Beware of buying books on EBAY. Some useful advice

Views 4 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful

A Guide to buying books on EBAY.

Ebay is like a super gigantic bookstore. There are millions of books to choose from. Every subject you can think of is covered. Yet despite the huge amount of books available there are still gaps. You still may not find what you are looking for. There are new titles available in the bookshops which are not yet available on EBAY. And there are out-of-print books, available from some sources, which are not available on EBay.

There are various ways of searching EBay for a particular book. One is way to just type in the title and see what comes up. The other way is to just browse through the lists to see what catches your fancy. But you cannot browse through millions of books in a listing: it would take ages. So how do you do it?

First decide on a particular category and then decide on whether you want a hardback book or a soft cover book.

Let’s say you are interested in hardback biographies. The American EBay site has a much bigger selection than the UK EBAY. But some of the books on EBAY UK are not on EBAY USA. Search both if you like.

Type into the web browser’s address bar this URL

Then click on categories in the menu. It will open a new page. Go to where books is and click more. Click nonfiction. There are 6,839,078 books in nonfiction. Narrow the selection down to 261,661 by clicking on autobiographies and biographies. Scroll down the page to FORMAT and click hardcover to narrow the selection down to about 120 thousand books.

The topics covered are


Art (705)

Business (1,370)

Education (543)

Ethnic & Cultural (422)

Historic Figures (1,802)

Law & Crime (501)

Literary (4,092)

Medical (579)

Military (1,943)

Movie & Television (2,186)

Music (3,427)

Political (4,032)

Religious (1,445)

Royalty (1,001)

Science & Technology (373)

Social Activists (125)

Sports (3,176)

Teaching, Education (198)

Theater (421)

Women (641)

If you are interested in hardcover biographies about Military figures then you could click that option in the menu and narrow your selection down to 1943 titles and browse through them at 200 book titles per page. It will only take 10 pages of listings to see the entire list. Or you could type in a person’s name to quickly see how many books there are about him.

For example, if you type in MacArthur it will reduce the list down to only 75 titles in the hardcover format. From there it is very easy to see if there is any book that interests you.

Unfortunately some sellers don't specify whether their book is hardcover or softcover, and there may be a lot of titles in the unspecified format category, most are usually softcover.

Even if you get excited about a particular title you need to be cautious. You need to check out the seller’s feedback. Some sellers have received negative and neutral feedback for various reasons.

Be aware that there are sellers who advertise books on EBAY that they do not have in stock and may not be able to obtain from another source in order to post to you. If you live in the UK and if you choose a bookseller on EBAY whose address is in the UK, bear in mind that he may have to outsource to Australia, or America, or China, or some other distant region for the book that he is advertising. Alternatively, he may not be able to supply you at all. After paying him, two or three weeks later when the book fails to arrive, you may have to go through the time-wasting hassle of complaining to EBAY customer support about him in order to get your money back.

Just like in the real world, on EBAY there are rogue sellers full of evasion, deception and guile. Some sellers are pretending that the books they advertise are actually in stock and available for immediate shipment from their location. I have discover the hard way that that is not always the case. It pays to look at a seller’s feedback profile, especially the negative and neutral comments left by other buyers. Looking at the percentage rating is not enough, because a high volume seller can have 6 or 7 negative or neutral feedbacks in a month of between 50 to 500 book sales.

Remember the more a seller sells in a month the less he is focused on your particular needs. Therefore he may be distracted with so many orders and be delaying your order.

Many sellers of books on Ebay don’t bother to accurately describe their books. They give much more text to describing their policy. This is just pure laziness.

This is what the good book seller ought to do:

1.    An actual photograph of the book is shown, not a stock photo.

2.    If the book is a hardcover, the good bookseller remembers to mention if it has a dustcover or not, and if so, describes the condition of the dustcover.

3.    Then he describes the condition of the book: if the binding is tight, if the pages are clear with no highlighting or scribble on them. Scuff marks on the cover or on the dusk jacket, if present, are also mentioned.

4.    How many photos are in the book? Is the book richly illustrated?

5.    How many pages?

6.    The size of the book in height and width?

7.    The weigh of the book?

8.    And last and most importantly, the seller should write out a good synopsis of the subject matter of the book.

Unfortunately there are many booksellers on EBay who fail to follow these common sense guidelines.

In my opinion most booksellers on EBay are not customer orientated because they do not think from the perspective of the customer; they ought to pre-empt the customers’ queries about the book by supplying all of the required information on the Ebay page.

Instead some book sellers adopt the lazy attitude of failing to supply sufficient information. Instead they inviting customers to write down their questions and send them in through email. It is amazing that the book sellers fail to realise how frustrating it is for the potential customer when such basic information about the book is omitted. It demonstrates clearly that the book seller isn't really focused on the customers' needs.

