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abstract:The folks at have a great idea -- one I've been working towards myself -- video book reviews you can watch in about a minute or two delivered by (what appears to be) regular folks. It's a great concept for those of us attempting to look past the hype of a book by mainstream publishing marketers and get a peer review of a new book. It's like taking the Amazon visitor reviews one step further. With you get to see the reviewer and determine their sincerity and honest opinion. Click on title for more details.


November 25, 2007

Meet the Founders

Michael and Joy Johnson, the husband-and-wife team who founded Pacific Book Exchange and Blue Rectangle, live in the San Francisco Bay area. Their company the Pacific Book Exchange buys back used text books and regular books for resale in their wholesale-retail business outlet. Consumers do it in an eBay-like format by logging on to their site to type in a book's International Standard Book Number (ISBN), the 13-digit number associated with the barcode on every book. If Blue Rectangle is looking for that title, it sends the consumer a packing slip and the postage by e-mail. The consumer is reimbursed for the book by check or PayPal.

What sorts of books do they buy? Blue Rectangle is not looking for bodice rippers and potboilers. The site seeks primarily nonfiction works and textbooks, although it will accept some selected fiction and children's literature. Books are also sold on another company site at Sounds like a great concept, but does it make money?

Francine Brevitt of the Oakland Tribune (Feb 12th, 2007) writes,
"The Book Study Industry Group reported that used-book sales reached $2.2 billion in 2004, up 11 percent from $2 billion in 2003. Meanwhile, online book sales rose to $609 million in 2004, up 33 percent from the year before.

The Johnsons reported their 2006 sales came in "on the low end of $3.5 million." But this year's revenue expectations are in the $4 million range.

They hope the video feature will add "stickiness" to their site, helping to make it more entertaining and interesting for visitors.

"I really like the fact that not all the reviews are positive," said Joy Johnson, pointing to a scathing review of James Redfield's "The Celestine Prophecy" on the site.

Before the couple started Pacific Book Exchange in 1997, Michael Johnson made a living as an eBay seller and acquiring and remodeling fixer-uppers on the real estate market. Later, he started to look for a marketplace where he could operate as an entrepreneur.

"I started to wonder, where do all the books come from? I found the world of regional charities (libraries, religious and other humane organizations). They literally have tons of donated material and, at the time, they were throwing it into the landfill. It could be bought for almost nothing in bulk," he said.

He went about finding markets for these volumes.

Pacific Book Exchange has grown considerably. Today, it operates out of a 17,000-square-foot San Leandro plant.

The 15-employee company has no debt or outside investors. It grows only by using its own revenues. The company conducts the interviews and videotapes the online book reviews itself.

"Without any capital really, you have to live and die by your results," Michael Johnson said. "There is no buffer to it."

If you are operating a used book sale and need a place to get rid of books, contact them at



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