media people who focus on publishing; and
segments of the general public.
Because we believed that the only way to generate a comprehensive understanding of
used-book sales was to get data from the consumers, booksellers, and vendors propelling
this dynamic market segment, we set an ambitious goal. To create our study, we would
partner with and request sales data from the leading online book vendors and perform
extensive primary research with hundreds of booksellers and thousands of consumers,
including students.
Coordinating this effort and obtaining the cooperation and support of all parties became a
project of the sort BISG is designed to run. Keys to its success included getting strong
backing from financial sponsors, channel-data providers, and project partners, and
arranging for thousands of consumers and booksellers to complete detailed surveys on
their buying and selling habits.
Results were tabulated and analyzed by researchers at InfoTrends and previewed at the
2005 BISG Annual Meeting and Fall Conference, which highlighted such top-line
findings as: total used-book revenue exceeded $2.2 billion and 111 million units in 2004,
an 11 percent increase over 2003; and the most dramatic growth occurred in the general
trade category and the online channel—up 30 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
Many contributors helped bring this project to fruition.
HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, Penguin Group (U.S.A.), PMA: The Independent
Publishers Association, and VISTA International generously provided financial
sponsorship.
17
Abebooks.com, Alibris.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Biblio.com, Bowker,
eBay.com, MIR, and Powell’s delivered invaluable channel data to InfoTrends for
aggregation and analysis.
The American Booksellers Association, Book Hunter Press, Bowker, Monument
Information Resource, and the National Association of College Stores—our project
partners—provided advice, insight, and assistance.
We are grateful to all for helping find answers to some of the industry’s most pressing
questions.
Our thanks also to North Market Street Graphics, which donated the cover design,
interior design, and layouts for this study; and to Quebecor World Book Services, which
donated the printing and binding.
The report that follows is the first detailed analysis of the size and characteristics of the
used-book market as a substantial and growing segment of the book business. Its findings
on market size, channels, categories, and customers should help people in all segments of
the book industry see, describe, and interact with the used-book sector in new and
productive ways.
Jeff Abraham, Executive Director, Book Industry Study Group, Inc.
18
Objectives
This study provides detailed insights into the size, structure, and behavior of the usedbook market in the United States. Its target audience includes publishers, booksellers, and
other industry players who need to understand and deal with the impact of used books,
defensively and/or in terms of opportunities they provide.
The overall objectives of the study are to:

size the market for used books in the United States by channel (bookstore, online
bookseller, and others) and by category (antiquarian and collectible, educational,
children’s, fiction, nonfiction, religious, and professional)

develop a business profile of used-book sellers

profile and assess the behavior of used-book customers (students and other
consumers)

identify the impact of used-book sales on book publishers and booksellers.
Definitions
Used book: A book sold to an end consumer and then sold again by a professional
bookseller or an individual.
The definition excludes hurt and remainder books, but we recognize that booksellers and
consumers may not be sure if a book is used or a hurt or remainder book. In the survey
work with booksellers and when obtaining transaction data from the online booksellers,
we asked the participants to exclude hurt and remainder books from figures on used
books to the best of their ability.
Bookseller: A professional or consumer selling directly to an end customer. Professional
booksellers, which sell books on a regular basis as a means of generating income, include
traditional used-book stores, independent bookstores, college stores, thrift and resale
outlets, libraries, online retailers (e.g., Barnes & Noble.com), and online specialists with
no physical stores. Many booksellers sell through online marketplaces (e.g., Abebooks,
Alibris, Amazon, Biblio) or other locations (e.g., book fairs).
Consumers who sell books to other consumers via an online marketplace (e.g., Amazon,
eBay) or via a yard sale are considered booksellers. Most consumer booksellers sell only
a few books per year to recapture some of the books’ costs. They are not in the business
of generating income from used-book sales.
Consumers who sell books to a professional bookseller are not considered booksellers.
Book categories: InfoTrends sorted the transaction data for this study into BISAC
Subject Code groups, which we also used in the bookseller survey . Detailed definitions
of the BISAC Subject Codes are available at www.bisg.org.
The categories we used are:
19






Antiquarian and collectible
o Antiques and collectibles
Education
o Education
o Foreign-language study
o Language arts and disciplines
o Literary criticism
o Mathematics
o Philosophy
o Psychology
o Study aids
Children’s
o Juvenile fiction
o Juvenile nonfiction
Fiction
o Comics and graphic novels
o Drama
o Fiction
o True crime
Nonfiction
o Art
o Biography and autobiography
o Cooking
o Crafts and hobbies
o Family and relationships
o Games
o Gardening
o Health and fitness
o History
o House and home
o Humor
o Literary collections
o Music
o Nature
o Performing arts
o Pets
o Photography
o Poetry
o Political science
o Science
o Self-help
o Social science
o Sports and recreation
o Transportation
o Travel
Religion
20

o Religion
o Body, mind, and spirit
Professional
o Architecture
o Business and economics
o Computers
o Law
o Medical
o Reference
o Technology
21
Methodology
Primary Research
InfoTrends used a variety of industry resources and conducted extensive primary research
to complete this study.
Under strict nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements, we obtained transaction data
on used-book dollar and unit sales in the United States for calendar years 2003 and 2004
from the leading online booksellers. Vendors supplying ISBN-level or BISAC-level
dollar and unit sales data included:

Abebooks.com (excluding reseller programs)

Alibris.com (excluding reseller programs)

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble.com

Biblio.com

eBay.com (including Half.com)

Powell’s (only for its own site, Powells.com)
Bowker assigned BISAC codes to the ISBNs . For the college textbook and education
market, InfoTrends worked with Bowker’s Monument Information Resource (MIR)
division. MIR collects transaction data from approximately 1,400 college stores and
managed stores (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Follett, Nebraska), which represent about 55
percent of industry sales. MIR projections include the rest of the college market.
InfoTrends also examined data from the National Association of College Stores (NACS),
which conducts surveys of its members.
To generate insights on used-book sales from offline booksellers (e.g., local used-book
stores, independent new-book stores), InfoTrends conducted a Web-based structured survey
of booksellers.
The booksellers in the sample came from Book Hunter Press and American Booksellers
Association (ABA) databases. Book Hunter Press, which tracks sales through out-of-print
and antiquarian booksellers in the United States and Canada, sent an email to approximately
3,720 of its members requesting participation. ABA, which represents independent
bookstores in the United States, sent an email to approximately 1,800 of its members
requesting participation. In both cases the Book Industry Study Group was identified as the
sponsor of the study. Respondents were offered a summary of the findings and inclusion in a
drawing for an Apple iPOD in exchange for their participation.
From these two sources, InfoTrends received 510 usable responses, representing a 9.2
percent response rate.
22
To generate data from consumers, InfoTrends designed and managed another structured
survey. The sample for this was drawn from Survey Sampling, which manages large
panels of consumers and professionals for online research and which offered a financial
incentive to respond. BISG was not identified as the sponsor of this survey.
It yielded responses from 1,695 consumers and 337 higher education students.
Secondary Research
InfoTrends gathered and analyzed a wide range of information from a variety of industry
sources, including:

American Booksellers Association

American Library Association

Book Hunter Press

Book Industry Study Group and its Book Industry TRENDS studies

U.S. Census Bureau

Christian Booksellers Association

U.S. Department of Commerce, County Business Patterns

Information Today and its American Book Trade Directory

National Association of College Stores

National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores

National Flea Market Association

bookseller Web sites

industry experts, including leading publishers, booksellers, trade association
executives, editors of trade publications, and consultants
Used-Book Market Sizing
InfoTrends developed a detailed market model and analyzed the primary and secondary
research findings to size the used-book market for 2003 and 2004.
Transaction data from the online vendors and data from MIR account for approximately
70 percent of the used-book revenue and 50 percent of the used-book units. Projections
from the bookseller- and consumer-survey work underlie the other portion.
InfoTrends also made top-line projections out to 2010 based on discussions with industry
experts and comparisons with other markets (e.g., markets for textbooks, used cars, thirdparty imaging supplies, rental DVDs).
23
Executive Summary
The book industry continues to go through a significant transformation as the Internet
changes the ways authors, publishers, booksellers, and end customers interact. The rapid
growth of the general trade used-book market is a direct result of the Internet’s ability to
eliminate much of the friction in the buying and selling process.
The various online marketplaces and e-businesses have:

exposed thousands of used-book inventories and millions of used books in unified
marketplaces

organized inventory so that customers can find desired books efficiently

dramatically reduced the cost of selling a used book by eliminating the need for
physical retail locations

let additional used books enter the market quickly

provided a market-based bookseller rating system to reduce risk for the customer

manifested multiple business models that appeal to different kinds of booksellers and
book customers
Used-Book Market Size and Growth
E-commerce has brought transparency and efficiency to the used-book market. And the
market is exploding. InfoTrends estimates that total used-book revenue exceeded $2.2
billion, and that 111 million used-book units were sold in 2004, up 11 percent over 2003.
While educational used books and the college bookstore channel continue to account for
the largest segment of used-book revenue ($1.6 billion), the most dramatic growth is in
the general trade (noneducation) segment and the online channel.

Sales of general trade used books reached $589 million in 2004, up 30 percent from
2003.

Online used-book sales reached $609 million (excluding shipping fees) in 2004, up
33 percent from 2003. Abebooks, Alibris, and Biblio indicated that sales grew at
similar or faster rates in 2005.

Traditional independent used-book stores are generating about 40 percent of their
business via the Internet.

Many independent new-book stores are now selling used books.

A new type of bookseller—the online specialist—has emerged and is not constrained
by costs associated with traditional physical bookstores.

Consumers can easily resell their used books via Amazon and eBay.
24

Consumers express high satisfaction with their used-book experiences. Nearly 75
percent would recommend to friends that they consider purchasing a used book.

Used books accounted for approximately 4.6 percent of total units (new plus used)
and 5.4 percent of total consumer domestic expenditures on books in 2004.
Figure 1. U.S. New- and Used-Book Consumer Expenditures and Units
Educational books (textbooks and other course material) are the most important usedbook category, accounting for 38.6 million units (34.7 percent of all used-book units) and
$1.633 billion in sales (73.5 percent of the total revenue). Noneducational book
categories—including fiction, nonfiction, and antiquarian and collectible titles—
accounted for 72.6 million units (65.3 percent of all used-book units) and $589 million in
sales (26.5 percent).
Figure 2. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market by Category—Units and Sales
Nearly 37 percent of used-book units were sold through online channels, including online
marketplaces, online specialists, and Web sites for national bookstore chains and
independent bookstores. About 45 percent of used-book units were sold at physical
bookstores. The remaining 18 percent were sold through other channels, including thrift
shops, book fairs, and yard sales.
Figure 3. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Units (million)
Unit sales of used books through online channels increased 34.2 percent in 2004 as
compared with 2003, representing the majority of year-over-year growth in the used-book
market. Bookstore used-book units were up only 0.8 percent, and most of that growth
was in college stores.
Unit sales of used books at independent bookstores (excluding college stores) are
declining.
The bookstore channel accounted for over 70 percent of used-book revenue, followed by
online channels at 27 percent and other channels at a mere 3 percent. The high bookstore
share reflects the fact that most used textbooks are sold through bookstores at much
higher average sales prices than those of general trade titles. “Other Locations” tend to
move many units but often at extremely low prices (under $5).
Figure 4. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Revenue ($ million)
25
Conclusions
The used-book market is in the midst of a rapid growth stage and will undergo significant
transformation over the next few years.
We see three major battles in the used-book market.
1. The battle for booksellers to tie into electronic marketplaces. This battle is almost
over. The major marketplaces have been rapidly adding used-book sellers over the last
three years. We expect that virtually all used-book sellers will participate in one or more
of these marketplaces within two or three years.
2. The battle to secure desired inventory. Booksellers and marketplaces need a timely,
steady flow of high-demand/high-value titles to grow revenue and meet customer
expectations. There will be increasing competition for used copies of new titles soon after
initial publication.
3. The battle for consumers. This is the ultimate battle. As the marketplaces become
saturated with booksellers and as inventory replenishment models are optimized,
booksellers and marketplaces will need to retain and expand their customer bases.
Publishers, particularly trade and professional publishers, factoring the growing usedbook market into their changing business equations, will focus on several developments,
including these:

The global inventory of used books has become much more transparent because of
the Internet.

Booksellers are increasing their inventory and marketing of used books.

Used-book prices are dropping, and the delta with new-book prices is increasing.

Consumers are very satisfied with the used-book experience.

Consumers’ book-buying behavior is changing; often, they consider used books as
they make buying decisions.

The used-book market is growing rapidly and will continue to grow for the
foreseeable future.

