Tuesday, March 25, 2008

eBay Says: "No Soup For You, eBook Sellers!"

eBay has done it again and thrown the "baby out with the bath water". In an effort to stop Feedback manipulation by buyers and sellers of digital downloads like (ebooks, templates, software etc,)

According to a recent announcement by eBay's Brian Burke:

"Digital goods are often reproduced at little to no cost to the seller. On eBay, this creates the potential for Feedback Manipulation (both real and perceived). To preserve the integrity of the Feedback system, effective March 31 all goods that can be digitally downloaded or transferred electronically must be listed using the Classified Ads format.

Using the Classified Ads format, sellers receive a 30-day ad at a fixed price. This solution enables sellers to continue to market their digital goods on eBay; however, because Classified Ad listings are a lead generation tool and do not result in transactions that go through eBay, Feedback cannot be exchanged between buyer and seller.

Sellers who wish to continue to offer digital goods can do so by selecting the Everything Else>Information Products category in the Sell Your Item form and choosing the Classified Ads format (not auction-style or fixed price).

For more information about the Classified Ads format, please read Advertising with Classified Ads.

Okay, so instead of doing a surgical strike to correct the problem, they carpet bomb in typical eBay fashion. If feedback manipulation is the problem than just don't allow feedback for digital items. Oh that's right, that would cost more money than the category is really worth so we'll just affect thousands of sellers and their livelihood because our ROI model isn't optimum.

I just wish eBay managers would take maybe a few minutes to think these things through before they make a huge policy change like this.

If you are an e-book seller and don't want to sell your book in eBay's classifieds, why not sell your e-book on Amazon. Heck you can even sell it for the Kindle. Just click here for all the details.

Selling your e-book on the Kindle may not make you rich, but it would make you feel better.

Just my 12%


Chris @ TameBay said...

"If feedback manipulation is the problem than just don't allow feedback for digital items."

That's effectively what they've done Randy.

It's worth noting that it's digitally downloaded products that are affected. The new policy doesn't appear to affect products delivered via other methods so if you burn the information to CD or deliver it via email it's probably ok to still list as a normal auction/BIN/SIF.

Also many sellers of digital services such as Auction Template design appear to think they will be affected. Again there are more ways than digital downloads to deliver such products and in many cases if it's a custom design it isn't available for instant download and so (I think!) not affected by the new policy.

Interested to hear your opinions...

Randy Smythe said...

Chris, moving them to a classified ad limits visibility, but it does accomplish eBay's desire to do this quickly without any real due diligence.

I can hear them in the conference room "Just change the policy, that way we don't have to find a real solution. We don't make that much off of digital downloads anyway"

Let them eat cake!

Just a little thought and they could have come up with a better solution.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that digital products could benefit a lot from feedback because buyers really don't know what they are getting before they buy.

Cliff said...

Bad move. Any item effected by this policy will never be purchased by me...I've never clicked the tab for eBay Classifieds and really doubt I ever will. And I'm sure if I don't bother, others don't either.

This is really why I don't care for any further separation of eBay--I spend enough time searching the Core and the Stores, I don't have time to be bothered looking through areas I'm unfamiliar with.

Maybe I'm just conducting the wrong searches for eBay's Classifieds -- Randy, do Classifieds appear anywhere in general search when there are relevant results, or do you have to actually click on "Classifieds" in the search options? My guess is that if they don't automatically show-up eBay just killed off a lot of small businesses.

Anonymous said...

None of this stuff is ever really broken, but they always take a sledge hammer to it.

Randy Smythe said...

Here's the problem,: eBay creates the demand for digital products and sellers come in to fill the demand.

Soon the bad guys get in and cause problems so eBay washes their hands of it.

They say, you can still sell on the platform, we aren't harming your business but moving them to classifieds is like shutting of the water and electricity.

Classifieds are only available for certain categories

Gary said...

My guess is that they aren't disclosing the real reason for the new policy.

With so many people recommending people buy or sell digital reports/ebooks, etc. for pennies as a way to build their feedback, it would only be a matter of time before people started using it as a way to artificially raise their DSRs.

eBay foresaw that and, right or wrong, they nipped it in the bud before it began on a large scale which I'm sure it would have.

Randy Smythe said...

Gary, I don't disagree with that reasoning and maybe the "bad guys" in this category outnumber the "good guys".

I still believe they could have found a better approach.

Who knows, if I had access to their data I may have come to the same conclusion.

Suzanne Wells - The eBay Coach said...

This one really hurts people like me. I write my own eBooks, and started writing them so I could offer a quality product - many of the "how to" eBay eBooks were just junk. So I jumped thru all the hoops, wrote my books (and continue to write more), set up the digital download, and people are happy with my ebooks. (Check my feedback.>)

This one really is unfair. I agree, if feedback and not ROI is the problem, just don't allow FB for digital items. Problem sovled, nobody gets hurt. I'm heading to Amazon now to check out the Kindle situation. Burning CDs with eBooks and shipping them is not a viable, or profitable, option.

Now, when will eBay ban listing items like "well worn socks" and celebrity garbage? The rules are becoming very blurry.

Randy Smythe said...


It may just have been a numbers game. Too many bad apples and just not worth it. I got a little upset about it becasue of your situation and others that I've spoken with.

I would like to think they did an assessment of the category and this was the only real option. Unfortunately it affects some real good sellers.

It seems to me (pure specualtion on my part) their concern was that sellers would try to game the system with new ID's and great DSR's. So they had to act fast.

permacrisis said...

If they'd simply upped the minimum price requirement for ebooks to $4.99 or some such, quality would have VASTLY improved and 'manipulation' quashed just as effectively. I'll tell you why ebay really did what they did:


This would render DSR's ineffective for what they really are-- a carefully concealed removal mechanism for individual sellers.

Jeez, don't act so panicked Ebay. We were leaving anyway...

Lisa Suttora @ WhatDoISell said...

Randy, I think your analogy of throwing the baby out with the bath water, is right on. There are two primary issues that I see with this change in policy - The first has to do with the ability to provide buyers with the type of merchandise they want. We live in an age of digital media. Demand for digital products is at an all time high, while print publications continue to see decreased readership. By removing digital products from eBay, an entire category of products that is demand by consumers will no longer be available to them on eBay. Now not all digital products that are listed on eBay are quality products. But the problem is not that they are digital products, the problem is in the content. However, you can find the same kind of junk content in a National Enquirer magazine at your local grocery store. The reality of it is that there is low quality and low price merchandise in every product category on eBay and off eBay. It's not a unique issue to digital products. The second problem is with the implementation of this new policy. While I do believe that the owner of a marketplace (any marketplace) has the right to determine which products will be sold in their venue, in this situation there needed to be a migration path and lead time to enable legitimate digital product business owners to migrate their businesses to another platform without incurring a loss of income. The issue of feedback manipulation for sellers who were gaming the system could likely be managed by a software screen that would at least identify those transactions that were obviously not legit. I also have a concern about buyer perception when digital product buyers come to eBay and find that an entire category has disappeared in it's original format. Buyer confusion and change is definitely not good for sales.

Lisa Suttora @ WhatDoISell said...

Just to clarify in my above post, when I say 'remove', I am referring to removing digital products from auction format/fixed price, which greatly reduces the visibility of the category.