Grading used books requires basic knowledge of book terminology and attention to detail. What distinguishes a Good book from a Very Good book? Knowing the subtleties that define the borders between condition states will bolster your reputation as an online seller.
The online book marketplaces sell two types of books: commodities and collectibles. A commodity book will be purchased, read, and referenced by everyday consumers in need of information or entertainment. A collectible book will be purchased and possibly read by a specific consumer who desires the item based on a quality in or of the book.
The listing of commodity books on Amazon is the scope of this article. I find that a solid, generic description of commodity books will satisfy the needs of most buyers. Amazon presents the pertinent information (publisher, publication date, edition) in the Product Details section of the offer page. As long as you list your item by its ISBN (International Standard Book Number) or ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number - generally the same as the ISBN-10), the buyer will find whatever supplementary information he or she needs to make an informed purchase. Should your item deviate from the standard item described on Amazon, then you should provide additional information about the item you are selling.
In the used commodity book business, condition issues deserve the most attention. Pictures are optional. The collectible market certainly cares about condition, but edition and provenance factor greatly into the market price of a collectible. Pictures are required.
What follows is my schema for grading books and a generic sample description I might use to describe an item meeting that grade.
Grading Books for Amazon
New - A brand new book. As a used bookseller, you should never grade a book as New unless you are certain that the book is new. When a buyer purchases a New item, they expect it to appear exactly as it would in their local bookstore. I seldom describe books as New because I deal in used goods. When I find a book still sealed in shrinkwrap, I will resell it as a new book. When I purchase the book from a retailer for resale, I may sell it as New if it meets my condition expectations.
Sample Description: Brand new, still sealed! Fast shipping!
Like New - A book in Like New condition should have little to no shelfwear and a clean, seemingly unread interior. A remainder mark may be acceptable in this classification, but should absolutely be included in the description.
Sample Description: Like New! Softcover (Hardcover), minimal shelfwear. No writing, highlighting, or underlining in text. Fast shipping!
Very Good - Light shelfwear and a clean interior free of writing, underlining, and highlighting are the hallmarks of Very Good books. Most of the books I sell fall into the Very Good category.
Sample Description: Softcover (Hardcover), light shelfwear. No writing, highlighting, or underlining in text. Fast shipping!
Good - A Good book has been handled and read but has some life left in it. Light to moderate shelfwear and some markings (writing, highlighting, and/or underlining) are descriptors of the Good book. Extensive markings will degrade the condition to Acceptable. The exterior (Dust Jacket, wraps) should be intact and aesthetically sound. Scuffs, scrapes, small tears and other minor cosmetic defects can be permissible in the Good book if properly described. Many times, a book will have the external characteristics of a Very Good book and be downgraded to Good because of markings throughout the text. This is true of many Ex-Library books, which should never receive a grading higher than Good with all flaws noted.
Sample Description: Softcover (Hardcover), moderate shelfwear. Some highlighting throughout text. Fast shipping!
Acceptable - Avoid Acceptable books if you can. Books in this condition are in disrepair, barely meeting any standard for a sellable copy. If you cannot in good conscience state that a book is at least Good, I suggest passing on it. Heavy shelfwear, obvious physical damage, water stains, and extensive markings make a book Acceptable.
Sample Description: Softcover (Hardcover), heavy shelfwear. Cover (DJ) missing. Extensive underlining throughout text. Slight water damage to top edge of book. A usable copy in poor cosmetic condition. Fast shipping!
If you promise fast shipping, you best deliver! When I fulfill the order, I generally send the item out the same business day. Life gets in the way sometimes, but I do my best to get the item to my customer as quickly as possible. When Amazon fulfills the order on my behalf through my participation in Fulfillment by Amazon, the expedition of the order is at the mercy of the monolith. Amazon usually gets my items out in the same business day, but it can be delayed by any number of factors. Prime customers usually see their items shipped the same day, but those qualifying for Free Super Saver Shipping may see a slight delay if all of their pieces need to be shipped together. Overall, Amazon delivers in a timely fashion with fast, free shipping for most of my customers.
We all know how it feels to be on the other side of an online transaction. You want your item as soon as possible. Make customer service your priority. Accurately describe your items and ship them quickly. Your buyers will thank you and want to do business with you again.