What is the Difference between Amazon and eBay?

Mar 08, 15 What is the Difference between Amazon and eBay?

Understanding the difference between eBay and Amazon is critical to success as an online retailer or bookseller. Even if you are not selling on these sites, they are your biggest competitors, so knowing how they work can enhance your business.

Both Amazon and eBay are online marketplaces and third-party sellers. A third-party seller is an entity that serves as a middle man between the customer and the seller. It makes its money by taking a cut of the final sale.

The big difference between Amazon and eBay is that Amazon is a retail market and eBay is a wholesale market. A retail market sells goods directly to the largest possible customer base at a fairly steady price, while a wholesale market sales goods to a specialized customer base at the lowest price possible. Wholesale marketers usually sell to professionals, dealers, and hobbyists, while retailers sell to everybody.

A good way to think of Amazon is that it is a giant retailer, such as Walmart and the grocery store operator Kroger. Like those behemoths, Amazon is in a wide variety of businesses, including third-party retail. eBay, on the other hand, is more like a thrift store or a dollar store. It sells a much smaller selection of goods to a much smaller market.

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An example of the books available at my eBay Store The Book and Comic Picker


How to Use the Difference between Amazon and eBay to Drive Profits

You can take advantage of the differences between Amazon and eBay to generate profits. Those differences determine which books sell best on each site.

Specialized and collectible items, such as old books and comic books, sell best on eBay. Items with a strong mass market appeal, such as bestselling fiction from the last 10 or 15 years, sell best on Amazon. The reason for this is the difference between the shoppers.


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The eBay buyer is likely to be a hobbyist or enthusiast, possibly a part-time seller or dealer herself. The Amazon buyer is likely to be somebody whose interest in online retail is as a convenient place to buy stuff. That means the eBay buyer is likely to be looking for vintage items, like old paperbacks, while the Amazon buyer is more likely to be looking for that Stephanie Meyer novel her book club is reading.

Strange and unusual items are more likely to sell through eBay, while items with a mainstream appeal will sell better on Amazon. An old book about astrology would be a better fit for eBay, while a three-year-old James Patterson novel would be a better selection for Amazon. Here’s how I break down some Amazon and eBay sales.

Items likely to sell on Amazon:

  • Literary and genre fiction from the past 10 to 15 years. I find series books sell especially well.

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  • Recently published textbooks.


  • Nonfiction with a mass market appeal such as diet and self-help books.


  • Self-help and do-it-yourself books from the last 10 to 15 years. Gardening books seem to do especially well.

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  • Cookbooks published in the last 20 years.


  • Books with no visible damage or serious defects (rips in the cover, etc.). Labels are OK at Amazon.


Items that go to Amazon should be clean and in close to new condition. Books with stickers on them are okay, but dirty or damaged books are not.

Items you should sell on eBay

  • Collectible books, autographed books, first editions, vintage paperbacks, etc.

Good Ol' Snoopy

  • Books over 20 years old.


  • Former library books.


  • Items that lack barcodes, such as books from the mid-20th


An example of a book I sold online for good money. I pulled it out of a dumpster

An example of a book I sold online for good money. I pulled it out of a dumpster

  • Unusual items, such as books on parapsychology or astrology.


  • Old comics and magazines.

Movie Life

  • Books that have minor defects like rips in the cover or dirt on the cover.

If you understand the difference between eBay and Amazon.com, you’ll understand the market and become a more effective seller. Those who know where to sell what will usually make more money in the online book business.


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