Bridging the Divide: Selling Books Online

The world of used books is a realm of hidden gems and well-loved pages. Each book bears the marks of its own history, dog-eared pages, and perhaps a scribbled note from a previous owner. Each book is unique and listing them online isn’t as simple as listing new books where you can list a single edition once and sell it a dozen times.

For such a reason we resisted listing books online for a long time. It is time consuming, and I could never work out the economics. You can easily spend 10 to 20 minutes on noting down all the details of a book, copying a blurb, noting all the marks or defects and then scanning or photographing it. The book might then sit on the website for a year untouched. But the world is changing and a lot more people are turning to online platforms to do their shopping. In particular there are books in our collection which someone in New Zealand will want, but that person is not necessarily in Rotorua.

Curating a selection of books for the website then seems to be key. We have focused on the unique, the rare, the beloved classics and the hidden treasures. It is about preserving some essence of our shop, without consuming all our time and energy - after all our main avenue for sales will always be our physical store. 

We have never cataloged every book on our shelves. To do so would be an immense task - and with hundreds of books coming and going each week, the task would never be completed. As such, we don’t track books in-store, which means the books we list online really need to be set apart and stored separately. It is important that if someone orders a book online, that the book is actually in stock - and more importantly in the same condition as it was listed, and not exposed to further shop damage. We therefore have set aside a room for all those books and products we have listed online.

This leads to additional considerations, such as whether the book is better listed online or left in the shop for the public to browse. Take too many books off the shelves and the shop becomes soulless and empty, but put too few online and the website becomes stagnant. Our experience so far is that there are certain types of books that are better left in the store, and others that sell better online. It isn’t easy to get the balance right.

The learning curve of this whole project has been steep, and we’ll continue to adapt to the online world. It has been worthwhile, though I’ll never understand the shops that can maintain thousands of listings for low value books. Maybe there is a critical mass where suddenly it becomes worth it.

All this is to say - not everything in our shop is listed online, so if you’re after something come visit our store at 1206 Eruera Street, or reach out and contact us.