Don’t ship your books to India (Hint: Kindle)

Making do with free news, South India, 2002 Books are heavy and costly to ship. We sold almost all of our physical books on Amazon.com and purchased a kindle. Our entire library now fits inside our office bags. I’ll refrain from getting into the physical and electronic reading experience debate except for saying that I prefer electronic books.

Timing

Start this process a few months in advance. Selling books is unpredictable as some sell immediately while others linger on.

To sell

Find your book on Amazon.com and look for a link that says ‘sell yours here’. Books can be listed in a variety of conditions – New, Like New, Used Very Good, etc. If the price of your book’s condition from other sellers is lower than $5, don’t bother listing it.

Pricing

Price your books a dollar or 50 cents less than the current lowest seller. If the current seller’s book condition is more than 2 levels worse, then you should aim to be the lowest priced among sellers of your book’s condition.

Maintenance

Visit your online store once a day and make sure that your prices are still the lowest. Updating all the listing should take less than 5 minutes. I used to do this first thing in the morning while checking my email.

Shipping

I used USPS exclusively. For simplicity’s sake, I shipped everything in Priority Flat Rate envelope for any book that’d fit irrespective of what the buyer paid for shipping. The cost of buying an envelope at the post office ($1.5 – $3.50) , postage for media mail ($2 – $3) and certified mail receipt (delivery confirmation is only available on priority and above) was not much different than using the flat rate priority envelope (roughly $5.50) with delivery confirmation (free if you print the label at home).

There were a few benefits to this approach. The shipping envelope is provided free from USPS which you can stock up at home. The shipping label can be printed at home so you can just drop off all the books at the post office without standing in line. The buyers, even the stingy ones who only paid for standard mail (meaning media mail which takes 2-3 weeks), are pleasantly surprised to get their books in 3 days and results in positive feedback online.

Payment

Amazon can pay you through direct deposit or mail you a check. Direct deposit is vastly more convenient.

Donate

If the selling price from other sellers is lower than $5 – call your local library to see if they’d like to have them. We gave away lots of excellent books this way. The hassle of listing and shipping doesn’t make sense for a few dollars (if that) and you get to feel smug about your charitable character this way.

Kindle

I like reading on my kindle. However, there are some serious problems with the electronic book industry in general (including the kindle) that doesn’t serve the users well:

  1. Ownership – The concept of ownership is very limited. You only get the data in proprietary format which forces you to own/upgrade a reading device from the same seller.
  2. Dependency – If the seller, Amazon, goes bust (and it happens to the best of them) then your library may be gone with it. Ownership only exists until Amazon stays in business.
  3. Reselling – The limited ownership also carries forward to your right to sell the e-book that you’ve purchased. You can’t resell. The lending feature is a gimmick so you can’t lend either.
  4. Anti-competitive – Since you are tied to the seller for both the hardware and the e-books, real competition ends after you’ve picked the hardware. If a certain title sells for less on Barnes and Noble and you’ve purchased a Kindle – too bad. Imagine if you had to buy the PC and all the software on it from Microsoft exclusively. In addition all of your files were in proprietary format and could only be read until Microsoft remained in business and you remained their forced loyal customer. I’m hoping that the Department of Justice cleans this up by forcing the providers to compete on the hardware and e-book prices separately like they did with Microsoft and Internet Explorer (a lower anti-competitive behavior compared to the e-book industry since you could still download the other browsers).

Related: Steal this book: The Loan Arranger, Babbage blog, The Economist

In spite of these limitations, we moved to the Kindle as shipping shelves and shelves of books half way around the world wasn’t a good option.

Comments

4 local comments so far.
  1. I’m rather attached to my books. We (my wife and I) are also a bit crazy. Here’s how we dealt with 15 boxes of our books:

    http://www.ulaar.com/2012/03/11/bringing-15-boxes-of-friends-home/

    • Yeah, I saw that. And I thought – wow. I’m glad I bullied Meenal into selling and going electronic. No sentiments – pure weight. You guys had a lot of books. I don’t think I’ve ever read that much – although always wanted to be Einstein.

  2. Gurmail Gill,

    Another example of the clearly biased and snobbish attitude of your ledger. Would you show a homeless person when talking about shipping a book to the USA? What has this photo from 2002 got to do with shipment of books to India?

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