Book Review: Getting Started in Internet Auctions

As the title suggests, a complete guide to buying and selling at Internet auctions

As the title suggests, a complete guide to buying and selling at Internet auctions

Getting Started in Internet Auctions

By Alan C Elliott

Publisher by John Wiley and Sons

First Edition - 2000

Every now and then we come across a book that stands out for its in-depth treatment of an apparently narrow and pointless subject. You have to admire the chutzpah of the author who writes it, and of the publisher who brings it to market with a genuine expectation that it will sell.

Getting Started in Internet Auctions appears such a volume - after all, surely anyone can log onto eBay and place a bid or try to sell some old junk without the need for a guide to lead them through the process.

On the surface, this is probably true, but the fact is that the author has managed to fill some 230 pages with detailed and surprisingly interesting information. To be sure, he starts right from the beginning, suggesting that as a new user you should test the waters by trying to shift any old tat from the attic.

However, this quickly leads into an array of useful tips about structuring an ad and making it stand out to maximise the chances of attracting several keen bidders. It's equally clear that Elliott's purpose in the book is to appeal to those who want to make a decent income from selling goods across the Web.

As a result, although his advice on sourcing goods for resale and finding wholesalers or distributors might be superfluous, much of his text is applicable to anyone who'd like to extend the scope of an existing small-scale business through auctions, perhaps to get rid of surplus or end-of-line stock.

In particular, he advises on choosing the most appropriate auction house (and offers a fair number of figures as to the relative scale and success of each one), and seeks to help with selling multiple items. Much of his detailed advice is based around eBay's structure (predictable enough, given that this is the most popular auction site), but this is no real disadvantage. Indeed, it helps open your eyes to the possibilities of Dutch Auctions and the like, which can shift several identical items very quickly indeed.

Elliott's book is also full of useful advice about fulfilment and rudimentary customer service. This is more relevant to someone who's trying to set up a part-time business than to an existing distribution operation, but some of his pointers act as useful reminders of principles which should at least keep punters happy and ready to come back to spend more money.

What's more, the book also contains a guide to the most common types of online fraud and tips to avoid being caught, together with a list of the best-known auction sites and their strengths and weaknesses.

If you're looking for a handy guide to the basics of selling through existing auction sites, this is a good start. Sure, it's American-oriented, but this is more a reflection of how online auctions have grown than anything to be criticised. There's a heavy concentration on eBay (reflecting its market-leading status) but though the specifics may differ from site to site, the principles remain the same. Getting Started in Internet Auctions is easy to digest and may encourage you to dip a toe in the tepid waters that could see your business reach a still wider audience.

John Sabine

This was last published in June 2000

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