Publishers and authors are not participating at significant levels in this market.
Booksellers are likely to focus on the fact that virtually all used-book channels are or will
be tied to or impacted by the Web. Used-book sellers that are not participating in one or
more Internet marketplaces today are clearly late to market and probably losing share to
other players.
A shift of sales of used educational books to the Internet is likely to happen at a slower
rate and be less extensive than the shift in the general trade market.
26
Used-Book Distribution Channels
Used books are distributed through thousands of locations, ranging from highly
automated online marketplaces to local used-book stores to neighborhood yard sales.
Each channel has its own economics and trends that must be examined to develop a
complete understanding of used-books distribution.
Bookstores
Used books have traditionally been sold through a variety of brick and mortar stores,
including dedicated used-book stores, independent new-book stores, and college stores.
InfoTrends estimates that approximately 11,500 physical bookstores sell used books in
the U.S., that about 65 percent of independent new-book stores sell used books, and that
about 85 percent of college stores sell them.
.
Figure 5. U.S. Used-Book Store Population—Physical Stores
Used-Book Stores
There are approximately 4,200 independent used-book stores throughout the United
States, ranging from very small paperback exchanges and sole proprietorships to very
large bookstores such as Acres Books, Half Price Books, The Strand, and Powell’s. The
vast majority of used-book stores are small businesses with a single location and annual
revenue under $200,000. Many traditional used-book stores focus on antiquarian and rare
books, specific genres, or categories such as military history.
The following figure summarizes some of the findings from survey responses from 304
used-book stores.
Figure 6. Independent Used-Book Store Profile
The survey of used-book stores also found that most are generating a substantial portion
of their revenue from Internet-based sales; 80 percent indicated they are selling used
books via the Web.
The Internet-enabled used-book stores are generating 40 percent of their used-book
revenue via the Web and 60 percent from sales at stores, at other locations, or through
mail order.
They get 35 percent of their Web-based sales via online marketplaces (e.g., Abebooks,
Alibris, Amazon, Biblio, TomFolio) and only 5 percent through sites of their own. Many
used-book stores have limited IT and marketing resources for creating a strong online
presence. Third-party solutions enable a used-book store to upload its inventory, receive
orders, and process transactions efficiently.
The online marketplaces also give local used-book stores access to a much wider market
than they could otherwise reach. Consumers are far more likely to visit a major online
27
site where they can find a large portion of the industry inventory, get competitive prices,
and have their transactions process by a trusted supplier. While some repeat customers
may go to the site of a used-book seller listed by a marketplace, InfoTrends believes the
vast majority of consumers shop and complete transactions via the online marketplace
site.
Brick-and-mortar used-book stores will continue to account for a meaningful part of
used-book store sales, but we believe that the percentage of Web-based sales will keep
rising over the next three to five years. We also anticipate that a significant portion of
used-book store owners will decide they can be more profitable by closing their physical
stores, eliminating their overhead costs (lease, labor, utilities, taxes, etc.), and becoming
online specialists (see below).
We also believe that over the next few years the vast majority of used-book stores will be
tied in with one or more of the online marketplaces. Owners that avoid the online channel
are shutting themselves out of the primary source of growth in the market.
Independent New-Book Stores
There are approximately 6,100 independent new-book stores, including 3,300 general
trade and 2,800 religious bookstores. These figures exclude branches of large bookstore
chains (e.g. Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million) as well as college stores and
general retailers’ stores.
New-book stores that sell used books tend to focus on the general trade, religious, and
education categories; they have much less interest in antiquarian and collectible titles, as
compared with used-book stores.
New-book stores are small businesses, but they tend to be larger than bookstores
specializing in used books. The sixty-two new-book stores that responded to our survey
had mean annual revenue of just over $1 million. After discussing this finding with the
sample source (American Bookseller Association), we have concluded that the median
revenue figure of $250,000 represents the typical new-book store more accurately.
Figure 7 summarizes some of the findings from responses to the survey from sixty-two
independent new-book stores.
Figure 7. Independent New-Book Store Profile
The research suggests that new-book stores leverage store traffic more than used-book
stores do; 82.3 percent of the used books they sell are sold at their stores, while only 15.4
percent are sold via the Web (the other 2.3 percent are sold via mail order, book fairs, and
the like). Only 40 percent of new-book stores that sell used books indicated they sell via
the Internet. InfoTrends believes this percentage will rise substantially over the next few
years.
For most of their Web-based sales of used books, new-book stores use third-party
marketplaces (78.6 percent of their Web-based sales are via third-party sites). However,
new-book stores report a higher percentage of Web-based sales from customers who
28
purchase directly from their sites (21.4 percent) than used-book stores that sell via the
Web report (only 11.5 percent). Perhaps new-book stores have more resources to apply
toward their own sites and more interest in promoting their brands and driving traffic to
their physical locations.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of independent new-book stores
declined to 11,036 from 12,151 over the last six years. Based on interviews with industry
insiders, InfoTrends believes that the causes of the decline include increasing competition
from national bookstore chains and mass merchandisers, emergence of the online sales
model and major online retailers, and flat-to-declining readership levels. However, the
ABA believes that over the past two or three years the decline in new-book stores has
stopped and that their numbers may now be increasing slightly.
College Stores
The National Association of College Stores (NACS) reports there are 4,650 college stores
serving 4,168 educational institutions in the United States, and an additional 200 such
stores in Canada. These stores include traditional textbook stores and annexes, as well as
campus stores and other retail outlets that primarily serve students. Over 75 percent of the
college stores (3,536) sell books. Most of these stores, especially the large bookstores,
sell used books.
NACS reports that approximately 2,400 of the college stores in the U.S. are university
owned; 1,375 are contract stores managed by a third party (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Follett,
CBA), and 880 are privately owned. The number of contract-managed stores has doubled
over the last 15 years.
NACS conducts an annual survey with approximately 400 of its members to generate
statistics on revenue, business composition, and trends. Highlights from the NACS 2004
College Store Industry Financial Report* include:
[typesetter -- please indent sub-sector dollar figures, more or less as indicated below]
Total Revenue
$10.9 billion
Noncourse material
$4.0 billion
Computer products
$1.2 billion
Insignia merchandise
$1.1 billion
Other merchandise
$0.65 billion
Student supplies
$0.62 billion
General/trade books
$0.44 billion
Course material
$6.9 billion
New textbooks
$5.0 billion (63 percent)
Used textbooks
$1.75 billion
Course packs
$0.22 billion
29
[Footnote]* Figures are for North America (U.S. and Canada).
Because NACS definitions relate to the nature of professors’ requirements for students
attending their classes regardless of format or type of publication, publishers’ data on
sales of college textbooks may not be directly comparable to college stores’ newtextbook data. Also, NACS notes, many college stores ring up sales of custom publishing
materials and course packs (i.e., material compiled from multiple sources and printed on
demand) as new textbook sales.
NACS indicates the vast majority of college stores’ textbook sales occur at physical
stores. A recent survey of NACS members found that only $268 million (2.5 percent) of
all college store sales—including sales of clothing and other nonbook products as well as
sales of books—are via the Web.
However, other NACS research, done as part of its Fall 2004 Student Watch survey,
found that 16 percent of students bought textbooks online, and 31 percent of these
students bought from college Web site, although their purchases were not necessarily
textbooks. InfoTrends believes that student purchasing of books via the Web is rising
rapidly and that most of the growth is taking place at non-college-store sites, now that
Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com (B&N.com), Buyback, Ecampus, efollett, Half.com,
TextbookX, and other online retailers focus on or devote major sections of their sites to
college textbooks.
NACS indicated to InfoTrends that college stores often pay between 40 and 70 percent of
the new-book price for a used textbook in good enough condition to be used in the next
semester. However, the price typically drops to less than 5 percent of the new-book price
when a new edition is available or the title is not going to be used in the next semester.
By studying the prices for used textbooks at B&N.com (which has a dedicated section on
its Web site for buying used textbooks from students), we found that it typically pays
from 20 to 35 percent of the new-book price for a used textbook. B&N.com covers
shipping costs by providing prepaid address labels for selling students to affix to the
boxes they use to send their used books.
InfoTrends believes that college stores will continue to account for the majority of used
textbook sales for the foreseeable future. A physical location and proximity to customers
are advantages, allowing students to inspect used books before making purchases. And
since college stores tend to pay above-average prices for used books, their inventory for
upcoming semesters is good.
However, college bookstores are facing increasing competition from Web-based
alternatives. They will be competing for inventory with the likes of eBay and Amazon as
students make rational decisions, based on price and convenience, about selling used
books. We expect that students will turn to the Web to sell books that will not be used in
the next semester at their schools. We also expect that more students will compare prices
before purchasing at the college store, especially for general trade books used for courses.
30
National Bookstore Chains
National and large regional bookstore chains (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-AMillion) generally do not sell used books at their stores, and InfoTrends does not
anticipate that this will change fundamentally, although branches in certain locations
(such as college towns) may have limited inventories of used books to fit local market
conditions.
B&N.com and Books-A-Million (BAM) do sell used books through their branded Web
sites. However, both companies rely on virtual inventory from a network of resellers
managed by Alibris.
B&N.com promotes its network of used-book sellers. When a customer places an order
via B&N.com, information on shipping, confirmation, and related matters is attributed to
the bookseller that is fulfilling the order.
BAM does not promote a “network of resellers,” preferring to have the listings, ordering,
shipping, confirmation, and related transaction activities be BAM-branded. Although the
inventory is also via Alibris, the interface is BAM’s site, and booksellers ship the book to
a BAM facility, where BAM inspects it, repackages it, and sends it to the customer.
General Retailers
Roughly 7,100 general retailers (such as cookware stores, art stores, and department
stores) carry books, according to the American Book Trade Directory, but they do not
typically sell used books, and books are only a small part of their business. They prefer a
traditional distribution model in terms of pricing, margins, stocking, marketing, and
returns.
InfoTrends believes the vast majority of general retailers that sell books will never get
into the used-book business at their stores, but they may get into it through online
channels. Conceivably, some of these general retailers could sell used books through their
Web sites via online marketplaces. Essentially, this would involve leveraging the
customer base and site, but not adding much in the way of fixed costs. Any sales would
be incremental and not likely to cannibalize store sales of new books. Possible concerns
for general retailers would include negative impact on their brands (if a third-party
bookseller mishandled an order, that would reflect poorly on the retailer and its brand)
and competition with low-cost/high-volume established booksellers.
Online
The online channel is where virtually all the growth in the used-book market is taking
place. InfoTrends estimates that sales of used books through online channels grew by 33
percent in 2004 vs. 2003. All the major online players reported significant growth in their
used-book business, while used-book sales at bookstores and other locations (e.g.,
libraries and backyards) were relatively flat, especially in the noneducation categories.
Online sales of used books have grown dramatically because e-commerce eliminates
much of the friction that exists in the traditional used-book business.

Customers can easily search the industry inventory of used books by title, author,
book format, book condition, price, and other attributes.
31

Professional booksellers and consumers can easily list their books using automated,
Web-based tools tied to multiple sales venues.

Transactions—including processing of credit cards, confirmation of sale,
confirmation of shipping, and in some cases information on shipping status—are
secure and automated.

Customers can ask questions about books via email.

Rating information about the bookseller is available.

Fulfillment rates are high and delivery times are consistent with those for new books.
Of all these factors, the most important are the first two. While many consumers get
pleasure out of visiting a used-book store and browsing the shelves and tables for a
hidden treasure, that process tends to be very slow, and often it does not yield results. For
consumers who have a specific title in mind, visiting a used-book store is far less efficient
than going to a Web-based marketplace or retailer.
From the seller’s perspective, the physical used-book store serves only customers within
a very limited distance. Except for customers who are looking for rare title or who called
the store ahead of time to confirm that a book they want is in stock, the store’s customers
are people who live or work within a few miles of it. The Internet eliminates location
from the purchasing process and lets sellers reach a much larger market. It comes as no
surprise that used-book stores with Web sites report that over 35 percent of their usedbook sales are via the Web.
The online channel includes marketplaces, retailers, and specialists.

Marketplaces provide a platform other booksellers can use to sell their books via the
Web. Examples of marketplaces include Abebooks, Alibris, Amazon, B&N.com,
Biblio, eBay, and TomFolio.

Online retailers focus primarily on selling both new and used books to consumers
through their branded sites. Examples include Powells.com, BAM, and efollett

Online specialists are professional booksellers that sell through marketplaces.
Usually, they are individuals or very small companies, with fewer than five
employees and no physical retail stores.
It is not uncommon for a marketplace site and a retailer site to work together (e.g.,
Alibris, B&N.com), and it is also not uncommon for them to compete against each other
for used-book sales.
Online Marketplaces
The platform that online marketplaces provide for other booksellers typically includes
tools for listing books and a transaction engine. The marketplace usually does not take
possession of physical books and typically receives a flat fee and/or a percentage of the
sale for each transaction. The bookseller is responsible for fulfillment and customer
service.
Responsibilities of the marketplace include:
32

a set of listing tools for the bookseller

a search tool for the consumer

a shopping basket

a transaction engine (e.g., credit card, PayPal)

a branded site for consumer shopping (with search, shopping cart, reviews, etc.)

bookseller rating tools for consumers

transaction data and reports for the bookseller
Responsibilities of the seller include:

uploading inventory information (e.g., ISBN, condition, price)

setting price

setting terms (which often depend on a marketplace’s requirements)

dealing with customer inquiries and service issues

fulfillment
Within the marketplace segment, Abebooks, Alibris, Biblio, and TomFolio primarily
serve traditional independent used-book and new-book stores, providing tools
professional booksellers can use to manage inventory, list books, offer sales data, and
automate other business activities. Abebooks, Biblio, and TomFolio all promote their
sites directly to end consumers and do not partner with other retailers. Alibris has a
consumer site and also provides a service that lets booksellers list once and automatically
have their inventory appear at numerous locations (e.g., Amazon, B&N.com).
A growing portion of used-book stores and new-book stores belong to at least one online
marketplace, and many independent booksellers have accounts with multiple
marketplaces. InfoTrends estimates that around 70 percent of used-book stores are
working with at least one online marketplace. The number of independent new-book
stores working with an online marketplace is less clear, but we estimate that
approximately 30 percent have an account. We believe that the vast majority of
independent used-book and new-book stores will be part of at least one online
marketplace within the next two or three years.
The following is a partial list of online book marketplaces in North America and Europe.
Abebooks, Victoria, BC (www.abebooks.com); 13,000 booksellers
AddAll (www.addall.com) book search engine
33
Alibris, Emeryville, CA (www.alibris.com); 10,000 booksellers
Amazon, Seattle, WA (www.amazon.com)
Antiqbook, Europe (www.antiqbook.com); 400 booksellers
Barnes & Noble.com, New York, NY (www.barnesandnoble.com)
Biblio, Asheville, NC (www.biblio.com) ; 4,200 booksellers
Bibliology, Europe (www.bibliography.com); 15 booksellers
Biblion, London (www.biblion.com); 500 booksellers
Bibliophile Bookbase, Zurich (www.bibliophile.net); 250 booksellers
Bibliopoly, Europe (www.bibliopoly.com); 70 booksellers
Books & Collectibles, Australia (www.booksandcollectibles.com.au); 300 booksellers
eCampus, Lexington, KY (www.ecampus.com)
Elephantbooks, Gilroy, CA (www.elephantbooks.com)
Half.com, San Jose, CA (www.half.com); consumer marketplace
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, Europe (www.ilab-lila.com); 2,000
booksellers.
Maremagnum, Italy (www.maremagnum.com); 500 booksellers
TomFolio, North Potomac, MD (www.tomfolio.com); 200 booksellers
ZVAB/ChooseBooks, Berlin (www.zvab.com)
Online Retailers
Online retailers focus primarily on selling new and used books to consumers via their
branded sites. Some, including Powells.com and efollett, sell mostly their own inventory.
Others, including BAM and eCampus, maintain virtual used-book inventories supplied by
Alibris. Unlike B&N.com, which promotes its network of booksellers and has consumers
purchase from third parties, these online retailers control the entire customer brand
experience. The consumer buys from the online retailer, and no mention is made of the
source for the books.
Online Specialists
Online specialists are professional booksellers that do not have physical bookstores and
sell primarily through online marketplaces. Our bookseller survey of 144 online
specialists indicates that they generate 71.8 percent of their revenue through
marketplaces, 14.8 percent through their own Web sites, and 14.4 percent otherwise. The
survey also indicates that most online specialists are small businesses or part-time
operations with relatively low annual units (1,784 mean, 750 median) and revenue
($36,200 mean, $10,000 median). Online specialists generate a higher portion of their
34
used-book revenue from the sale of antiquarian and collectible books than used-book
stores or new-book stores.
The number of online specialists is difficult to estimate because they are typically very
small businesses with only one or two employees, and they tend not to show up in the
Yellow Pages or other directories. Based on survey data and on interviews with Book
Hunter Press and the online marketplaces, InfoTrends estimates there are 5,000 to 6,000
online specialists in the United States.
We expect the population of online specialists to grow over the next few years as some
owners of brick-and-mortar used-book stores close their doors and focus exclusively on
Internet-based sales. We also expect to see a growing number of part-time online
specialists who resell books they purchased for personal use and books they bought at
book fairs, yard sales, and related events. Many book scouts, collectors, and enthusiasts
will find it very easy to establish a used-book business by selling exclusively through
various online marketplaces.
Other Locations
Used books are sold at many locations besides physical stores and Web sites. Every week
there are thousands of yard sales, library sales, and book events where consumers can
find hidden gems like a first-edition Hemingway or really inexpensive copies of fiction
and nonfiction titles. These locations do not account for a significant portion of usedbook revenue, but they are a source of inventory that could become more important in the
future. Their biggest limitations today have to do with their lack of online inventory and
an online marketplace, and with the fact that much of the “good stuff” is being sold on
eBay and no longer making its way to local events.
Libraries
According to the American Library Association (ALA), there are approximately 117,000
libraries in the United States, including:

