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Dear John:
What do you think about buying or selling books on eBay? (Betty, Australia)

John responds:
Wow! Here goes: eBay is a giant flea market or garage sale, and as such like a flea market you can occassionally find that overlooked treasure at a bargain price. Buyer beware! This is a garage sale without the benefit of actually seeing what you are buying until it arrives at your home. Unpleasant surprises are the result of a lack of knowledge by the selling community of books, industry grading standards, etc. or can edge on blatent dishonesty.
The best "bet" is to know the seller, either personally, or by reviewing feedback. Many reputable booksellers are found on eBay, and their auctions can be trusted. Avoid those sellers that use terms or adjectives that are not found in industry jargon. Terms like "pristine," "lovely," "only read once," or "from my personal library" should make you cautious.
I recently bought one of these "lovely 1st editions" and it arrived here stuffed in a plain manila envelope. What I received was a bookclub edition, in sad condition, all corners bumped from poor packaging. Now I must decide whether it is worth my time (and return postage) to deal with a seller who has no interest in making it right. As a serious collector your interest is best served by securing your books from respected booksellers, and not from a frenzied chase on eBay.
Selling on eBay is a similar experience. VJ Books has a strong presence in this venue. We consider eBay as advertising expense, and use it to find new customers. Many of our longtime customers have come through this door, never returning to eBay for their books. As a seller be aware that most eBay buyers lack the same sophistication that eBay sellers do. Typically they are "newbees," new or wanna-be collectors, with little or no knowledge about book collecting. Over 80% of our customer service issues come from eBay, so you gotta be patient. "Just because your town has a zoo, doesn't mean you have to visit it regularly."

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