Throughout history there have been great marketplaces in the world, places where commerce reached legendary proportions. But none of those places could remotely compete on a scale to what's become the mother of all bazaars, eBay.
While the breakdown lanes rimming the Information Highway are bulging with Web business busts, eBay has not just survived, but thrived.
''EBay is a selling platform unparalleled in the history of man," writes Adam Ginsberg in his encomium to the e-zaar, ''How to Buy, Sell and Profit on eBay."
And who can argue with him? Every day, the more than 115 million eBay members place 7.7 million bids. In 2004 alone, some $24 billion was spent at the dot-com.
''[I] have been a student of business my entire life, and the signs are crystal clear," Ginsberg alerts his readers. ''EBay will continue to grow at a fantastic rate for years to come. The good news for you is that the greatest success stories on eBay have yet to be written."
Although Ginsberg's book gushes accolades for eBay, the author, who asserts his sales at the auction site exceed a million dollars a month, initially approached the service skeptically.
After endless nagging from his mother, an enthusiastic seller of Beanie Babies on eBay, he reluctantly posted an item for sale: a pool table. At the time, Ginsberg operated a bricks-and-mortar furniture store with a sideline in billiards equipment. Fully expecting to take a bath on the move, his attitude changed 180 degrees after the table, retailing for $1,950 at his store, sold for $2,250 on eBay.
When it comes to commerce, there are two kinds of people in the world: buyers and sellers. Ginsberg is most definitely a seller. From first page to last of this book, he sells and sells and sells.
He sells eBay as a company. He sells eBay as a selling platform. He sells eBay as a business opportunity. And he sells eBay as a lifestyle.
''My eBay business has gotten huge, but I still run it as opposed to it running me," he writes. ''I come and go as I please, my daughter remembers what I look like now, and my wife doesn't feel the need to put out a missing person's ad."
Although ''buying" is mentioned in the title of the book, a reader would need an electron microscope to find much about that here. If you're looking for tips on how to avoid getting burned by unscrupulous sellers or outwitting bid snipers in the last two minutes of an auction, you won't find much.
But you will find a trove of gems about setting up shop and becoming a power seller on eBay. Ginsberg touches all the bases for sellers, from describing, listing, and photographing items to calculating shipping charges, incorporating as a business, and paying taxes.
While there's hardly a discouraging word about eBay in this book, there are a few, most of them crowded into a disclaimer sandwiched between the table of contents and prologue.
''Given the vagaries of the market, there is always some risk involved, and there is no guarantee that the methods suggested in this book will be profitable," Ginsberg writes.
That may be the best advice he offers to readers.