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NY Times Points Out Little-Known Value of On-Line Booksellers

There's a great article in The New York Times today called Online Retailers Try to Flourish Year-Round. Deep in the article is some great information about research that Erik Brynjolfsson from the Sloan School of Management at MIT did, comparing Amazon.com with local bookstores and superstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders:

Judging by what consumers spent in 2000 online for books they could not buy offline, Professor Brynjolfsson said the value of the Internet's product selection in this category alone was between $731 million and $1 billion. While consumers often enjoy lower prices online, he said, "the big benefit is getting access to goods you wouldn't otherwise have."

Professor Brynjolfsson takes his point one step further, arguing that the value of greater product selection over the past decade or so which the Internet has hastened with its nearly endless product offerings has gone unnoticed by statisticians.

This point is particularly salient regarding venues like Amazon Marketplace. This is the area of Amazon.com where third party sellers offer both new and used versions of books, CDs, DVDs, and other things consumers want. Quite often, this is the place to find an out-of-print book that came out five years ago. Many of these books are more valuable now than they were when they were in print, due to their scarcity. This is exactly what Dr. Brynjolfsson is getting at.

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