Harry Rinker

July 18th, 2013

I had a nice talk with antiques and collectibles veteran Harry Rinker yesterday. Harry is 72 and lives in Michigan. He has been in the business 35 years. He is still having fun because of the changes in the industry thanks to the Internet. Here are some takeaways:

1. eBay has moved away from auctions, unfortunately, which has taken much of the fun out of shopping for antiques and collectibles online. But be careful with the Buy It Now prices. They are hardly accurate. They vary widely and you have to scroll extensively to find bargains.

2. Marketplaces like GoAntiques, TIAS.com, and Ruby Lane are doing well and have taken much of the business that eBay gave up when it abandoned the collectibles field.

3. Only a quarter to a third of antiques and collectibles sold online go to collectors. Most buy for decorative purposes. Many repurpose items and re-use them in their households.

I felt an affinity with Harry because he is making a living as a freeance writer thanks to the Internet. Our words don’t appear in print (for the most part) and it’s OK. “It’s a damn fine time to be around this business,” he said.

7th edition is out!

July 9th, 2013

The first edition of Starting an Online Business for Dummies came out in 1999. Those were heady days for e-commerce. In just a few months the bubble burst. But this book has gone on through the ups and downs in the economy. The 7th edition is out this month. I really made an effort to build in new content and new profiles. Here is a quick roundup of what’s new:

  • The rise of mobile commerce. It’s now a given that you have to have a mobile version of your website in addition to your desktop version.
  • Raising money. Venture capital has gone mainstream with sites like Kickstarter that help anyone get off the ground.
  • The rise of local commerce. There is a whole chapter in the book on location-based marketing–taking advantage of your store’s physical location to attract customers.
  • Apps. You can make money by creating and selling your own app. You can either hire a programmer or use one of several innovative websites that lead you through the process of designing your own app interface.
  • The preeminence of WordPress. A blog used to be a supplement to your website or business. Now it’s the centerpiece of many business and personal websites. WordPress has become the de facto standard application for creating websites, even though it’s still primarily a blogging program.
  • Curation. Content sells; in chapter 1, I profile Dean Pettit of Space Coast Outdoors, who has arranged tourist information about the space coast in Florida and is making some extra bucks by attracting visitors and selling ads.

Another change is in the amount of hardware and software you need to create an online business. Chapter 3 of Starting an Online Business used to be a rundown of all the hardware you used to have to buy. I sort of tore up that chapter because devices like smartphones and tablets make a lot of that hardware unnecessary. You can focus more on envisioning the kind of business you want and planning your business rather than investing in so much pricey stuff.

I’m very happy with this book and am glad to respon to questions about it. So ask away!