Digital Download Products Banned on eBay

It’s no longer front page news, everyone knows now that downloadable products are banned from virtually the entire worldwide eBay marketplace.

Suggested reasons for the ban were several, some saying the overwhelming majority of digital products were inexpensive, sometimes shoddy, and as such they gave eBay and its sellers a bad reputation. eBay itself said eBooks were often used by buyers and sellers to grow feedback fast and in a minority of cases people used the glowing feedback typically received this way to build credibility on which to promote scams later.

I’m not personally convinced either excuse was the main reason for banning digital goods. I rather think eBay viewed eBooks, often packed with affiliate links, as a means of helping eBay sellers make money from products sold outside their site.

Until recently, it has been very easy to sell hundreds or even thousands of downloadable eBooks every month, priced in pennies and cents, and to include affiliate links for more expensive products which effectively meant the bulk of some sellers’ income came outside of eBay. There was a hidden benefit to all this inexpensive buying, in that many people dislike buying expensive items from people they don’t yet know and don’t yet trust, so cheap eBooks were a perfect way to generate that first sale. So they were perfect for promoting affiliate products and growing mailings lists which would be used to promote more expensive products potentially for many years to come.

eBay has always banned links inside product listings which take members outside of eBay, potentially to spend money at that other site, so I’m inclined to think those digital products were also banned to prevent outside eBay selling.

So does the ban on digital products mean sellers can no longer use cheap eBooks and other digital products to grow their outside eBay income? Not at all, in fact eBay has simply cleaned up the sinister, slightly grubby image of eBooks that prevailed before the ban. They did genuine sellers a big favour, both reducing competition and also increasing credibility for honest eBook sellers who can still sell cheap eBooks on eBay, but only in physical format, on CD, for example, or other storage device.

eBay has made the process just a little bit harder, and instead of taking payment and directing buyers seconds later to download their product, today those items have to be created in physical format, carefully packed, and quickly posted. eBay eBook selling is a tad more up market than in pre-ban days.

Sellers can still charge pennies for their eBooks and grow massive mailing lists and generous profits from affiliate and back end sales outside of eBay, only today it takes a bit longer and costs slightly more! The difference is almost negligible! Hence the reason I don’t believe what eBay says about banning digital items to prevent people garnering feedback to promote scams later. I’m betting back end selling prompted the ban and I’m just as certain the new system has little affected savvy eBay eBook sellers’ back end profits. Except to reduce competition that is, and that’s a major benefit for genuine sellers.

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