Sunday, April 6, 2008

eBay bans digital downloads

This one is for all the sellers of information products who are no longer selling on eBay.

I suppose eBay has a good reason for banning digital downloads from auction and Buy It Now formats. I only have one question. Why not share that thinking with us - the sellers? Yes, I sell tech stuff on ebay and until recently I sold ebooks.

Call me a simpleton, but what's the difference between listing a digital download and carrying an inventory of 21 books of the same title? If I list a book from that stock and repeatedly sell that item in successive auctions to customer A, customer B, and so on then isn't it the same as each of those customers purchasing a digital item as I list it? Am I padding feedback (real or perceived) by repeatedly selling the same book title?

It seems to me that each customer leaves their own feedback based on their unique experience with me as a seller. The eBay system is certainly sophisticated enough to track who's buying what from whom. That's clear by the fact that as a seller I have access to all kinds of reports that outline repeat and unique buyers, etc so it stands to reason that the system administrators could, when they choose, easily determine if the integrity of the ebay marketplace is being compromised.

There's been a lot of discussion among sellers that specialize in digital downloads on eBay and many of them will lose their primary source of eBay income. In turn eBay stands to lose a significant fee base as these sellers move to other auction sites and sales platforms.

I realize that eBay hasn't asked my opinion on this matter. From the posts I've seen it's pretty clear they haven't asked anyone before coming to a decision. That's their choice, but I, like many others have strong feelings about eBay's decision. Let's face it, paying $10 a month for a classified ad for each digital item I list ain't gonna happen.

I don't believe that blocking digital downloads is in the best interest of buyers or sellers. Offering a digital download is an increasingly popular and cost effective method of delivering reasonably priced, quality goods to consumers.

My experience has been that when companies change policies, such as this policy, the underlying motivation is revenue. This is not to say that eBay doesn't have a right to adopt policies that enhance it's bottom line. Nor is this to say that eBay is no longer a viable or valuable sales partner. It simply means that we, as sellers, have a choice. We can vent, and curse, and stomp our feet all over the internet about what a bad-guy eBay is or we can understand that all businesses change as the times require.

How long we ride the wave of success is entirely based on the choices we make in response to changing circumstances. Some will adapt. Some will quit. While eBay continues to make decisions in their own best interest, we must also continue to make decisions in the best interest of our businesses. In the immortal words of Eeyore, "Even at the very bottom of the river, don't stop to say to yourself, 'Is this a hearty joke, or is it the merest accident?' Just float to the surface and say to yourself, 'It's wet.'"