8,896 central libraries

7,500 branches

3,527 academic libraries

93,861 school libraries

9,526 special libraries (e.g., corporate, medical, religious)

1,539 government and armed services libraries
BISG estimates that these institutions account for nearly 10 percent of total spending on
new books, excluding textbooks.
Libraries have a vast inventory of books that they must manage with limited space and
limited financial resources. At their book sales events, they offer books culled from
inventory and books that local residents have donated. Prices are typically very low,
ranging from around 25 cents for paperbacks to $5 for hardcover books in very good
condition.
35
Two recent trends involve having in-library stores with shelves of used books for sale,
and disposing of large quantities of books through online resellers. While in-library stores
typically do not account for a significant volume of used-book sales, InfoTrends believes
the use of the Internet to dispose of excess library inventory is likely to grow rapidly.
Accordingly, we anticipate that libraries will become a growing source for used books
through online marketplaces over the next five years. .
Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOL; www.folusa.org) indicates that more FOL
organizations are selling donated books online to reach a larger audience for specialized
items and to increase their income. The organization has a list of about thirty libraries that
are now selling used books online through a variety of partners, including Abebooks,
Amazon, Biblio, ChoooseBooks, eBay, Half.com, Librarybooksales.org, and their own
sites.
Libraries also sell online through Librarybooksales.org (and .com), a marketplace whose
goal is helping libraries generate funds to continue serving the “better good.” The project,
which is not open to commercial booksellers, serves public, private, institutional, special,
educational, foreign, and domestic libraries and provides a variety of tools for uploading
inventory, pricing, shopping-cart management, and credit card processing. More than 425
libraries and Friends of Libraries organizations participate in the Librarybooksales.org
marketplace.
Librarybooksales.org notifies the library when one of its books has been ordered. The
library ships the book once the check or credit card payment has cleared. Libraries
receive a consolidated statement of sales that comes via email. There is no listing fee.
The only cost to the library is a 10 percent commission based on the sale price of the
book. Typical listing prices range from around $3 to around $75, with most titles in the
$7 to $20 range.
Much of the inventory consists of books that have been donated to libraries, duplicate
copies, monographs, or surplus materials. Librarybooksales.org discourages the sale of
books with bookplates because they believe most serious book buyers don’t want to own
books that look as if they had been borrowed from a local library.
Booksalefinder is another site that promotes library sales and various related events. Its
lists of local and regional book events are a resource for book scouts, professional
booksellers, and other book enthusiasts. This site is not a marketplace, however, and
customers cannot buy books through it. .
We would not be surprised if a major online marketplace makes a move to link with
existing online markets for libraries or rolls out its own program for library sales.
Thrift Shops and Resale Stores
About 7,000 thrift shops and resale stores sell books in the United States. Some are run
by national organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army; many are local
consignment shops. The volume of and revenue from used-book sales in these outlets is
quite low.
Recently, Goodwill introduced an online auction site that includes a section for used
books. InfoTrends anticipates that some resale stores will utilize online markets to sell
36
their books in the future. However, given the relatively low importance of books in their
overall inventory, we do not expect this channel to account for a significant portion of
used-book sales.
Book Fairs
Every week, local bookstores, libraries, and consumers bring books for sale to book fairs
around the country. These events often boast tens to hundreds of thousands of books, and
make claims about the percentage of books that are hardcover or in a specific category
(e.g., history, professional, children’s). Prices are relatively low and vary according to a
book’s condition and whether or not it has value for collectors.
These events are often attended by professional book scouts, online specialists, and local
used-book store proprietors who know the value of specific titles, as well as by local
residents and avid readers looking for a good deal. However, because potential book
buyers have to search manually through a physical inventory, the market size and
potential of this channel are limited.
Yard Sales
Although yard sales are another popular venue for used-book sales, they do not account
for a meaningful share of used-book revenue. Prices at yard sales are typically very low,
ranging from 10 cents to a few dollars. Inventory consists primarily of adult trade and
children’s books. Book scouts may come to some yard or estate sales looking for
collectibles, and InfoTrends expects that such sales will continue to be a source for used
books because of the convenience to the seller, who can simply put copies out on a table
at a fixed price and throw out whatever doesn’t sell.
37
Bookseller Survey Findings
Methodology
To generate insights on used-book sales from local used-book stores and independent
new-book stores, InfoTrends conducted a Web-based structured survey. Book Hunter
Press and the ABA provided the sample. InfoTrends received comments on its draft
questionnaire from publishers, booksellers, and trade association executives, among
others.
Book Hunter emailed an invitation to participate in the survey to approximately 3,720 of its
members; ABA emailed approximately 1,800 to request participation. In both cases the Book
Industry Study Group was identified as the sponsor of the study. Respondents were offered a
summary of the findings and inclusion in a drawing for an Apple iPOD in exchange for their
participation.
From these two sources, InfoTrends received 510 usable responses, representing a 9.2
percent response rate.
Sample Profile
The bookseller survey respondents fell into three general categories:

Independent bookstores that primarily sell used books (60.3 percent). These
companies have physical stores that derive most of their revenue from the sale of used
books. They may also generate revenue from sales of new books or through online
sales.

Independent bookstores that primarily sell new books (11.2 percent). These
companies have physical stores that derive most of their revenue from the sale of new
books. They may also generate revenue from sales of used books or through online
sales.