Many times I saw books advertise in which there was no mention of whether the dust jacket came with the book; no mention of how may photos were in the book; no description of the synopsis, but instead a lavish display of text outlining the policies of the seller in big colourful writing.

Recently I saw an interesting hardback title of an out-of print book advertised. But there was no photo. There was no synopsis either. But I knew what the book was about because I saw a copy of it in my local library. Because the book was advertised on EBAY as used, I contacted the seller to find out if the original dust cover came with the book. The answer I got was very silly. The seller said that because their inventory was so large there was no way she could check on the computer the information I required. And she didn't seem to be able to actually go into the storage room to look at the book directly. But she said I could return the book if I was not satisfied with it. That seller sells a lot of books every the month and is too busy focused on the sales aspect to bother to satisfy a customer’s simple questions. It is an example of a how a huge selling operation can become very customer-unfriendly. I decided not to bother buying from her: I didn’t want the hassle of having to return the book if it wasn't in good condition with its original dust cover intact.

I have seen many pages on Ebay advertising books, but the sellers don’t have a passion for books, they are just interested in making money. Remember those 8 rules I outlined above. There are very elementary rules, yet many sellers fail to live up to them.

Don’t be caught out. Look at the seller’s feedback first. If other customers had bad experiences be very cautious.

If the book is not properly advertised with clear descriptions of the details and with an actual photograph then be very suspicious of that seller. Even if you do ask questions the seller may not reply within 24 hours, the seller may ignore your questions or be too busy to deal with them.

Just like in the real world there are some dodgy sellers selling on Ebay. Your needs will only be met by the book seller who is honest and passionate about books to the extent that he is dedicate to his customers and understands your question before you ask them and supplies all the answers in his Ebay page, including various postal rates for different destinations, and who have a very clean record.

Some EBAY book sellers also own bookstores (I’m referring to real bookstore buildings, not cyber bookstores). The same titles and copies advertised on EBAY they also have exposed to their walk-in customers of their book stores. What happens when a customer selects a book from the self and goes over to the counter to pay for it? Does the book seller first check his EBAY messages to see if the same title was just purchased 10 minutes ago by an internet customer?


If the book is still available for sale does the book seller immediately delete the listing of that title from his EBAY listing (if he has sold the last copy to the walk-in customer), in order not to disappoint any internet customers from buying it on EBAY when it is no longer available for sale? It is very frustrating for an internet customer to be told two or three days after paying for a book that it is not available for sale because a walk-in customer just bought it a few days ago and the seller forgot to remove it from his EBAY listing. That scenario, unfortunately, does happen.


The reality is book sellers who have titles exposed both in their stores to walk-in customers and on EBAY to internet customers are going to disappoint the internet customers because they are not updating their eBay listings fast enough to remove titles that they no longer have in stock. I have experienced this problem on several occasions and from several book sellers.


I cannot stress strongly enough that not all book titles displayed on EBAY listings are in stock and available for sale. Where Ebay and other book selling websites are concerned, seeing is not believing: appearances can be deceptive.

Finally, I want to mention a few words about the price. Many people prefer to go to Amazon to search for books because in general they seem to be cheaper. But remember that Ebay sellers if they do their business right have an advantage, because each seller can include not just one but several photos of the actual book and can create a very personal web page to make it abundantly clear to the prospective buyer the condition of the book and can give a detailed synopsis. On Amazon the individual sellers don’t show actual photos to go with each copy of a book. Usually there is just one stock photo, then each seller describes the condition of his or her copy. Some of these descriptions are vague and incomplete. If it is a used book, the vague description may not match the condition of the copy you receive. You may end up receiving a worn copy without a dust jacket. It pays to compare prices between Amazon and EBay but you need to focus on more than the price. The quality of the book is important, including whether it includes the original dust jacket or not.

One more word I will say in Ebay’s favour is that when you pay with PAYPAL the money is instantly deducted from your PAYPAL balance or from your PAYPAL Visa card. Compare this to the Amazon process. Initially the money is deducted from your Visa card. But if Amazon does not finalise the transaction within say, 10 days, the bank may return the money back to your card, because they simply got fed up waiting for Amazon to finalise the claim with the authorisation code given to them for that transaction. If you then spend the returned money on another purchase and then Amazon attempts to finalise the initial transaction (using the old authorisation code) you may find your debit card showing a negative balance. Paypal’s way of doing business means there is no waiting period to finalise the transaction because the money, once it is deducted from your account is immediately put into the Paypal account of the seller, (less the transaction fee of course). If you have used 3V visa vouches and bought goods over a period of time on Amazon you may have noticed negative balances on some of these 3v VISA vouchers online, despite the claim that 3V makes that you can only spend upto the load amount on the voucher.

If you found this guide helpful I would appreciate it if you vote "Yes".

Have something to share? Create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides