Internet Sets You Free
I was going to write about RSS, but I'm not in
the mood. RSS is cool, we'll cover it later.
Why am I not in the mood? It's a pleasant spring
day, that's why. Spring puts me in the mind for
cleaning, for a fresh start, for getting rid of the
Which is what I've been doing. Simply put, I've
got too much stuff. Have you ever had the
experience of not being able to find something that
you need because you have too much stuff? I want
efficiency, I want to pare down life's baggage so
that I only have the essentials.
I loaded up my car with a few boxes and took
them to the local charity thrift shop. I walked in
with a box, and the nice lady seemed none too
thrilled. Can you imagine working in a thrift shop?
All the stuff that people bring in, boxes and
"I've got more in the car," I said.
"What is it?" she said, a little wary.
"Junk," I replied.
I'd thought about renting a storage space. But
then I thought about the irony--all these Americans
so loaded down with junk that they must rent space
to house it. And most of it is stuff they'll never
And here's another irony: your junk may be
another man's gold. One of the glories of the
Internet is that you can actually get money for
stuff that you don't want. It's a giant rummage
sale. And it's fun. Almost too good to be true:
someone actually pays you for your junk.
I had a 10-volume set of Mortimer Adler's great
books, published around 1960. I'd picked it up at a
rummage sale over 20 years ago for a dollar. There
they sat on my shelves year after year.
I found a book dealer on the Internet, thinking
this might be worth some money. I put the question
to him: any value to this, or should I take 'em to
the thrift shop? He recommended the thrift
I was about to do so, but then thought, "Why not
give eBay a try?"
I laid them out on my bed, took a photo, and in
less than 10 minutes had them listed.
No bids for the first five days of the seven-day
auction. But on day six two collectors started
bidding, and the auction closed at $38.
eBay is great. Next thing I'm listing is a plaid
sport coat I've only worn once. The one time I wore
it, a friend said, "Hey, that's a pretty loud sport
coat you have there." Hey, I got it on sale, and
it's 100% silk. Truth be told, I bought it because
it was very cheap, not because I liked it. This'll
be a true test of eBay.
Of course, for books, videos, CDs, and DVDs, a
good option is Half.com.
This has been working pretty well for me lately. I
currently have 35 books listed and have sold five
in the past seven days, two of them for $30!
It takes a couple minutes at the most to list a
book. You type in the ISBN number, and Half.com
calls up all the info from its database, including
an image of the cover. You specify the condition
from a pull-down menu, and then price the item.
Half.com suggests how much you might charge,
based on the average sale price and the current
price range. It also tells you what the lowest
current price is that anyone is charging and the
highest. It tells you the price that the item most
recently sold for. And it tells you how many of
that item are currently on sale.
Pay close attention to the lowest price and the
most recent sale price. If either is less than $5,
you're wasting your time. Stop right there. Also,
if there's a large number available, it means that
there's little demand.
On the other hand, occasionally you'll find that
yours is the only one. Price it high to start with.
You can always lower it later. I learned the hard
way that a book that I sold for $30 could have
brought $50 or more.
Overall, books can move pretty slow. But the one
time I listed a video, it sold immediately.
It's springtime--time to clear out some stuff.
You'll be glad you did. And if you're lucky, you'll
make some cash in the process. Ah, the glories of
© 2004 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.