Online specialists (28.5 percent). These companies do not have physical stores. They
generate revenue through online marketplaces and their own Web sites. Some online
specialists generate revenue from clients who visit them in their homes or offices by
appointment.
Figure 8. Bookseller Respondents by Category
Large national bookstore chains (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Borders), large online retailers
and marketplaces (e.g., Abebooks, Alibris, Amazon, Biblio, eBay), and large used-book
sellers (e.g., Powell’s, The Strand) did not participate in the bookseller survey.
Information from these companies came from transaction data and in-depth interviews.
The bookseller survey also did not include any general merchandisers (e.g., Wal-Mart)
that sell books. These companies typically do not sell used books.
38
Although the bookseller survey did not target college stores, five college textbook stores
responded. Based on their profile (size, percentage of sales of new vs. used books),
InfoTrends categorized them with independent booksellers that primarily sell new books.
Summary of Findings
Size of Company
The vast majority of independent booksellers are small businesses (under $500,000 in
annual sales) with a single location. Fewer than 10 percent reported having more than one
location. Independent new-book stores are generally significantly larger than used-book
stores and typically sell more books per year at higher average sales prices.
Figure 9. Bookseller Respondents by Annual Revenue
Online specialists are very small businesses with mean annual sales of only $36,200
(median of $10,000). The online specialist is typically an individual who sells used books
as a source of supplemental income. Online specialists have very low fixed costs because
they do not have physical stores or staff. Their primary costs are their used-book
inventory (which can be stored at their homes or in low-cost offsite storage facilities),
any transaction fees associated with the online marketplace(s) they use, and shipping.
Figure 10. Bookseller Respondents by Number of Locations
Revenue
Used-book stores and online specialists are similar in terms of their revenue mix. Both
generate approximately 90 percent of their revenue from the sale of used books, 5 percent
from new books, 2.5 percent from remainders, and the balance from ephemera and
sundry articles (e.g., posters, broadsides, collectibles). InfoTrends suspects that many
online specialists may have been proprietors of independent used-book stores who
decided it would be more profitable to eliminate the physical store and sell used books
only through online channels.
Figure 11. Percentage of Bookseller Revenue by Category
Independent new-book stores generate most of their revenue (66 percent) from the sale of
new books. Used books account for 14.1 percent of sales, while remainders account for
3.1 percent. Note that other miscellaneous products and services constitute the secondlargest source of their revenue, accounting for 16.6 percent of sales. We believe that
owners of some independent new-book stores may be selling used books to serve their
customers better and to differentiate themselves from the large national bookstore chains
that typically do not sell used books at their stores.
39
Units
Annual unit sales are consistent with annual revenue. Independent new-book stores have
the highest annual unit sales (mean = 48,113, median = 14,502). Used-book stores have
the next highest (mean = 16,481, median = 5,000), and online specialists have the lowest
(mean = 1,784, median = 750).
Figure 12. Annual Book Sales—Units
By dividing mean annual revenue by mean annual unit sales, we were able to generate an
estimate of average selling price per unit (excluding shipping fees) by type of book and
bookseller.
Figure 13. Used-Book Seller vs. New-Book Seller Average Sales Price Comparison
Used
New
Booksellers Booksellers
Mean-based ASP
New books
$9.07
$19.02
Remainder or hurt books
$7.83
$16.56
Used books
$8.06
$15.73
The research indicates that new booksellers have significantly higher average selling
prices than used booksellers for new, remainder, and used books. The difference in
average selling prices may be a reflection of the type and mix of books the booksellers
primarily sell, their cost structure, and their overall marketing and positioning.
Figure 14. Percentage of Bookseller Sales—Units
InfoTrends asked booksellers participating in the survey to split their units for new books
and for used books by category. Independent new-book stores report a higher percentage
of new books in the education category than used-book stores and online specialists.
InfoTrends believes this higher percentage is primarily a function of the five responses
from college bookstores. Used-book stores and online specialists report a higher
percentage of new-book sales in the nonfiction category than do new-book stores.
Figure 15. Percentage of New-Book Units by Category
Examining the distribution of used-book units by type of bookseller reveals some
important differences. The used-book stores and online specialists report a much higher
portion of used-book unit sales from collectibles (defined in the survey to include first
40
editions, rare books, and signed copies). At independent used-book stores, collectibles
account for nearly 22 percent of used-book unit sales. The comparable figure for online
specialists is nearly 34 percent, but for independent new-book stores it is only 3.1
percent.
Figure 16. Percentage of Used-Book Units by Category
Independent new-book stores report a much higher portion of used-book unit sales in the
fiction and education categories. InfoTrends believes this distribution is consistent with
their new-book sales and reflects the impact of the five college bookstores that are
included in this category.
Hardcover vs. Paperback
Each type of bookseller reported that hardcover books account for a higher percentage of
used-book unit sales than of new-book unit sales. Used hardcovers command higher
prices than used paperbacks, which relates partly to the higher prices of new hardcovers,
but also to the fact that used hardcovers tend to be in better condition than used
paperbacks.
Figure 17. Percentage of Units, Hardcover vs. Paperback
Our consumer survey findings show that consumers clearly prefer hardcover used books,
like getting them at “new softcover prices,” and expect that used hardcovers will often be
in better condition (which is an especially relevant factor when people are buying online).
In-Print vs. Out-of-Print
A critical issue for publishers is the extent to which sales of used books are substituting
for sales of new books.
The industry consensus is that the vast majority (more than 80 percent) of used-textbook
sales are of books that are still in print. Since used textbooks account for approximately
33 percent of total textbook sales, used textbooks may substitute for roughly 25 percent
of new textbook sales. This projection assumes that all end customers would have
purchased a new copy if a used copy had not been available.
Some insights about the impact of used-book sales on trade books emerged from our
bookseller survey data . Independent new-book stores estimated that 48.3 percent of their
used-book sales are of titles in print. The comparable figure for used-book stores was
29.9 percent, and the figure for online specialists was 18.5 percent.
Figure 18. Percentage of Used Units, In-Print vs. Out-of-Print
41
By projecting these survey findings to the population of new-book, used-book, and online
booksellers, we came up with a rough estimate: approximately 35 percent of used-book
sales are of titles in print. However, we do not yet have sufficient data to estimate what
portion of these used-book sales substituted for new-book sales.
The lower in-print/out-of-print ratio for independent used-book stores and online
specialists may relate to their focus on the collectibles segment.
Units by Sales Method
The booksellers surveyed sell a higher percentage of used books than of new books via
online channels. Independent used-book stores report selling nearly 34 percent of their
used-book units via their own Web sites (3.9 percent) or third-party Web sites (30
percent). These percentages confirm the importance of the Web in the used-book market,
as well as the impact of third-party marketplaces.
Figure 19. Percentage of Units by Sales Method
Independent new-book stores report selling a much lower portion of used books through
online channels, especially third-party marketplaces. Perhaps they do not want to
compete with low-cost/low-margin Web-based sellers, preferring to channel resources
into growing store traffic. However, we expect that most independent new-book stores
will align themselves with one or more online markets to maintain their sales volumes,
satisfy customer demand, and participate in the growing used-book market.
Online specialists generate the largest portion of their unit sales via the Web (over 85
percent), and also generate a higher percentage of sales via their own Web sites (14.8
percent) and via third-party sites (71.8 percent), than booksellers with physical stores.
Note that online specialists report a very small percentage of sales from customers
“visiting my store.” Since we defined online specialists as booksellers without physical
stores, this may reflect clients’ visits to online specialists’ offices.
When asked to indicate what percentage of their used-book units sold via third-party sites
came from specific marketplace sites, booksellers said that around 45 percent came from
Abebooks, 15 percent from Alibris, 15 percent from Amazon, 10 percent from eBay or
Half.com, 5 percent from B&N.com, and the balance from other sites (these figures relate
only to used books sold via a third-party site, not total used-book sales by these
booksellers).
Figure 20. Percentage of Used Books Sold via Third-Party Sites by Source
As noted in our discussion of book channels, Abebooks and Alibris have the strongest
focus on working with independent booksellers; B&N.com has a network of used-book
sellers that is powered by Alibris; Amazon and eBay have a stronger focus on consumers.
InfoTrends did not use bookseller lists from any third-party marketplace provider when
conducting the bookseller survey.
42
Inventory
Independent used-book stores had a mean inventory of just over 43,600 new and used
books; the comparable figure was just over 75,800 for independent new-book stores and
nearly 9,500 for online specialists.
Figure 21. New- and Used-Book Inventory
InfoTrends divided the inventory by annual unit sales to develop an inventory-to-unitsales ratio for each type of bookseller. The ratios are:
* Independent used-book sellers -- 2.6 used books in inventory for every one used
book sold
* Independent new-book sellers -- 1.6 used books in inventory for every one used
book sold
* Online specialists -- 5.3 used books in inventory for every one used book sold.
As might be expected, used-book stores have a higher inventory-to-unit-sales ratio than
new-book sellers. But the online specialists have the highest ratio; probably they are
under less pressure to remove a book from inventory because they do not have to cover
the costs of retail space.
When asked to indicate how long they keep an unsold book in inventory before removing
it, online specialists indicated that they tend to keep books (especially new books)
significantly longer than the period booksellers with physical stores reported.
Independent new-book stores tend to remove books (especially new books) most quickly.
Eventually, the booksellers in the survey destroy or discard around 4 percent of their used
books.
Figure 22. Months Book Is Kept in Store or Warehouse Before Removing
Returned Books
Returns from booksellers to publishers and distributors are essentially a nonissue in the
used-book market. For both new and used books across all channels, the booksellers
indicated that the percentage of returns from customers who purchased books online is 1
percent or less. InfoTrends sees this as a strong indicator of satisfied customers. While
some booksellers have a no-returns policy for used-book sales, most are willing to accept
used-book returns to keep good ratings and good customer relations.
Figure 23. Percentage of Online Book Orders Returned by Customer
43
Browsing vs. Targeted Purchasing
Many bookstores are designed to give customers a relaxing and satisfying experience
while they look for interesting books. When asked whether they believe their customers
are typically browsing their shelves or Web sites to find interesting books, or shopping
for specific titles, most independent new-book stores indicated that their customers are
typically browsing, while most independent used-book stores and the vast majority of
online specialists indicated that their customers are typically shopping for specific titles.
Figure 24. Customers Browse Used Books or Have Title in Mind
Availability of Used Books
Figure 25. Months from New Book Being Published to Availability of Used Book by Type
of Bookseller
Independent used-books stores generally reported the shortest period between release of a
new title and availability of a used copy. Times ranged from 6.9 months for fiction titles
to 14.4 months for education titles. Independent new-book stores reported periods two
months longer. Online specialists cited the longest time span, probably because they
generate a larger portion of their sales from collectibles.
These time periods represent the averages in the categories. The more books a bookseller
sells per year, the faster it makes used copies of a new book available. For example, highvolume booksellers (at least 25,000 units per year) indicated that they typically offer a
used copy of a new fiction book within two months, but low-volume booksellers (under
1,000 units) indicated they offer a used copy of a new fiction title within 17.9 months.
Figure 26. Months from New Book Being Published to Availability of Used Book by
Annual Book Sales
InfoTrends believes three factors drive this relationship: high-volume booksellers have
more customers and therefore more opportunities to secure used books; they may have
more resources they can use to obtain used books; and they rely less on collectibles and
more on general trade titles.
Impact on Sales of New Books
Between 60 and 70 percent of booksellers indicated that used copies of a book do not
affect their pricing or sales of new copies. Roughly 20 percent indicated they sell fewer
new copies at the original price once used copies are available. A small percentage either
drop the price of the new copies and maintain sales or reduce the price and sell fewer
44
copies. Note that these figures reflect booksellers’ perceptions and not actual transaction
data.
Figure 27. Effect of Used Book on Sales of New Book with Same Title
Prices of Used Books vs. New Books
Booksellers indicated that used-book prices are roughly half of new-book prices.
Interestingly, when asked how much they would pay for a used book in very good
condition, students indicated approximately 52 percent and consumers (nonstudents)
indicated around 36 percent.
Figure 28. Used-Book Price as a Percentage of New-Book Price
Formal Buy-Back Program
Booksellers realize that having timely access to used-book inventory is critical to sales of
used books. Sixty-one percent of the independent used-book stores, 91 percent of the
online specialists, and more than half the independent new-book stores that sell used
books indicated they have formal programs for buying books back from customers.
We did not ask about the elements of the formal programs in the survey, but several
industry experts reported that these programs can include special pricing for books sold
back by a certain date and rebates toward purchases of other books.
Figure 29. Have Formal Program for Buying Back Used Books from Customers
Sourcing for Used Books
Booksellers obtain used books from a variety of sources. Independent new-book stores
and used-book stores get roughly half their used books from consumers; we assume they
have walk-in traffic and are recognized in their localities as places to buy and sell used
books. Online specialists obtain very few used books directly from consumers; their
primary sources are libraries, other booksellers, and events.
InfoTrends believes that sourcing of used-book inventory will become more competitive
and sophisticated as booksellers strive to obtain desirable titles quickly.
Figure 30. Percentage of Used Books Acquired by Source
45
Impact of Used Books on Booksellers
InfoTrends asked booksellers to assess the impact of used-book sales on numbers of
customers, unit sales, revenue, and profit margins. Respondents indicated whether usedbook sales increased, decreased, or had no effect on figures in each category. Generally,
they felt that used-book sales had a positive impact or no impact. Only a very small
percentage indicated that numbers of customers, unit sales, or profit margins were lower
because of used books.
Figure 31. Impact of Sales of Used Books on Company
Independent new-book sellers cited positive impact from used books on numbers of
customers (50 percent indicated they have more customers because they sell used books),
on revenue (69 percent indicated they have more revenue because of used books), and on
profit margins (69 percent indicated better profit margins from selling used books).
Clearly, these booksellers believe that used books have improved their business.
Impact of the Internet on Booksellers
We asked a similar question to assess the impact of the Internet on booksellers. Here, the
findings are more complicated and significantly different for different types of
bookseller. In general, independent used-book stores and online specialists believe the
Internet has had a positive impact on most aspects of their business, while independent
new-book stores believe the Internet has had a negative impact.
Essentially, the Internet has been a positive tool for the used-book stores and online
specialists, and a major competitor for the new-book stores.
In terms of numbers of customers, most used-book stores (56 percent) and online
specialists (76 percent) indicated the Internet has had a positive impact. However, most
independent new-book stores (53 percent) indicated the Internet had a negative impact,
and many feel they are losing some of their customers to Internet-based booksellers.
Figure 32. Impact of Internet on Company
In terms of new books, some independent used-book stores (26 percent) and many
independent new-book stores (63 percent) believe the Internet has had a negative impact
on sales. Many of these booksellers are likely losing sales of new books to Amazon,
B&N.com, and other online specialists. Only online specialists indicated the Internet has
had a positive impact on their sale of new books (42 percent).
In terms of used books, most independent used-book stores (54 percent) and online
specialists (55 percent) indicated the Internet has had a positive impact. Interestingly, the
independent new-book stores were effectively neutral on the impact of the Internet on
their used-book sales; 26 percent indicated lower sales, 26 percent indicated higher sales,
and 48 percent indicated no impact.
46
In terms of overall revenue, most independent used-book stores (55 percent) and online
specialists (71 percent) indicated the Internet has had a positive impact, while most
independent new-book stores (53 percent) believe the impact has been negative.
In terms of profit margins, independent used-book stores are generally split; 27 percent
believe the Internet has led to lower margins; 39 percent believe it has led to higher
margins; and the remaining 34 percent believe it has had no impact on margins. Most
online specialists (53 percent) believe the Internet has helped increase their margins,
likely from higher sales and lower overhead. Most independent new-book stores (56
percent) indicated the Internet has had no impact, while 31 percent believe it has resulted
in lower margins. Only 13 percent of these bookstores report higher margins as a result of
the Internet.
47
Consumer Survey Findings
Methodology
InfoTrends designed and managed a structured survey with consumers and highereducation students. We received comments on the draft questionnaire from a variety of
publishers, booksellers, trade association executives, and others.
The sample was drawn from Survey Sampling, a company that manages large panels of
consumers and professionals for online research. It offered a financial incentive for
responding. BISG was not identified as the sponsor of the survey. Responses came from
1,695 consumers and 337 higher-education students.
Sample Profile
Respondents to this survey represented a wide range of demographic and economic
segments. Representation was excellent from all ages, income levels, and geographic
regions, as well as from both sexes. Compared with the overall U.S. population, the
survey population is skewed toward people with higher education and income levels,
probably because of the methodology (Web-based survey) and subject (books). In
general, Internet penetration is much lower among lower-income households than among
higher-income households, and book readers may be more likely to have higher
education and income levels than non–book readers.
Figure 33. Consumers by Age
Figure 34. Consumers by Gender
Figure 35. Consumers by Level of Education
Figure 36. Consumers by Employment Status
Figure 37. Consumers by Household Income
Figure 38. Consumers by Area in Which They Live
The survey included a brief set of screening questions. People who had not purchased any
books (new or used) in the previous twelve months were excluded.
48
Summary of Findings
Annual Book Purchasing
