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Internet Can Help Some Booksellers

TradingMarkets.com (Website) - 4/29/2009 by Journal Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX
The Internet is often cited as one reason for the decline of newspaper and magazine sales but it may be the book's best friend.
"The Internet is great for the book buyer at home but not so good for bookstores," said Paul O'Donnell, owner of Second Chance Books, 3223 N. Prospect Road.

The online book scene has changed in the 12 years O'Donnell has owned the small store selling used books. "I got onto (the Internet) early on. It made it so much easier to find out-of-print books," he said.

Book prices have dropped as more Web businesses meeting the needs of readers go online, said O'Donnell. "I'm also paying more for used books that libraries get rid off," he said.

For Richard Popp, who runs Waxwing Books in Chillicothe with his wife Wendy, the Internet is "absolutely necessary."

"We both buy and sell on the Internet. We sell a lot of books through Amazon.com. We couldn't have a bookstore if we didn't do that," he said of the online shopping site.

"Amazon gives us a customer base. We pay them a lot of money to get us in the system," said Popp.

What the Internet has done is undercut the sale of best sellers by small bookstores, he said. "We can't compete with the big merchandisers on price. We look for things that Barnes & Noble doesn't carry," said Popp.

Mary Beth Nebel, owner of the I Know You Like a Book store, 4707 Prospect Rd. in Peoria Heights, said most of her customers are those that drop by to browse. "The Internet is helpful when it comes to establishing the value of a particular book," she said, referring to Web sites like AbeBooks.com.

"As an independent book store, we provide service and recommendations for people. With our wine bar, we think it's more social and interactive than going online," she said.

The Internet is a busy place for people who want to swap books such as Swaptree, Paperbackswap and TitleTrader. From his New York City apartment, Mitchell Silverman started Bookins with a single box of used books in 2005.

Today Bookins has more than 40,000 customers who trade books with one another, he said in a telephone interview. "If you're willing to wait for a few months, you get some real bargains. For example, you can get a hardcover Harry Potter for $4.50," he said, referring to the standard Web site shipping charge.

"When people send out a book, we pay the postage," said Silverman, who said, along with books, the site now offers about 30,000 used DVDs available for traders.