The usual disclaimer: I work for eBay, and until recently, I was part of the product team responsible for Half.com. 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, Half.com, and some features for Shopping.com. As a result, I started listing old textbooks on Half.com a few months ago, during the slow season, to get a better feel for the product. I had used Half.com extensively as a buyer, but never before as a seller.
I just got my second sale on Half.com, and I thought I’d share a few of my insights, as a user, while they are still fresh:
- Selling on Half.com 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). Half.com 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. Half.com 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 Half.com, 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 Half.com, 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 Half.com. Pick the recommended price from Half.com. 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 Half.com, you are wasting a lot of money. Save your money. Buy your textbooks on Half.com. Parents, if you have children in college, and you are paying for their textbooks, make them buy them on Half.com.