Students reported purchasing an average of 15.1 books during the previous twelve
months and a median of 10.0 books. Roughly 40 percent of the purchases were used
books. Nonstudents (i.e., other consumers) reported purchasing an average of 14.8 books
and a median of 8.0 books. Roughly 25 percent of the purchases were used books.
Although InfoTrends believes these figures are higher than the overall national average
because of the sample composition, we also believe this sample represents the customers
who account for the vast majority of book sales and are the core market for book
publishers and book retailers.
Figure 39. Number of Books Purchased in Last 12 Months
The National Association of College Stores (NACS) and Bowker’s MIR division
estimate that used books represent around 33 percent of total textbook units. InfoTrends
estimates that used books account for around 4.3 percent of noneducation units.
The ratio of used-book purchases to new-book purchases derived from survey data was
higher than the ratio derived from related industry data, especially for nonstudents. We
believe the difference in ratios is related to the sample composition. The survey data
indicate that more avid readers tend to buy a larger number and percentage of used books
than consumers who purchase only a few books a year. The sample for this survey is
weighted toward more avid readers.
Students had mean annual spending on books of $419. The median was $250. For
consumers, the mean was $174 and the median was $100. Used books accounted for
roughly 25 percent of student spending and 15 percent of consumer spending, which are
smaller portions than for units.
Figure 40. Amount Spent on Books in Last 12 Months
To estimate the average price students and consumers paid for books, we divided their
annual spending by the number of books purchased.
The survey data indicate that students paid $31.33 per new book and $21.82 per used
book, on average. These figures are significantly lower than what NACS and MIR report
(around $54 for new and $42 for used). InfoTrends did not ask students to break out book
spending for courses and book spending for other purposes. It is likely that their average
noncourse purchases pulled the overall average down.
Figure 41. Mean Spending per Book
49
Consumer figures from the survey are much closer to industry data. Our findings indicate
that consumers are spending $14.10 for a new book and $6.81 for a used book, on
average, and we estimate that the average price consumers paid for a noneducation used
book in 2004 was $8.12.
Profiles of New and Used Book Customers
Among survey respondents—all of whom had purchased at least one book during the
previous twelve months—76 percent of students and 63 percent of nonstudents indicated
that they had purchased a used book.
Figure 42. Respondents Who Purchased Used Book in Last 12 Months
Further examination of the demographic data indicates that used-book customers are very
similar to the overall population of book customers. The table below compares
respondents based on their book-purchasing activities. The Total column includes all
respondents. The “New Only” column includes respondents who purchased only new
books in the last twelve months. The “Used Only” column includes respondents who
purchased only used books in the last twelve months. The “New and Used” column
includes respondents who purchased both new and used books in the last twelve months.
The final column, “Used,” combines the “Used Only” and “New and Used” columns.
Figure 43. Profile of Book Customers by Key Demographics
All Respondents
Base
Percentage of respondents
Mean
Female
Male
Income
Mean
Education Some high school, but no degree
High school graduate or equivalent
Some college, but no degree
2-year or 4-year college degree
Some post-graduate work
Post graduate or doctorate degree
Books
New
Used
Total
Spending New
Used
Total
Age
Gender
Book Purchases
Used
New and
New Only
Only
Used
Total
2032
704
49
1279
34.6%
2.4%
62.9%
41.4
44.3
44.4
39.8
54.2%
51.3%
61.2%
55.6%
45.8%
48.7%
38.8%
44.4%
$61,380 $62,276 $47,296 $61,427
1.4%
2.0%
2.0%
1.0%
12.8%
14.6%
18.4%
11.6%
30.1%
30.1%
40.8%
29.7%
32.3%
30.7%
30.6%
33.2%
8.9%
8.2%
2.0%
9.5%
14.5%
14.3%
6.1%
14.9%
10.0
9.3
0.0
10.7
4.9
0.0
6.8
7.5
14.9
9.3
6.8
18.2
$168
$144
$0
$187
$47
$0
$63
$73
$215
$144
$63
$260
Used
1328
65.4%
40.0
55.8%
44.2%
$60,905
1.1%
11.9%
30.1%
33.1%
9.2%
14.6%
10.3
7.5
17.8
$180
$72
$253
50
[TYPESETTER: Please change “post-graduate” to “postgraduate” and “Post
graduate” to “Postgraduate” in second column of chart above. Also please change
“doctorate” to “doctoral” in second column. If you like, we can send you the Excel
files]
Note that the “Used Only” customers represent a small portion of the market (only 2.4
percent) and tend to be older, female, lower income, and less educated than the overall
market or other segments. These customers also tend to purchase many fewer books and
spend much less per year on books than other customers. However, because of the small
sample size, readers should be careful about making projections of this category to the
overall population.
The “Used” customers represent 65.4 percent of the sample and tend to be younger than
the overall sample, partly because students, who represented around 16.6 percent of the
sample, are more likely to buy used books than nonstudents (the figures for the previous
twelve months were 76 percent and 63 percent, respectively). .
Perhaps the most important observation is that “New and Used” customers typically buy
the most books and spend more on books than any other customer segment. These
customers, who represent 62.9 percent of the market, purchase nearly twice as many
books as customers who buy only new books.
The “New Only” customers are slightly weighted toward women, but not otherwise
significantly different from the overall population or the “Used” customer group. Many
“New Only” customers purchase a small number of books per year (fewer than five) in
relation to purchases by “New and Used” customers.
In the table below, which presents the same information, but for nonstudents only, the
overall trends appear very similar. Notice that the forty-one “Used Only” nonstudent
customers reported spending $30 on books in the last twelve months. InfoTrends believes
many of the “Used Only” customers are purchasing paperbacks.
Figure 44. Profile of Nonstudent Book Customers by Key Demographics
51
Non-Students
Base
Percentage of respondents
Mean
Female
Male
Income
Mean
Education Some high school, but no degree
High school graduate or equivalent
Some college, but no degree
2-year or 4-year college degree
Some post-graduate work
Post graduate or doctorate degree
Books
New
Used
Total
Spending New
Used
Total
Age
Gender
Book Purchases
Used
New and
New Only
Only
Used
Total
1695
622
41
1032
30.6%
2.0%
50.8%
44.1
46.3
46.4
42.7
54.6%
51.0%
63.4%
56.4%
45.4%
49.0%
36.6%
43.6%
$66,204 $65,438 $48,841 $67,355
1.1%
1.6%
0.9%
14.4%
15.3%
22.0%
13.6%
27.1%
28.1%
34.1%
26.2%
33.4%
31.4%
34.1%
34.6%
8.2%
8.0%
2.4%
8.5%
15.8%
15.6%
7.3%
16.3%
10.1
9.6
0.0
10.8
4.7
0.0
7.1
7.5
14.8
9.6
7.1
18.3
$142
$128
$0
$157
$32
$0
$30
$51
$174
$128
$30
$208
Used
1073
52.8%
42.9
56.7%
43.3%
$66,647
0.8%
13.9%
26.5%
34.6%
8.3%
15.9%
10.3
7.4
17.8
$151
$51
$201
[TYPESETTER: Please change “Non-Students” at top to “Nonstudents”; change
“post-graduate” to “postgraduate” and “Post graduate” to “Postgraduate” in
second column; and change “doctorate” to “doctoral” in second column. As above,
we can send the Excel files if they would be useful.]
As noted earlier, 76 percent of students and 63 percent of nonstudents purchased a used
book in the last twelve months. Of the people who had not purchased a used book in that
period, 63.4 percent of students and 41.3 percent of nonstudents indicated they had
considered purchasing one. The implication is that 91 percent of students and 78 percent
of nonstudents who purchased any book in the last twelve months either purchased or
considered purchasing a used book.
Figure 45. Considered Purchasing Used Book in Last Year
The most common reason for not buying or not thinking about buying a used book is a
simple preference for new books (held by 32.9 percent of students and 42.4 percent of
nonstudents). However, 32.9 percent of students and 26.1 percent of nonstudents also
mentioned that titles they were looking for were not available as used books, suggesting
that many would have purchased used copies if they had been available.
The data suggest that only a very small percentage of customers will not buy a used book.
We estimate that approximately 8 percent of students and 15 percent of nonstudents will
not purchase or consider purchasing used books.
52
Figure 46. Reasons for Not Purchasing Any Used Books
InfoTrends believe that factors such as availability, finding interesting titles, price, and
condition will become less-significant issues as the used-book market and inventory
continue to grow. Consumers who have purchased used books are generally very
satisfied, and we believe awareness levels and ability to find desired titles will improve as
the major online channels actively promote used books and provide tools for reselling.
Consumers and students indicated they purchased about the same mix of new and used
books in 2004 as in 2003. The percentage of respondents who indicated they are buying
more new books is roughly the same as the percentage who indicated they are buying
more used books. These figures represent their perceptions, however, and may not reflect
overall market trends or actual spending.
Figure 47. Change in Type of Books Purchased
Spending by Channel
InfoTrends asked respondents to estimate their spending on new books and on used
books in various channels, to the best of their recollections, which means that these
figures do not necessarily reflect actual market shares either. Because this survey was
conducted via the Web, the figures for spending at online channels are probably higher
than the overall national average. However, as mentioned earlier, non-Internet
households also probably represent a smaller portion of the overall book market.
Students indicated that nearly 39 percent of their spending on new books of all types is at
their college bookstores. Nearly 25 percent of their new-book spending is with online
channels, followed by 22 percent with national bookstore chains (e.g., Barnes & Noble,
Borders). Collectively, these three channels account for nearly 85 percent of students’
spending for new books.
Figure 48. Percentage of Spending on Books by Source—Students
The same three channels account for the majority of student spending on used books, but
the online channel takes a bigger portion at the expense of the national bookstore chains.
College stores account for 38.5 percent of student spending on used books (almost the
same percentage as for spending on new books), and online channels account for 33.4
percent. The percentage for national bookstore chains, which typically do not carry used
books at their stores, drops to 2.2 percent, while spending with independent bookstores is
13.5 percent. Students also buy used books at thrift stores, yard sales, book fairs,
libraries, and so on.
Nonstudents indicated that 36 percent of their spending for new books was with online
channels, followed by 30.4 percent with national bookstore chains, 14 percent with
general retailers (e.g., Wal-Mart, Target), and 9.4 percent with independent bookstores.
53
The top four channels accounted for 90 percent of nonstudents’ spending on new books,
and, predictably, college stores accounted for only a small portion.
Figure 49. Percentage of Spending on Books by Source—Nonstudents
Nonstudents display very different shopping patterns for used books. Almost 40 percent
of their spending for used books was with online channels; 21.5 percent (more than
double the comparable percentage for new books) was with independent booksellers, and
27.5 percent was with “other locations.”
Shopping Frequency and Habits
Students purchased books an average of 7.5 times in the last twelve months, while
nonstudents purchased books an average of 8.8 times. Dividing the number of books by
the number of times the respondent made a purchase, we find that students purchase an
average of 2.0 books per visit to a store or Web site and nonstudents purchase an average
of 1.7 books per visit. Students spend an average of $56 per visit and nonstudents spend
an average of $20.
Figure 50. Number of Times Books Purchased over Last 12 months
Figure 51. Books and Spending per Purchase
In most situations, customers purchase only new books or only used books. Less than 15
percent of student purchases and 6 percent of nonstudent purchases are for simultaneous
purchases of new and used books, perhaps partly because, in many cases, the customer is
at a location where both kinds of books are sold.
Figure 52. Number of Times Respondent Has Purchased Books by Category
An important issue for publishers and authors is the extent to which a customer buys a
used book and then later purchases a new book from the same author. In a sense, the used
book may be a promotional device, introducing the reader to an author for whose new
book the reader may then pay full price.
Figure 53. Bought Used Book and Later Bought New Book by Same Author
The research suggests that sales of used books provide some impetus for sales of new
books, but it is not clear whether or to what extent this might compensate for
substitutions of used books for new books.
54
Among nonstudents who purchased a used book, 72.8 percent later purchased a new book
by the same author at least once, although not necessarily in the last twelve months. The
mean number of times nonstudents have purchased a new book by an author whose work
they originally read after purchasing a used book is 2.3 . However, we do not know how
many new books they purchased or when they made their purchases.
Some 17.4 percent of nonstudents who purchased used books purchased new books by
the same authors on five or more occasions. .
Students are less likely to purchase a new book by the author of a book they bought as
used. Nearly half (47.5 percent) indicated they have never purchased a new book by an
author they had originally read after purchasing a used book, which may relate to the fact
that students’ purchases are often textbooks.
Students indicated they frequently shop for new books and compare prices of new and
used copies; 36 percent of them said they usually or almost always compare prices at
multiple stores or Web sites when shopping for a new book. Nearly 50 percent said they
compare prices for new and used copies of specific titles; and 43 percent said they
usually or almost always compare prices at multiple stores or sites when shopping for a
used book.
Figure 54. Price Comparisons—Students
Nonstudents also indicated they do a significant amount of comparison shopping when
buying books. Thirty-three percent said they usually or almost always compare prices at
multiple stores or sites when shopping for a new book; 39 percent said they compare
prices for new and used copies of specific titles; 33 percent said they usually or almost
always compare prices at multiple stores or sites when shopping for a used book.
Figure 55. Price Comparisons—Nonstudents
Undoubtedly, the Web has made it easy to compare book prices before making a
purchase. However, we sense that people may be overstating the extent to which they
compare prices, partly because survey research in general reveals a tendency for
respondents to overstate some activities and partly because most people probably do not
shop prices for books at physical bookstores since the potential price savings are not
enough to justify the extra time required to go from one store to another. Respondents
may be projecting some of their Web-based book purchasing behavior onto their overall
book purchasing activities.
Availability of Used Books
Availability is a critical issue for the used-book market. To the extent that customers have
timely access to desired titles at competitive prices, the used-book market will continue to
55
grow. Some 65 percent of respondents indicated that a used copy of a title was available
when they recently purchased a book online. The other 35 percent indicated either that a
used copy was not available or that they did not recall. Although we do not have any
transaction data about the percentage of titles that are available online in both new and
used copies, a quick scan of Amazon, B&N.com, and eBay suggests that most titles are
available as used copies.
Figure 56. Availability of Used Version of Title
Among respondents who purchased a book from a college bookstore, 57 percent
indicated that a used copy was available there, and 39 percent noted that their local
independent bookstore had a used copy. Less than 10 percent of respondents purchasing
from national or general bookstore chains indicated that a used copy was available. Since
most of these retailers do not sell used books at their stores, we believe that many people
confused remainders or other deep-discount books with used books.
Used-Book Spending by Category
Students indicated nearly 60 percent of their spending on used books is for educational
material. The remaining 40 percent is distributed across a variety of general trade
categories. Nonstudents primarily purchase fiction, nonfiction, and educational titles.
Figure 57. Percentage of Spending on Used Books by Category
Spending estimates by consumer and student respondents differ significantly from
estimates by offline booksellers, who attribute a much higher percentage of sales to
collectibles and nonfiction. Perhaps this is because consumers and students buy many of
their used books from online sources and college bookstores, or because these buyers do
not differentiate between collectibles and used books in other categories the way
booksellers do.
Spending on Used Books Instead of New Versions
Most students indicated they purchased a used book even though a new copy was
available, suggesting that used books are hurting new-book sales. This decision was
especially common with regard to educational books (77 percent of students), but also
very common with regard to general trade titles. A fairly small percentage of students
(generally under 10 percent) indicated they purchased a used book because a new
hardcover copy was not available, suggesting that they did not want a paperback or that
they could get a used hardcover at paperback prices.
Figure 58. Most Recent Used-Book Purchase—Students
56
The behavior pattern of nonstudents was similar to that of students, but not quite as
strong in terms of educational books. In general, 60 to 65 percent of nonstudents who
purchased a used book did so even though a new copy was available.
Figure 59. Most Recent Used-Book Purchase—Nonstudents
From the publishers’ perspective, this trend is not encouraging, because it implies that
nearly two of every three used books are being purchased instead of new books. Retailers
are more likely to focus on the implication that at least three out of every ten used-book
purchases are sales that would not have happened if used books had not been available.
Students indicated nearly 75 percent of their used-book spending was for books that were
available new; the comparable figure for nonstudents was nearly 64 percent. From the
customers’ perspective, a significant amount of substitution is taking place.
Figure 60. Used-Book Purchases Instead of New Version
Used-Book Spending by Format
Students and nonstudents estimated that around 45 percent of their used-book spending is
for hardcover books, while the figure from the bookseller survey was around 65 percent.
InfoTrends believes the customer estimates may be lower because many customers
purchase used books at “other locations,” where paperbacks are common.
Figure 61. Percentage of Spending on Used Books by Format
Consumers purchase used hardcover books primarily because used hardcovers tend to be
in better condition than used paperbacks, and also because people like getting a hardcover
book at paperback prices, which suggests that used-book sales may also impact the newpaperback market.
Figure 62. Reasons to Purchase Hardcover Used Books
Book-Shopping Habits and Preferences
InfoTrends asked respondents to describe their shopping behavior by choosing among the
phrases listed in Figure 63. For most categories, 70 percent or more of the respondents
will purchase only a new book or prefer a new book. The exception is educational books;
around half the respondents will purchase only new educational titles, or prefer to
purchase them new. Less than 10 percent of respondents indicated they will consider only
used books.
57
Figure 63. Book-Shopping Habits and Preferences
Price is the most important factor in determining whether a consumer selects a new or
used copy of a book; about two-thirds of respondents rate it as a significant or critical
influence. Close behind was the condition of the book. Just over 40 percent of
respondents cited “new book is not available” as an important factor. Other factors, such
as the availability of a hardcover new copy and the reputation of the bookseller, are
relatively unimportant.
Figure 64. Influence of Factors in Purchase of Used Book vs. New Book
In short, the research indicates that, as in many other markets, price, quality, and
availability are key factors in determining purchases. Judging from discussions with
used-book sellers, InfoTrends believes that used-book prices will continue to drop, and
that quality and availability will improve.
Price Sensitivity
To get a sense of price sensitivity in the absence of hard data on transactions, we
presented a series of new-book prices and asked respondents to indicate the highest price
they would be willing to pay for used copies in very good condition (excluding
