With WW1 and vintage aircraft such material may be difficult to come by. Sites such as eBay and on-line sellers of new and used books such as Biblio and Abebooks are quite useful. In the instance of eBay if one waits long enough one or two publications referring to the specific aircraft one is researching will eventually turn up. For WW1 aircraft, Windsock datafiles, published by Albatros publications are invaluable references. Also useful, not only for WW1 aircraft but right through until the 1960's are Profile Publications, little profile booklets. Searches of eBay frequently reveal other out of print or otherwise difficult to obtain books. Frequently one can pick up a bargain at eBay.
However bargains are not always the case. It depends how many people are after the same book. I discovered the phenomenon of sniping with my first bid. I was winning on a Junkers D.I until about 10 seconds before the auction closed. Needless to say I have not let that happen again on any important item. Many people use sniping software or subscribe to an online sniping service which automatically places your nominated bid seconds before the auction closes. I am reticent to use such software and services, as that usually requires that one imparts one's eBay user name and password to the sniping service and with that security concerns as one does not know to whom they are being imparted to. When sniping I choose to snipe live and of course that has led to a little bit of sleep deprivation, as many items close in the early hours of the morning local time. Now if an item closes in the wee small hours of the morning I generally place my highest bid before going to bed, unless it is an ultra important item.
It generally pays to wait as long as possible before placing a bid, though I did win a few Windsocks at bargain prices by placing a low bid early on items I did not expect to win as it transpired that there was no-one else around who bid on them. That was certainly not the case yesterday or today. Indeed I see people paying way over the new price of in print books. For example Windsock datafile No.74 RAF FE8 in used condition, currently has top bid of 16.00 GBP (US $29.89) and is currently available brand new from the publisher for 8.75 GBP(US $16.35), quite a difference.
One sees this frequently. I guess it's the case of more money than sense for some buyers. Other's just like winning or dislike losing. The thrill of winning over powers them. The other type of bidder that annoys me are those who enter a bidding duel days before the auction closes. Again it is usually the case of one not wanting to be lose. All these guys do is drive up the final price. They seldom win unless of course they go to ridiculous extremes, like the item mentioned above, and bid much more than the item is worth. Then they are left well alone.
At least one can have the consolation when one is suddenly deprived of the bargain that one has been monitoring for days, that the buyer paid top dollar for a second hand item that is readily available new, at a lower price, from other sources.
When shopping for aviation related books and datafiles on eBay I suggest the following:-
- Check and see if the item is currently available from other online sources and its price new.
- Carry out an eBay search for the item using slightly varying search criteria. Quite often one will see the same item from a number of different sellers.
- When doing 2. Above check for Buy Now fixed prices. This is very applicable for Profile Publications as many online second hand book stores carry these publications at fixed prices. I have witnessed some buyers pay top dollars in auctions for profiles when the item is available elsewhere on eBay for a much lower fixed price.
- Try and avoid bidding too early or if you do and someone else bids avoid a bidding dual as that will only force the price up. You probably will not win it anyway, if you do, as someone will most likely snipe higher than either of you at the end of the auction.
- Only bid what you think the item is worth after carefully researching the price using steps 1-3 above.
- Make sure you know what currency you are bidding in. Many buyers do not appear to be aware the GBP are worth more than USD and of course will receive an unpleasant surprise when they receive their bank or credit card statement. At the time of writing 1.00 GBP = US$1.87
- If the item being auctioned closes in the early hours of the morning, rather than staying up late or rising in the middle of the night, decide your maximum bid and place that bid before going to bed. If you have carried out your research carefully using steps 1-3 above, anyone who outbids you will be paying more than it's worth. Let that console you. Wait for another time or buy it from other sources.
Alternative sources of datafiles and books:-
Windsock Datafiles - Albatros publications http://www.windsockdatafilespecials.com/stock.html
Biblio.com http://www.biblio.com/- I find it adavantagous to contact the book sellers directly and work out a cheaper deal on shipping rather than the stated quote by Biblio.
Note: The auction items above were mentioned for example purposes only.