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eBay Hacks: 100 Tips and Tools to get into the Heart of eBay
by Michelle Smith
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            eBay.  Chances are you have used it for something.  Maybe to sell that pencil collection left to you by Aunt Mabel.  Or maybe to find the Elmo puppet that they haven’t made since before your toddler was born, but that she MUST have.  Or maybe you are afraid to use it, since it all seems so complicated.  What IS a Dutch auction anyway?  Finally there is a comprehensive book, for auction novices and PowerSellers alike, that will take some of the mystery out of online auctions and make the whole experience of finding that one-of-a-kind aluminum foil dispenser a lot more fun.


            One of the greatest strengths of this book is its ability to convey the psychology of eBay.  It is a unique marketplace, with its own set of “rules” for interactions between buyers and sellers.  Communication can make all the difference between a transaction where everyone is satisfied or one where all parties feel that they have gotten a bad deal.  Luckily, author David A. Karp is both a capable writer and an eBay enthusiast.  His insights on how eBay really works, as well as his advice on eBay etiquette, are invaluable. 


            This isn’t your typical “hacks” book, which may be a happy surprise for some readers, and a source of dismay for others.  Many of the hacks in this book have nothing to do with programming.  However, those that do are very well written and explained so that even a non-programmer can easily put them to use.  For those with some programming experience who want to take Karp’s tools even further, there are many suggestions on how to customize them, with additional references suggested when needed.  On the downside, the title might scare off some potential readers, who are expecting a complex technical manuscript.  Others, looking for some way to “beat the eBay system” will also be disappointed;  this isn’t it.  (Karp even goes so far as to note when any of his suggested hacks are on the fringes of what eBay rules allow.)


            The text is very well organized and easy to follow.  When topics overlap, Karp references the other applicable hacks by number, making it easy to find all of the information one might need for a particular solution.  The book also makes good use of screen shots to illustrate its points, and special icons in the text draw the reader’s attention to critical information.  Overall, it is a very easy book to use.


            One thing this book isn’t is a hand-holding guide to the set up of your first auction or bidding on your first eBay treasure.  Karp makes that very clear from the outset.  However, many of his hacks go into enough simple detail that there is very little need for such basic instruction.  Plus, eBay itself makes it so easy that ANYONE can do it.  (Ok, maybe not Cousin Fred, but he doesn’t own a computer anyway, thank goodness.)


            If I have any criticism of eBay Hacks, it is that it is marketed to a small target audience, and not the general public.  eBay is a community of millions of people worldwide;  it is used by all ages and backgrounds and occupations.  However, few of these people are programmers and, thus, hardly any will venture into the computer section of their bookstore to find this gem.  That is a shame, because the tips and tools contained here would be helpful to even the most novice eBay user.  (In fact, I think you should be required to read this book before you place your first bid!)  Hopefully the publisher will extend its promotion to reach a broader readership.


            eBay Hacks, by David A. Karp, is a definite winner.  It is a must-have text for anyone who ventures into the eBay marketplace, either as a buyer or seller.  So, the next time Aunt Betty buys you that unique orange and maroon sweater, grab eBay Hacks, turn on your computer, and turn your unwanted gift into someone else’s treasure.

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