collectibles); we defined “very good” to mean “a book that shows some small signs of
wear (but no tears) on either the binding or paper.”
Figure 65 shows the average price students and nonstudents would be willing to pay for a
used book in very good condition at various new-book prices. For example, students
indicated they would be willing to pay an average of $4.70 for a used book in very good
condition that had a new-book price of $10. Moving out along the X-axis, note that
students would be willing to pay an average of $14.60 for a used book in very good
condition that had a new-book price of $29, and an average of $64 for a used book in
very good condition that had a new-book price of $149.
Figure 65. Highest Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Very Good Condition
Note that students typically are willing to pay a higher price for a used book at any given
new-book price than are nonstudents. InfoTrends suspects that students may be
conditioned to pay higher prices by their experience with college textbooks.
To determine the relative price students are willing to pay for a used book at various newbook prices, we divided the willing-to-pay price for a used book by the corresponding
new-book price. The data indicate that students are willing to pay around 50 percent of
the price of a new book for a used book in very good condition. However, for new books
58
priced over $49 (like many new textbooks), the percentage drops, suggesting that
students become more price sensitive in the higher price range.
Figure 66. Percentage of New-Book Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Very Good
Condition
Nonstudents follow a similar pattern but are generally willing to pay between 10 and 15
percentage points less than students at each new-book price.
Repeating the exercise for books in fair-to-good condition, we stated, “Assume FAIR TO
GOOD means a worn used book that has all pages present, but may have some scuffs,
stains, or spots.” Respondents indicated they were willing to pay approximately 10 to 15
percentage points less for a used book in fair-to-good condition than for one in very good
condition. Again, students are willing to pay slightly higher prices than nonstudents.
Figure 67. Highest Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Fair-to-Good Condition
Figure 68. Percentage of New-Book Price Willing to Pay for Used Book in Fair-to-Good
Condition
Worst Condition of Used Book Willing to Purchase
Most respondents indicated they are willing to buy a used book that is in good condition
or better, although respondents generally want a “like new” condition for books intended
as gifts. A significant percentage (31.3 percent) are willing to buy used books in only fair
or acceptable condition. Obviously, they expect to pay much less for them than for books
in better shape.
Figure 69. Worst Condition Acceptable for Used Book
While the respondents indicated that they are willing to purchase books in good or fair
condition, it appears that most of the used books they did purchase were in very good or
like-new condition.
Figure 70. Percentage of Used Books by Condition
As with booksellers, we asked consumers to segregate the hurt and remainder books from
used books to the extent possible, but consumers are not likely to distinguish between a
book in “like new” condition that is truly used (i.e., previously purchased by another
customer and then resold) and a new book that is deeply discounted or hurt.
59
Overall Value of Used Books
Asked to indicate the overall value of used books in relation to new books—taking
condition, availability, and price into account—most students (70 percent) and
nonstudents (73 percent) indicated that used books have either a slightly or a significantly
lower value than new books. We anticipated that a larger percentage of respondents
would cite used books as providing better value and believe that people feel new books
are worth more because they are in better condition.
Figure 71. Overall Used-Book Value vs. New Books
Respondents indicated they believe new books are better than used books in terms of
quality or condition, availability, and delivery time, and that used books are better in
terms of price. They were nearly evenly split in terms of overall value.
Figure 72. Whether New Books or Used Books Are Better
Satisfaction with Used-Book Purchases
Most respondents (around 65 percent) have generally had very good or excellent
experiences when purchasing used books. Another 31 percent indicated they have had a
few “surprises” but generally had good experiences. Less than 5 percent indicated they
have had fair or poor experiences.
Figure 73. Satisfaction with Used-Book Purchases
Another method for determining satisfaction is asking whether people would recommend
to friends that they consider purchasing a used book the next time they are shopping for a
book. Approximately 74 percent of respondents stated that they would, while only about
7 percent indicated they would not. Overall, these satisfaction ratings are high and
suggest a high level of repeat business.
Figure 74. Would Recommend Purchasing Used Book
Students and Consumers Selling Used Books
Nearly 57 percent of students and 44 percent of nonstudents indicated that they had sold a
used book at some point. Within these groups, students indicated they have sold an
average of 6.4 books (median of 5) and nonstudents indicated they have sold an average
of 9.2 books (median of 3) over the last twelve months. InfoTrends suspects that many
people are including used books they have sold during a longer periods of time, perhaps
60
because they are still thinking in terms of the previous question. In any case, it is
significant that such a large percentage of book buyers are also book sellers.
Figure 75. Have Sold Used Book
Figure 76. Number of Used Books Sold over Last 12 Months
Students indicated that nearly 75 percent of their book sales have been through college
stores or online channels. This percentage correlates closely with the percentage of their
used-book buys from the education category. It is likely that students rely primarily on
these two channels to dispose of unwanted textbooks.
Figure 77. Percentage of Used Books Sold by Channel
Figure 78. Percentage of Sales of Used Books by Category
As might be expected students have primarily sold used textbooks while non-students
have primarily sold used fiction and nonfiction books. However, note that nonstudents
reported that over 21 percent of their used-book sales were textbooks.
Nonstudents rely on more channels to sell their used books. The newest channel, online,
accounts for the highest portion (35 percent), followed by the oldest channel, yard sales
(25 percent). Our sense is that online channels are best for selling higher-priced or more
valuable books, while the yard sale is an easy way to dispose of larger numbers of books
at rock-bottom prices.
Considered Selling Used Books
Among respondents who have never sold a used book, nearly 53 percent of students and
65 percent of nonstudents never considered selling one, usually because of a desire to
keep their books. Other common reasons include not wanting to bother with the process,
not being familiar with the process, and preferring to donate books to libraries or other
not-for-profit organizations.
Figure 79. Considered Selling Used Book
Figure 80. Reasons for Not Considering Selling Used Book
61
Used-Book Market Size
To size the U.S. used-book market, InfoTrends worked with twenty different companies
and organizations. As explained above, the three primary information sources were
transaction data from the leading online marketplaces and retailers; structured surveys
with online booksellers, consumers, and students; and secondary information from a
variety of trade associations, industry vendors, and government agencies. Using this
information, InfoTrends developed an extensive market model to quantify units and
revenue by book category.
Figure 81. Used-Book Market-Sizing Methodology
New- and Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales by Category
Approximately 111.2 million used books were sold at a retail value of $2.2 billion in the
U.S. market in 2004. Unit sales grew by 11.0 percent, and revenue grew by 11.1 percent
in 2004 over 2003. Used books accounted for approximately 4.6 percent of total units
(new plus used) and 5.4 percent of total consumer domestic expenditures on books.
Figure 82. U.S. New- and Used-Book Consumer Expenditures and Units
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales by Category
Educational books (textbooks, other course material) is the most important used-book
category, accounting for 38.6 million units (34.7 percent of all used-book units) and
$1.633 billion in sales (73.5 percent of total revenue). The average sales price of a used
textbook in 2004 was $42.31. Noneducation books—including fiction, nonfiction, and
antiquarian and collectible titles—accounted for 72.6 million units (65.3 percent of all
used-book units) and $589 million in sales (26.5 percent). The average sales price was
$8.12. All prices exclude any applicable shipping fees.
Figure 83. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market by Category—Units and Sales
Figure 84. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Units, Sales, and Average Sales Price Summary
Education
Non-fiction
Fiction
Antiquarian & Collectible
Total
Non-Education
Units (million)
Revenue
Revenue($($million)
million)
Average Sales Price
On-line Stores Other Total On-line Stores Other Total On-line Stores Other Total
6.8
31.8
0.0
38.6
$181 $1,453
$0 $1,633 $26.68 $45.63
$42.31
22.3
7.2 13.5
43.1
$313
$40
$36 $389 $14.03 $5.54 $2.64 $9.02
10.7
8.8
6.0
25.6
$69
$37
$10 $117
$6.44 $4.21 $1.73 $4.56
1.3
2.6
0.0
4.0
$47
$37
$0
$84 $34.95 $14.09
$21.10
41.1
50.6 19.5 111.2
$609 $1,567
$46 $2,223 $14.81 $30.99 $2.36 $19.98
34.4
18.7
19.5
72.6
$429
$115
$46
$589
$12.47
$6.12 $2.36
[Footnote]* Excludes shipping fees.
62
$8.12
[TYPESETTER: Please insert asterisk in chart above following “Average Sales
Price” column heading.—JS]
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales by Channel
Online channels -- including online marketplaces, online specialists, and the Web sites of
bookstore chains and independent bookstores – accounted for 41.1 million used-book unit
sales (37 percent). Another 50.6 million (45 percent) of used-book units were sold at
physical bookstores, and 19.5 million (the remaining 18 percent) were sold at other
locations, including thrift shops, book fairs, and yard sales.
Figure 85. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Units (million)
Unit sales of used books through online channels increased 34.2 percent in 2004 over
2003, representing the majority of year-over-year growth in the used-book market.
Bookstore used-book units were up only 0.8 percent, and most of that growth came in
college stores. Sales of used-book units at independent bookstores (excluding college
stores) are declining.
Growth of used-book units in other channels is essentially at the rate of population
growth (about 1 percent).
The bookstore channel accounted for over 70 percent of used-book revenue, followed by
online channels at 27 percent and other channels at a mere 3 percent. The bookstores’
high share reflects the facts that most used textbooks are sold through bookstores and that
average textbook prices are much higher than average prices of general trade titles.
Figure 86. U.S. Used-Book Market by Channel—Revenue ($ million)
Used-Book Unit and Dollar Sales via Online Channels
Over 41 million used books with a retail value of $609 million were sold in 2004 through
online channels, including online marketplaces, online specialists, and Web sites of
bookstore chains and independent bookstores.
Unit sales in this channel grew by 34 percent, while dollar sales grew by 33 percent, in
2004 vs. 2003.
The online channel accounted for nearly 95 percent of the unit growth and 70 percent of
the sales growth in the used-book market in 2004.
Sales through online channels are weighted toward noneducation titles, which represent
approximately 83.5 percent of online used-book unit sales and over 70 percent of online
used-book revenue
Figure 87. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market—Online Channels
63
The online channel accounts for only about 17.5 percent of used-book unit sales and 11
percent of used-book dollar sales in the education segment, which is dominated by
physical bookstores, especially college bookstores, and accounts for more than 80 percent
of market share.
However, the research suggests that online channels are gaining share in the education
market. InfoTrends estimates that sales of education category units through online
channels grew by nearly 52 percent in 2004 and that revenue grew by nearly 59 percent.
Some of this growth was from sales via traditional college bookstores’ Web sites, but
most came from non–college store sales. All the major marketplaces indicated that the
education segment is one of their fastest-growing segments.
Figure 88. U.S. Online Used-Book Market by Category—Units (million)
Figure 89. U.S. Online Used-Book Market by Category—Revenue ($ million)
Used-Books Unit and Dollar Sales via Bookstores
Over 50 million used books with a retail value of $1.57 billion were sold in 2004 through
bookstores, including sales at physical college stores, independent bookstores, and
branches of bookstore chains (sales through chains’ sites are included in the online
channel). Unit sales grew by only 0.8 percent, and dollar sales grew by 4.6 percent, in
2004 vs. 2003. The revenue increase derived primarily from higher prices of used
textbooks.
Figure 90. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market—Bookstores
Approximately 63 percent of used-book unit sales and 93 percent of used-book dollar
sales through bookstores were of textbooks and related educational material. However,
data from the bookseller survey indicates that less than 5 percent of these unit sales at
non–college bookstores are of educational materials. The size of the used-book
educational book market and the dominance of the college stores are very evident.
InfoTrends believes sales of used books at bookstores will be flat at best over the next
few years. Most used-book stores are seeing a growing portion of their business come via
the Web. We also believe that many college stores will expand their Web-based sales
activities over the next few years to avoid the risk of losing business to other online
players. However, the campus and near-campus bookstore will continue to account for
the majority of sales for the foreseeable future because of convenience and large local
markets.
64
Used-Books Unit and Dollar Sales via Other Locations
Nearly 20 million used books with a retail value of $46 million were sold through
channels other than the Internet and bookstores in 2004, including yard sales, library
sales, book fairs, flea markets, and other nontraditional sales locations. This segment is
the most difficult to estimate because there are no good sources for transaction data and
no direct surveys. The market could be significantly larger than these figures indicate, but
we believe that it is not likely to grow very fast and that many books bought at “other
locations” are then resold by professional booksellers.
Figure 91. 2004 U.S. Used-Book Market—Other Locations
Unit sales in other locations grew by only 0.9 percent, and dollar sales grew by 1.5
percent in 2004 vs. 2003. Essentially, this channel is growing at around the same rate as
population and households. InfoTrends believes that it is being affected by the online
channel, as many consumers sell their more valuable titles there.
Average Sales Prices
To estimate the average sales price per unit for used-book sales in all channels, we
divided revenue by units for each category. As might be expected, at $42.31 per used
book, educational titles command the highest average sales price. Antiquarian and
collectible books were next, at $21.10, reflecting a range from rare books priced in the
thousands of dollars to first editions or signed copies in the $15 to $50 price range.
Figure 92. Used-Book Average Sales Price by Category
Nonfiction used books—a segment including many paperbacks and many units sold at
“other locations” for very low prices—had an average sales price of $9.02 in 2004. The
nonfiction category includes various subject subcategories as well as professional and
religious books. Professional books tend to have the highest average selling price.
Fiction—also a segment with many paperbacks and many units sold at low prices via
“other locations”—had an average sales price of only $4.56.
Average prices at online channels are typically higher, except for used books in the
education category, since college bookstores can charge top price for titles being used the
following semester. Several antiquarian and collectible book dealers indicated that many
of the best titles are “going to eBay,” where a national or international market may bid up
the price. InfoTrends believes the access to these markets via the online channel is
essential in getting better prices than local bookstores can charge.
Figure 93. Used-Book Average Sales Price by Channel and Category
65
Average sales prices in the online channel increased for education and antiquarian and
collectible titles, but declined for fiction and nonfiction titles. InfoTrends believes the
online channels are gaining share within the education market and getting more of the
better titles than they have in the past. We also believe that more and more sellers are
looking to the Web for the best price when selling rare books. With respect to general
trade titles, our sense is that the growing number of online specialists and individual
consumers selling online are driving down average sales prices.
Figure 94. Online Used-Book Average Sales Price by Category
Used-Book Five-Year Growth Estimate
This project did not have long-term forecasting as an objective. However, we looked at
the ratio of used-book to new-book sales, spoke with a variety of industry players, and
made some assumptions to develop a high-level forecast. The numbers are directional.
We believe several more years of detailed market sizing (through studies similar to this
one) are necessary to develop a more accurate forecast by channel, category, and other
critical metrics.
Judging from conversations with executives of NACS and MIR and conversations with
publishers, the consensus is that the used-textbook market has been relatively stable at
approximately 33 percent of industry sales over the last ten years. InfoTrends believes
that a portion of its sales will shift to online channels. We also believe that sales of used
nontextbook titles in the education market (other general trade and professional books
used in courses) may increase its size. College stores have not focused on these titles as
much because they are often not used in successive semesters, the price points are
relatively low, and there is competition from other suppliers
While the Internet could contribute to growth of used-textbook sales, InfoTrends
anticipates that they will grow only a few more percentage points relative to the overall
education book market, perhaps reaching 35 to 37 percent over the next five to ten years.
The bigger question involves the noneducation market, particularly the trade fiction and
nonfiction segments. Used-book revenue from noneducation titles grew by around 30
percent in 2004. At this writing, independent bookstores are continuing to bring their
inventory online, online marketplaces are increasingly aggressive in marketing used
books, and more consumers are selling books online. We anticipate that libraries will
start using the Internet more effectively to dispose of older books and to round out their
collections, and we note that consumers express a high level of satisfaction with their
used-book purchases. In other words, there will likely be growing inventory and growing
demand for used books.
We assume that the antiquarian and collectible market, which is increasingly dominated
by Web-based auctions and sales, will remain a relatively minor part of the noneducation
market.
If the consumer trade market for used books (excluding books in the education category
and books purchased by institutions such as libraries and schools) grows at 25 percent per
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year through 2010, InfoTrends projects total used-book revenue will reach nearly $2.25
billion. We did not estimate unit growth, but since we believe that average sales prices
will continue to decline over the next few years, we expect an even higher percentage of
unit growth.
Figure 95. Five-Year General Trade Used-Book Sales Projection
Assuming that sales of new books grow at 1 percent per year (slightly below the
historical average over the last five years), the used-book market will account for 9.4
percent of total consumer expenditures on general trade books in 2010.
To put this figure in perspective, recall that the used education market is approximately
33 percent of the total value of education books. It is important to emphasize that these
estimates are very rough and require additional data and analysis. However, they do give
a sense of direction.
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Conclusions
From this study, it is clear that used books are one of the fastest-growing segments of the
book publishing industry, and that the industry is continuing to go through a significant
transformation. As the Internet eliminates much of the friction in book-buying and
bookselling processes, it changes the ways authors, publishers, booksellers, and end
customers interact.
The various online marketplaces and e-businesses have:

