June 2007 Archives

The Value of Time and Space


I haven't sold used books in years.

Once upon a time, I had success with half.com. But eBay acquired half.com, and after the appropriate mourning period, first suggested and then demanded that I transfer my account to eBay and sell my stock using auction-style listings. This required much time and effort.

I refused. I simply emptied my entire online inventory, and stopped selling; eBay notified me days later that they couldn't believe how they'd offended long-time half.com users. They'd let me keep selling the old way. Too late. I still own most of that deleted stock.

Yet space limitations require that I now eliminate some of my books. Translation: our apartment is packed, and I must choose which books to donate to the library or sell, sell, sell! I used to sell books worth at least $5, and give away anything below the price floor; the going market rate for the rest was usually in the dollar to two dollar range, some down to a cool 1¢ (with the real money being made in the way-too-high shipping allowance). But being a low-volume seller of low-price books meant going to the post office to earn a dollar; so I would just donate them in bulk.

Now I've decided to sell off some of my books by becoming an Amazon Merchant. I was confident I'd sell many of my books because I follow two rules: I 1) keep my books in excellent condition, 2) undersell the lowest comparable used copy by 50¢ to $1.

So far, in twelve hours, I've sold 3 of the first 8 books I put up for sale -- all recent, popular, non-fiction titles. Now, this high volume tells me that I might have to rethink my inventory price floor; If I'm already going to the post office regularly, why not include the cheap books, and make a few extra dollars?

But then I remember that the point is to get rid of books I've read, will not reference, and will not read again; the point is to clear up space with minimal expense of time, not to maximize revenue on book sales; the point is MAX(U), not MAX(Π).

You don't say...

What do you mean, municipal wi-fi networks aren't the unalloyed good they were sold as?

Across the United States, many cities are finding their Wi-Fi projects costing more and drawing less interest than expected, leading to worries that a number will fail, resulting in millions of dollars in wasted tax dollars or grants when there had been roads to build and crime to fight.

I was recently in Pittsburgh, PA. Which has a downtown network that can be used "free" for two hours. I say "free", since I had to register. For the benefit of sending my info to the city, which I assume logged my IP and thus knew roughly where I was and more...I got slow service that could only be used in certain positions since the repeaters were weak and stationed poorly for coverage.

But, you know, it's hard to tell how these things will pan out.


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