My Second Sale on Turning Textbooks into Gold

The usual disclaimer: I work for eBay, and until recently, I was part of the product team responsible for So I am biased. Not a little. A lot.

I have always believed that great engineers and product managers live their products and use their products. It’s the best way to get first-hand understanding of your users, and it can open your eyes to challenges that just aren’t obvious when you are looking at theoretical designs and analytical data. Being a user yourself can help give you an essential “gut feel” for your product.

Until recently, I managed the product team responsible for eBay Express,, and some features for As a result, I started listing old textbooks on a few months ago, during the slow season, to get a better feel for the product. I had used extensively as a buyer, but never before as a seller.

I just got my second sale on, and I thought I’d share a few of my insights, as a user, while they are still fresh:

  • Selling on is Easy. It’s almost too easy. You just type in the ISBN number, specify the condition, and type a few notes (up to 250 characters). recommends a price to you, and you pick a price. That’s it. I’d argue it’s even easier than GoogleBase or Craigslist, because the site inherently understands books, and provides simple, contextual information while you list.
  • The mystery is when the sale will happen. has a different model than eBay. On eBay, you pay an up-front listing fee, and there is a clearly specified time your listing will be live, typically a week. On, your listing is free, and it lives forever. You only pay when it sells. But the question is, when will that be? As I’ve discovered, sales of textbooks seem to primarily happen in big “back to school” months. The book I sold today was listed several months ago. I had to think about where I had hidden it away, so I could ship it.
  • Being an eBay seller made me a better Half seller. eBay sellers are expected to pack & ship quickly. They are expected to send email, letting the buyer know that the package is on the way. eBay sellers also generally know how to use postage printing to turn around larger packages quickly. On, these things are optional, but I felt like I was giving a higher quality of service because of my experience selling on eBay.

So, here is my little money making tip for all of you within a decade of being in school. Go find your textbooks. Take 15 minutes, and list them on Pick the recommended price from Put them in a box, and put the box somewhere safe. Wait for the next textbook season, and you might find some welcome news in your inbox.

Just like I did today.

PS If there is anyone reading my blog who is in school, and is not buying their textbooks on, you are wasting a lot of money. Save your money. Buy your textbooks on Parents, if you have children in college, and you are paying for their textbooks, make them buy them on

Vanguard introduces four new Bond ETFs, with Super Low Expense Ratios!

11 Basis Points. Not one percent. Not one half a percent. Not even one quarter of a percent.

0.11%. That’s the new expense ratio on the Vanguard Bond ETFs. These were announced this week on the Vanguard RSS Feed.

$11 for every $10,000 you have invested. Combined with the 9 basis points you pay on the Total Stock Market ETF, you could have a 50/50 balanced portfolio for the total cost of 0.10% every year.

I know that things like this don’t excite everyone, but I see this as more than just a good deal. I see empowerment for everyone. People forget that 30 years ago, you couldn’t get index funds unless you were a large institution with millions to invest. Even then, you couldn’t get one with an expense ratio under 0.5% until 15 years ago. And getting one freely, with no fees save commission, like this, with no minimum investment? Forget about it, until now.

Now the small investor, with just a few thousand saved, can have access to the tools previously limited to massive institutions. And it seems to only be getting better every year.

From the Vanguard website:

Vanguard has filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) to offer exchange-traded shares for four existing Vanguard® bond index funds: Total Bond Market Index Fund, Short-Term Bond Index Fund, Intermediate-Term Bond Index Fund, and Long-Term Bond Index Fund.

Pending SEC approval, the four new bond ETFs will provide broadly diversified exposure to the entire U.S. bond market as well as discrete segments of the market at an expected expense ratio of only 0.11%.

Vanguard ETFs™ are uniquely structured as separate share classes of existing Vanguard mutual funds. For example, Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF will be a separate share class of the $40 billion Total Bond Market Index Fund, the industry’s first bond index fund and one of the largest bond mutual funds in the country. Introduced in 1986, the fund seeks to track the performance of the market-weighted Lehman Brothers Aggregate Bond Index, and holds nearly 2,800 corporate, Treasury, agency, and mortgage securities.

The new ETFs will be managed by the Vanguard Fixed Income Group, which oversees $310 billion in fund assets, including $65 billion in bond index fund assets.