exposed thousands of inventories and millions of used books in unified marketplaces

organized inventory so that customers can find desired books efficiently

dramatically reduced the cost of selling a used book by eliminating the need for
physical retail locations

let additional used books enter the market quickly

provided a market-based bookseller rating system to reduce risk for the customer

manifested multiple business models that appeal to different kinds of booksellers and
book customers
E-commerce has brought transparency and efficiency to the used-book market. And the
market is exploding. InfoTrends estimates that total used-book revenue exceeded $2.2
billion, and that 111 million used-book units were sold in 2004, up 11 percent over 2003.
While educational used books and the college bookstore channel continue to account for
the largest segment of used-book revenue ($1.6 billion), the most dramatic growth is in
the general trade (noneducation) segment and the online channel.

Sales of general trade used books reached $589 million in 2004, up 30 percent from
2003.

Online used-book sales reached $609 million (excluding shipping fees) in 2004, up
33 percent from 2003. Abebooks, Alibris, and Biblio indicated that sales grew at
similar or faster rates in 2005.

Used books accounted for approximately 4.6 percent of total units (new plus used)
and 5.4 percent of total consumer domestic expenditures on books in 2004.

Traditional independent used-book stores are generating about 40 percent of their
business via the Internet.

Many independent new-book stores are now selling used books.

A new type of bookseller—the online specialist—has emerged and is not constrained
by costs associated with traditional physical bookstores.

Consumers can easily resell their used books via Amazon and eBay.
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Consumers express high satisfaction with their used-book experiences. Nearly 75 percent
would recommend to friends that they consider purchasing a used book, and consumers
generally express high satisfaction in their ability to find titles, the condition of the used
books, the delivery time, and the price.
Perhaps even more important, consumers are realizing they can usually find a used copy
of a desired new title very soon after publication. The turnover of used books is much
faster now that consumers can quickly resell new books they do not want to keep,
recouping much of their initial payment for books that are only a few weeks or months
old and in good condition.
Professional booksellers are increasingly aggressive in obtaining desired titles through
various channels and buy-back programs. Large used-book sellers report they typically
have a used copy of a new fiction book within two months after the title is published.
And since the national used-book inventory is always accessible to any individual
consumer, the probability of a market (buyer and seller meeting at a price) for a specific
book is much greater now than ever before.
InfoTrends believes that consumer book-buying behavior will evolve as many customers
decide to wait until a used book becomes available instead of paying top price for a new
book. A rough analogy exists in the market for movies. Depending on the movie (the
stars, the subject, the reviews, the market hype), a consumer may choose to see it at a
theater, wait for it to come out on DVD, or wait for it to run on cable or broadcast
television. Depending on the book (the author, the subject, the reviews, the hype),
consumers may choose to buy the book new, wait for a used copy, or wait for the book to
be available at a local library.
We also expect that the education used-book market will evolve. This market did not
need the Internet to reach (and plateau at) 33 percent of total sales, because there was
relatively little friction in it. The college bookstore was the marketplace. Virtually all
students came to buy and sell their books there because of convenience and prices.
Usually, they could find the books they needed to buy, choose between new and used
copies, and get the best price when they sold books scheduled for class use in the
subsequent semester. While students grumbled about the high prices they had to pay and
the low prices they could charge, the college store was effectively the only show in town.
This model is changing because students can easily visit a variety of marketplaces from
their rooms and shop for better prices when buying and selling their books. College
bookstores still enjoy the advantage of having their inventory near their customers,
enabling them to eliminate the costs of shipping to end users. However, we anticipate that
they will soon face much more competition from local independent bookstores and online
marketplaces for inventory and sales of titles that will not be used the next semester.
Used-Book Market Battles
The used-book market is in the midst of a rapid growth stage and will undergo significant
transformation over the next few years. We see three major battles in this market.
1. The booksellers’ battle to tie into electronic marketplaces. That battle is almost
over. The major marketplaces have been rapidly adding used-book sellers over the last
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three years. We expect that virtually all professional used-book sellers will participate in
one or more marketplaces within the next two or three years. We also expect that most
independent new-book stores will come online, and many will add used books to their
stock to compete, or keep up, with the bookstore chains and major online marketplaces.
We do not expect booksellers to shift out of a marketplace once they have established a
presence and steady revenue flow, but a bookseller may establish a presence on multiple
sites to increase exposure.
International markets will be the next front in this battle, as online marketplaces establish
partnerships or their own brands overseas, particularly in Europe, Asia, Australia, and
South and Central America. The European market is already well developed. Look for
sites to support multiple languages and enhance local customer support abroad to attract
foreign booksellers and appeal to wider consumer markets.
We expect some consolidation among the online marketplaces through buyouts and
mergers designed strengthen brands, expand inventory, increase listing and transaction
fees, and decrease operating costs. An obvious play is for larger marketplaces to buy out
smaller ones. Alternatively or in addition, major publishers or retailers may reposition
themselves by taking over online marketplaces.
2. The battle to secure desired inventory. Booksellers and marketplaces need a timely,
steady flow of high-demand/high-value titles to grow revenue and meet customer
expectations. Competition for used copies of new titles soon after publication will
intensify.
Marketplaces increase inventory primarily by signing up more booksellers and by
enabling sales of used books by consumers. Some marketplaces (e.g., Abebooks, Alibris)
are focusing on professional booksellers by establishing monthly listing fees that deter
individual consumers. Other marketplaces (e.g., Amazon, eBay) encourage consumers to
sell used books through their systems.
InfoTrends expects that there will continue to be both professional bookseller-based
marketplaces and consumer-based marketplaces for inventory. However, we also believe
that most marketplaces will eventually enable sales of used books by consumers to
professional booksellers or directly to other consumers. The exception will be
marketplaces that focus on rare books, a very small portion of the market.
InfoTrends believes most marketplaces will enable consumers to resell books so that the
marketplace (and by extension its professional booksellers) can quickly assemble an
inventory of desired titles. The marketplaces and the professional booksellers need to
maintain relationships with end customers to insure that the customers come back to their
sites on a regular basis and buy most of their books there.
Knowing that the most-avid book readers tend to buy the most used books and are very
good candidates for reselling some books, the marketplaces and their booksellers cannot
risk letting consumers bring that aspect of the business to other locations. Look for Webbased buyback programs and consumer-oriented reselling tools to become much more
common.
InfoTrends also expects that libraries will transform the way they manage and dispose of
their excess inventory. Libraries are among the biggest book buyers, have limited shelf
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space, and must increasingly fight for budget in many cash-strapped cities, towns,
schools, educational institutions, and business organizations. We anticipate that many
Friends of Libraries sales will be supplemented, or even replaced, because specialized
services will buy large quantities of inventory for resale through various marketplaces.
Given automated pricing, listing, and payment processes, we anticipate that many
libraries will sign up for fixed programs or auction off inventory at regular intervals.
There may be some local concern that public property is being sold to benefit private
interests, but our sense is the financial benefits (e.g., reducing the library’s disposal costs,
generating incremental revenue for the library) will become evident and accepted as
desirable.
InfoTrends can also envision automation of used-book sales at “other locations.”.
Conceivably, the professional booksellers and scouts who frequent yard sales, book fairs,
estate sales, and the like in search of underpriced used books might use some type of
handheld wireless device to scan in a book’s barcode or ISBN and look up the price by
querying a marketplace database
The net result of all these inventory battles will be more used-book titles available faster.
3. The battle for consumers. This is the ultimate battle for online specialists,
independent bookstores, national bookstore chains, and online marketplaces alike.
As the marketplaces become saturated with booksellers and as inventory replenishment
models are optimized, booksellers and marketplaces will need to retain and expand their
customer bases.
Some booksellers will focus on niche markets (e.g., rare books, military history, foreign
language) while others focus on mass markets by emphasizing availability, price, and
volume. In general, we expect that marketplaces will shift their resources from
developing infrastructure and obtaining more booksellers to marketing and customer
service. Look for used-book tools and services that help customers find books, answer
questions quickly, get reviews and ratings, link to sites dealing with related topics, sell
back used books, and generally have better customer experiences.
Publishers, particularly publishers in the general trade and professional segments, are, of
course, factoring the growing used-book market into their changing business equations,
recognizing that:

The Internet has made the global inventory of used books much more transparent.

Booksellers are increasing their inventory of used books and marketing them more
vigorously.

Used-book prices are dropping, and the delta with new-book prices is increasing.

Consumers are very satisfied with the used-book experience.

Consumers’ book-buying behavior is changing; used books are often a factor in a
consumer’s buying decision.
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
When unit sales of new books are flat or declining, revenue growth depends mostly
on price increases, and price increases stimulate demand for used books.

The used-book market is growing rapidly and will continue to grow for the
foreseeable future.

Publishers and authors are not participating in this market to any significant extent.
Over the next five years, we expect, the vast majority of general trade used books will be
sold via the Internet. Used-book sellers that are not already participating in one or more
marketplaces are clearly late to market and probably losing share to other players.
We also expect a shift in sales of education books to the Internet, but that will happen
more slowly and be less extensive than the shift in sales of general trade titles.
Over the next few years, we believe there will be fewer independent used-book stores and
more used-book sellers. Some traditional used-book stores will close their retail locations
and become online sellers. More independent new-book stores will sell used books to
serve their customers better and compete with the national bookstore chains. The result
could be more competition for inventory (potentially driving up costs) and more
competition for sales (potentially driving down prices).
Online, booksellers are likely to focus on niches or become more volume- and priceoriented. General used-book stores without steady customer followings or efficient
operations will be marginalized.
InfoTrends expects that the bookstore chains will become more active in the used-book
market, particularly through their online stores. National players with large customer
bases need to maximize their share of wallet and minimize the times a customer cannot
find a book at their sites in the desired price range and condition.
We do not anticipate that the bookstore chains will stock large numbers of used books at
their local stores, given the costs of space and transportation and the risk of being stuck
with unsold inventory. Although they may stock selected used-book titles (e.g.,
textbooks, hardcover versions of titles with strong sales records), they will continue to
rely mostly on third-party booksellers that sell through their main Web sites. The big
question will be whether to control the brand experience (like Books-A-Million) or to
partner with a network of independent booksellers (like Barnes & Noble).
We would not be surprised to see some large general merchandisers (e.g., Wal-Mart or
Target) enter the used-book business. Such companies have very high traffic and many
repeat customers who are motivated by a good deal. Mass merchandisers could easily tap
into the online marketplaces and begin selling new and used books via their Web sites,
and their marginal costs would be very low once a system was in place. Their primary
concerns would probably be quality control, in terms of impact on their brands resulting
from reliance on third-party booksellers, and the likelihood of generating sufficient sales
in competition with established competitors.
In any event, two broad conclusions seem inescapable:
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Today’s used-book market is a technology-enabled marketplace that is behaving
rationally. Booksellers are trying to maximize profits, and end customers are seeking to
maximize utility.
Like the music, movie, and television industries, the book publishing industry is facing
new business models, and all players have to confront the reality of the new market and
adapt quickly.
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[note to typesetter – here, too, itals, bf, type size etc. are meant simply to indicate
levels of content. Please spec – or ask us to spec – as you see fit.]
[HEAD] Major Data Sources
Abebooks.com
Founded: 1996
Headquarters: Victoria, B.C., Canada
Key executives: Hannes Blum, CEO; Boris Wertz, COO
Bookseller focus: Independent booksellers and consumers
Number of booksellers: 13,000 in 50 countries (as of November 2005); 9,000 in North
America; 4,000 in Europe
Inventory of books: Over 70 million (as of November 2005)
Employees: 110
Web sites: 6 global Web sites (Abebooks.com, Abebooks.co.uk, Abebooks.de,
Abebooks.fr, Iberlibro.com, and Bookfinder.com)
Abebooks is an online marketplace for new, used, rare, and out-of-print books. The
company serves professional booksellers through its Web sites and bookseller tools. The
tools include HomeBase, desktop inventory-management software for small to midsized
booksellers (under 50,000 units). HomeBase lets booksellers easily upload their books to
Abebooks‘ database and features ISBN lookup for faster cataloging. The company
estimates that 75 percent of its listing sellers, and many nonlisting booksellers as well,
use HomeBase.
The Abebooks Web sites are designed to help book buyers find and purchase new and
used books from the network of independent booksellers. The firm has published these
metrics about its business:

Abebooks facilitates approximately 20,000 book sales each day.

Booksellers load more than 200,000 books per day into the Abebooks virtual
inventory.

The average bookseller lists approximately 5,000 books.

Over 4 million people visit Abebooks’ sites each month.

Customers perform nearly 2 million book searches on the Abebooks Web sites per
day.

The value of books (“annual gross merchandise volume“) sold in 2004 on Abebooks
was over $130 million.

More than 10 million books have been added to the Abebooks inventory since its
official announcement in June 2004 that new books would be listed.
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
Textbooks have become a major source of revenue, with sales in February 2005 up
400 percent over February 2004.
As at other online marketplaces, customers can search and browse the virtual inventory at
Abebooks. When searching for specific titles or browsing subjects, customers see the
book, price, description, and the bookseller’s name. The interface (search, review,
shopping cart, etc.) is all Abebooks.com, but the buyer knows fulfillment will be handled
by an independent bookseller.
Abebooks features areas for rare books, textbooks, new books, book clubs, and foreign
books. It also regularly profiles and interviews authors and offers monthly newsletters
and contests to consumers. In 2005, Abebooks increased its marketing to college students
through on-campus activities to build awareness and a strong customer base in this
lucrative market.
The company generates revenue through a monthly subscription fee, sales commissions,
and credit-card processing fees. The monthly subscription fee is based on the number of
books listed. After a successful sale via the Abebooks shopping basket, a sales
commission on the book price only is incurred. Abebooks will process credit-card
transactions for a percentage of the order-item value, charged per item.
Abebooks no longer enables booksellers to list their books automatically at other sites
(e.g., Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com) using Abebooks tools. The company is focusing its
resources on building up customer visits to the Abebooks sites. Booksellers are free to list
books with other marketplaces, but must work directly with them.
Recently, Abebooks purchased BookFinder, a price-comparison shopping service
dedicated to books. Based in California, BookFinder will continue to operate as an
independent business but will have access to Abebooks’ resources.
Alibris.com
Founded: 1998
Headquarters: Emeryville, CA
Key executives: Martin Manley, CEO; Brian Elliott, COO
Focus: Independent booksellers, business partners, libraries
Number of booksellers: 10,000 (as of October 2005) across 60 countries, but mostly in
the United States
Inventory of books: Over 55 million (as of October 2005)
Alibris provides an exchange that enables booksellers to “list once, sell everywhere“ and
helps buyers find essentially any book ever printed. The company lets professional
booksellers sell their books through the Alibris consumer Web site and through a large
number of business partners.
Its business partnerships now include retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com,
Books-A-Million, Borders, Chapters/Indigo, and eBay/Half.com, and it has built
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distribution partnerships with Ingram, Ambassador Books and Media, Baker & Taylor,
Blackwell‘s Book Services, Bowker, Chapitre, Coutts Information Services, Dawson
Books, Eastern Book Company, Ebsco Books, Franklin Book Co., Gardners, Kinokuniya,
OCLC, The Book House, and Yankee Book Peddler. Alibris generates roughly half its
sales from its business partners and half from consumers who buy through its site.
The company has a spectrum of business-management tools and services for professional
booksellers that are designed to automate key aspects of their operations, including:

inventory listing: rapid cataloging from its database of 10 million ISBN and pre-ISBN
equivalents

inventory management: efficient and simple inventory uploading and updating

pricing management: quick pricing and repricing of books to reflect current market
conditions

order fulfillment: managing orders from multiple buyers through an integrated
interface

customer service: building a reputation with customers directly and quickly

payments: managing payments, fees, and returns through a single, simple interface

business reports: quickly understanding what is selling and which books may need
repricing
Professional booksellers working with Alibris can list their inventory once and have it
appear on the sites of all the Alibris business partners. Alibris works with each partner to
ensure that data are properly formatted and uploaded to their systems.
Alibris generates revenue from booksellers through monthly listing fees and flat
commission fees on product sales. The monthly listing fee is based on the on the number
of titles. Commissions vary according to a number of factors.
This company enables libraries to build collections quickly through one-stop shopping
and special services. The company works with thousands of libraries and supports most
major academic research libraries in North America. Its warehouse and shipping center
consolidate library orders from a variety of suppliers around the world.
Alibris accepts both credit cards and purchase orders from institutional purchasers. It also
offers online account-management tools for managing large-scale collection-development
projects and coordinating selection, acquisition, and administrative functions. It does not
buy books back from libraries directly, but it supports sellers who do so.
Amazon.com
Founded: 1995
Headquarters: Seattle, WA
Key executive: Jeff Bezos, president and CEO
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Focus: Consumers, professional booksellers
Number of booksellers: Undisclosed
Inventory of books: Undisclosed
Amazon leverages its brand, customer base, and search engine, as well as the transaction
infrastructure that it established for the sale of new books with a virtual used-book
inventory from thousands of third-party booksellers and individual consumers.
On the buy side, consumers can search for titles and see listings of new books stocked by
Amazon as well as links to new and used versions from its marketplace sellers. The used
books are typically listed by price in ascending order with a section for “collectible“
items such as first editions or signed copies.
The consumer purchasing process (i.e., interface, shopping cart, confirmation) is
managed by Amazon. Consumers receive notification from Amazon that a transaction has
been processed. Additional communication about order fulfillment typically comes from
the third-party marketplace bookseller.
On the sell side, consumers and professional booksellers can list and sell new or used
books through Amazon’s Marketplace. Amazon also has an auction site and zShops,
which are online storefronts for retailers under the Amazon umbrella. Using Amazon’s
Marketplace, a consumer or professional bookseller lists a book, provides a description,
specifies the condition, and sets the price.
The Amazon interface is intuitive and geared to individual consumers or
“nonprofessional“ booksellers who want to sell their used books. The sellers go through a
series of pages, providing information about the books they wish to sell (ISBN, condition,
comments) and their accounts. The tools are easy to use and good for one-off sales that
are typical of consumers. As part of the listing process, Amazon provides information
about the current Amazon new-book price for the title as well as the current low price of
used copies from other suppliers. Essentially, Amazon is showing customers what the
current market ceilings and floors are for their titles.
In addition to the “Sell an Item“ interface, Amazon offers Pro Merchants volume-listing
tools, which allow sellers with databases to upload and manage their inventory in bulk.
These tools accept standard text upload files as well as database exports from
applications supporting the UIEE (Universal Information Exchange Environment) catalog
format, such as BookTrakker Pro, HomeBase, and Record Manager, among others. In
addition to bulk upload tools, Pro Merchant sellers can request and receive open listings
and order reports through their seller account pages.
Amazon collects fees only when an item sells. At the time of the sale, it collects the sales
price and shipping costs from the buyer, and deducts a commission, a per-transaction fee,
and a variable closing fee. Individual sellers pay nothing if an item does not sell within
60 days, at which point the listing is closed.
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Amazon also has a Pro Merchant Subscribers offering designed for high-volume sellers
(e.g., professional booksellers). The bookseller pays a flat subscription fee. Amazon
waives the per-transaction fee, and listings remain on the site indefinitely unless the
books sell, the seller removes them, or the seller cancels the Pro Merchant subscription.
Booksellers can also list on Amazon via Alibris and its terms, pricing, and suite of tools.
When an item sells at Amazon Marketplace, Amazon gives the seller a shipping credit to
help cover shipping costs. Sellers are paid through Amazon Payments, which
automatically transfers net earnings to the seller’s checking account every fourteen days.
No separate Amazon Payments fees are assessed on Amazon Marketplace sales.
With zShops, a professional bookseller can have a storefront within the Amazon site. As
is the case for Marketplace, the bookseller can list books using Amazon’s bulk uploading
tool, which supports spreadsheets or database exports from applications supporting the
UIEE catalog format. The primary difference between zShops and Marketplace is that
Marketplace items are listed directly on the detail pages of the Amazon catalog, whereas
zShops items are listed as standalone offers in the zShops store.
Because zShops items are not required to match the Amazon catalog, Amazon provided
sellers with a way to list items that could not be included in the Amazon catalog when it
launched zShops in 1999. Now, booksellers can create detail pages directly in the
Amazon catalog, including pages for pre-ISBN and out-of-print titles, making it possible
for them to sell more of their inventory on Marketplace.
zShops is available to Pro Merchant subscribers (for the $39.99 monthly subscription
fee). Amazon also charges a closing fee based on the sales price of an item.
Barnes & Noble.com
Founded: 1997
Headquarters: New York, NY
Key executive: Marie Toulantis, CEO
Focus: Consumers, professional booksellers
Number of booksellers: 5,715 (as of November 2005)
Inventory of books: 35 million (as of November 2005)
Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Barnes & Noble,
Inc. (NYSE: BKS), “the world’s largest bookseller.“ It sells new books, music, movies,
and other items. Through a network of book dealers, it also makes used and out-of-print
books available for sale.
Barnes & Noble.com’s proprietary search engine lets customers search by title, author,
keyword, or ISBN. The site presents full bibliographic information and images on each
title, along with third-party and customer reviews, excerpts such as first chapters and
tables of contents, author-led reading group content, and other proprietary content written
exclusively for Barnes & Noble.com.
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Customers searching for a particular title can either purchase the book new from Barnes
& Noble.com or purchase it used through a link that will take them to a listing of
authorized book dealers that have the book in stock. The dealers list the condition and
price of the book along with other information, such as whether it is a first edition and/or
signed. Profiles and seller comments about the thousands of dealers authorized to sell on
Barnes & Noble.com are displayed.
Customers can also search specifically for used and out-of-print titles by going directly to
the Used and Out-of-Print storefront, reached by a tab on the main navigation bar.
Shipping and customer service for used and out-of-print books are handled by the
authorized booksellers, which have agreed to provide the high level of service Barnes &
Noble.com customers expect.
Barnes & Noble.com has a special section on its Web site for customers who want to
purchase new and used textbooks or to sell their used textbooks and other course material
back to Barnes & Noble.com. An application on the site produces a price quote after
input of an ISBN. Costs for shipping a book to Barnes & Noble.com are included in the
price quote. The price does not include any reference to the condition of the book,
although Barnes & Noble.com indicates in its FAQ section that books must be in good
condition and states in the confirmation e-mail that it will destroy any books it deems in
unsatisfactory condition.
An email confirmation is sent to each customer, detailing necessary information and
including a link to a prepaid shipping label. Payment is generally made within two weeks
after receipt and satisfactory inspection of the book.
Biblio.com
Founded: 2000
Headquarters: Asheville, NC
Key executives: Brendan Sherar, CEO; Allen Singleton, COO; Kevin Donaldson,
director of sales and marketing
Bookseller focus: Independent booksellers
Number of booksellers: Approximately 4,200 in 31 countries (as of November 2005)
Inventory of books: Approximately 30 million (as of November 2005)
Biblio started in 2000 as a meta–search engine called SearchBiblio.com for new, used,
rare, and out-of-print books that was designed to help people locate hard-to-find items
and compare prices among books from about fifteen major Internet retailers. The
company acquired the established online book marketplace Bookopoly in February of
that year. Then it repositioned itself to develop database tools and software that would
allow it to manage a large network of independent retail businesses, and to provide a
unified e-commerce system to support that network for buying and selling used, rare, and
out-of-print books. Biblio launched its new offerings in February 2003.
The Biblio site lets book buyers (e.g., consumers, students, collectors) search for specific
titles, browse subjects, and go to the listing area of specific bookstores. When searching
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for specific titles or browsing subjects, customers see the book, price, description, and the
name of the bookseller. The interface is all Biblio, but the buyer knows that an
independent bookseller will handle fulfillment. Like other marketplaces, Biblio does not
carry any inventory.
The company generates revenue through commissions on books sold via its site and does
not require booksellers to pay any fixed fees for listing books or minimums based on the
size of the transaction. The commission structure depends on the number of books listed
and the monthly sales volume, as well as on the number of orders actually fulfilled by the
bookseller. Various discounts on commissions apply at various fulfillment rates. Biblio
can provide credit-card processing services for booksellers and processes payments for a
fee.
The company is focusing its efforts on attracting additional quality booksellers and
building up a loyal following of book customers around the world. It is developing
partners in other regions that can link in with it.
In 2005, Biblio founded the nonprofit organization BiblioWorks to provide communities
in need with tools and resources for developing sustainable literacy and education
programs, through funding and book and material donations for schools, libraries, and
cultural institutions. The organization’s initial efforts have been in Bolivia, where it
helped fund the construction of a rural library—La Biblioteca Villa Zamora.
eBay
Founded: 1995
Headquarters: San Jose
Key executive: Meg Whitman, CEO
Bookseller focus: Consumers
Number of booksellers: NA
Inventory of books: NA
eBay has a unique used-book business model based on an online auction. Consumers and
professional booksellers can set up accounts and list books for auction sales. The seller
can establish a minimum price and/or a “buy it now“ price. Typically, the seller provides
a description of the condition of the book and shipping terms. eBay has seller ratings and
comments, but usually does not provide general information on the book from the
publisher, professional reviewers, or consumers.
When listing an item on eBay, the seller is charged an Insertion Fee. If the item sells, the
seller is also charged a Final Value Fee. There are various options for enhancing a listing
(e.g., bolding, additional photos, borders).
eBay does very well in the Antiquarian and Collectible segment, where it enables people
to sell rare books to the highest bidder. The company has also done well with students
who want better prices for their textbooks than their college bookstores quote, especially
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textbooks that have become available in new editions or are not going to be used at the
students’ universities during the upcoming semester.
eBay also operates Half.com—a consumer marketplace specializing in books, music,
movies, and games—where individual sellers or companies can list products on a
traditional price listing and purchase model. There are no listing fees. Sellers pay a
commission to Half.com on items that are sold. Commissions for items sold in the media
categories are calculated as a percentage of the selling price of the item only.
All sellers listing in Half.com‘s media product categories must use U.S. Postal Service
Media Mail, at a minimum, to ship orders, and they have the option of offering Expedited
Shipping as an upgrade. The buyer agrees to pay the shipping and Half.com handling
costs for items purchased on the Half.com site according a fixed schedule.
Powell’s Books
Founded: 1971
Headquarters: Portland, OR
Key executives: Michael Powell, owner; Miriam Sontz, CEO
Focus: Consumers, students, professionals
Number of bookstores: 7
Inventory of books: 4 million (as of December 2005)
Powell’s Books is a privately owned bookstore chain that has always focused on selling
new and used books side by side. The company has seven retail stores in the Portland
area, including its 68,000-square-foot flagship store in downtown Portland. It designed
and manages its own inventory database and search engine. It started selling books online
in 1994 through its own Web site with two full-time employees..
Powell’s reports that steady growth from its online business has not decreased sales at its
retail stores; its online sales accounted for roughly 3 percent of its business in 1998, 10
percent in 1999, 30 percent in 2001, and 40 percent in 2003. Powell’s also reports that
over 90 percent of its sales are shipped outside the Pacific Northwest.
The company estimates that its site draws more than 70,000 unique visitors a day, with
over 4 million books in inventory, including more than 1 million used books. When
customers shop online at Powells.com, they have access to the inventory at Powell’s
seven retail stores as well as in five warehouses.
Powell’s sells its own inventory of books and does not list books for other booksellers,
but it does sell through several online marketplaces, such as Abebooks, Alibris, and
Amazon, including Amazon sites in Europe. Also, it has a partners program. Partners
include comparison-shopping engines, local garden clubs, national magazines, nonprofit
public broadcasting sites, and personal Web pages. Partners receive a commission on
sales of any Powell’s products that originate from their sites, and can link directly to
specific titles, sections, or other customized combinations of Powell’s products.
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The company offers a variety of resources, templates, and reporting tools to help partners
monitor sales and track commissions. It is responsible for all aspects of order processing,
including order entry, payment processing, shipping, cancellations, returns, and related
customer service.
Powell’s recently introduced a used-textbook buyback program via its Web site. Students
who enter a book’s ISBN automatically receive a price quote that includes shipping costs.
After entering an ISBN, the student is transferred to Bookbyte, an online bookseller that
specializes in the college textbook market. The seller enters contact information at the
Bookbyte site and receives shipping instructions. When Bookbyte has received and
approved the textbook, it sends the seller a check or credit.
[Last Page]
[head] About BISG
The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) is the industry’s leading trade association for
policy, standards, and research. Membership consists of publishers, manufacturers,
suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians, and others engaged in the business of print
and electronic media. For over twenty-five years, BISG has provided a forum for all
industry professionals to come together and efficiently address issues and concerns to
advance the book community.
Our member-driven organization uniquely represents all segments of our industry, from
publishers and e-publishers to paper manufacturers, libraries, authors, printers,
wholesalers, retailers, and e-tailers, as well as organizations concerned with the book
community as a whole.
BISG members receive free or low-cost copies of Used-Book Sales, Book Industry
TRENDS, and other BISG reports, as well as special access to programs and information
about emerging issues and opportunities to help shape new industry standards and
structure their implementation. To learn more about BISG or to become a member, visit
our website at www.bisg.org.
[box]
To order additional copies of Used-Book Sales or learn more about other BISG reports,
programs, and initiatives, visit www.bisg.org or e-mail info@bisg.org.
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