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Snipers, Shills, and Sharks: eBay and Human Behavior Hardcover – April 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691127131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691127132
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The book does a lot more than just explain why eBay works the way it does, however. As promised in the subtitle, Steiglitz also explores the quirks of human behavior in auctions, both on eBay and elsewhere, which have as much to do with psychology as with brute economic logic. . .. Steiglitz's book is an admirable achievement: a short, readable account of the economic theory of auctions that doesn't pound the reader into stupefaction with equations or some of the other dry-as-bones notions economists often invoke."--Mark Buchanan, New Scientist

"In this interesting, well-written book, Steiglitz summarizes the basic literature on auction theory, with particular emphasis on eBay auctions...It will...be of interest to anyone who wants a basic introduction to auction theory or who uses eBay."--D.F. Sheets, Choice

"What Steiglitz does well is discuss the quirks of eBay. He himself is a regular user and this allows him to comment with some authority upon the many different patters of observed behaviour...This is an interesting book, providing a fascinating insight from an important real-world auction market, and this will provide motivation to delve deeper into the subject to many a non-expert reader."--Mark Williams, The Business Economist

"General readers interested in either behavioral economics in general, or auction behavior in particular, will find Snipers, Shills, and Sharks to be entertaining and informative read. Nave users of eBay will find it particularly useful since, as Steiglitz points out, many otherwise well-educated and informed people do not truly understand how the system works."--Sarah Boslaugh, MAA Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Wow--a rare treat, enjoyable to read and useful for anyone who ever wondered what to do when they crack open the eBay home page!"--Orley Ashenfelter, Princeton University

"There is a wealth of interesting detail about how eBay actually works in practice, along with lessons to be drawn from the theory. Graduate students in economics and allied fields will see this book as a very nice reader were they thinking of doing research in the area of auctions in general and eBay in particular. Steiglitz offers a useful gateway for those interested in delving deeper into this topic area. The book is invaluable for instructors looking to offer a course on electronic auctions."--John Morgan, University of California, Berkeley

"Steiglitz is uniquely positioned to discuss eBay--as a computer scientist, an aficionado of eBay and auctions for rare coins, and someone well versed in auction theory. The book is peppered with vivid examples and first-person tales. The main theme throughout is that real-world bidding behavior and prescriptions for auction design differ sometimes quite markedly from that predicted by classic auction theory. Steiglitz's approach is pragmatic: what does the empirical evidence reveal about how people bid on eBay, and which kinds of auctions are best for sellers? Most notably, the author provides behavioral explanations for commonly observed behavior on eBay, such as sniping, as well as anecdotal evidence about bidding rings and other seller manipulations."--David C. Parkes, Harvard University


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ebay addict on July 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Snipers, Shills, and Sharks is an instant classic that will appeal to anyone interested in understanding why ebay works the way it does and how it relates to a beautiful economic theory developed over the past few decades. How do English, Dutch, and Vickrey auctions work? Why do experienced ebayers snipe? When should a seller set a secret reserve? Why is ebay a second-price instead of first-price auction? Why does ebay post the second highest bid and not the highest one? These answers and much more are crisply explained and supported by real-world and laboratory experiments. I opened the book knowing next to nothing about auctions and ebay (other than as a participants), and now I feel that I understand a great deal.

Steiglitz begins in Chapter 1 with classic auctions, including English and Vickery. He explains the theory underlying each auction, including the seminal result that bidders should be truthful in a second-price auction such as Vickery or English (with a few caveats). Chapter 2 motivates ebay as a natural evolution of the English auction where bidders participate over time, with a fixed deadline. Chapter 3 analyzes real bidding histories on ebay and other experimental results. He explains when practice agrees with the theory, but also when it doesn't on account of human behavior. It also explains the benefits of sniping. Chapter 4 explains why ebay is not a first-price auction; Chapter 5 discusses strategies for the seller, including how to set the opening bid and secret reserve; Chapter 6 discusses strategies for the bidder, including how much to bid and when. Chapter 7 describes various ways that participants cheat and the theory underlying it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Ford on August 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a good book and I thought it was entertaining. Some may find it a bit dry because it is written more like a text book but it does have some interesting information, some interesting stories, and it has a lot of math in the back. We all love math right? The math is just for reference and is in the appenedix, it was a good book I thought. However, it was not so much about trading safely on ebay, it was more about how real life auction rings fix prices, some statistical analysis of online auctions etc.

This is a good book but if you are looking for something that explains ebay fraud and how to avoid it, look for Scams and Scoundrels, it describes more of what I thought this book would be about. While this is good, it does not have the information on identifying fraud auctions, fraud sellers, or how to protect yourself from ebay scams like Scams and Scoundrels does. Get them both, they are both good, just different takes on ebay criminals.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By florida software user on April 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up with great anticipation after hearing about it from Marginal Revolution. As an avid ebay user for the past 5 years and an economics major back in college, I was hoping that I'd find some insightful nuggets on the inner workings of auction economics and psychology.

What I found instead was a somewhat tired text that did not have a whole lot to offer. The introductory chapters on various auction types were the best and mildly entertaining, but it went slowly downhill from there. It read more like a textbook than a book you'd want to read for pleasure. There is no math in the main text, by design. The author has chosen this to keep it readable to everyone, and keeps the formulas in the appendix. That's fine by me, and I wouldn't take off stars for that. The thing that boggs this book down is that there isn't much substance. He cites a few small studies here and there that aren't very conclusive and don't give me much insight on what works and doesn't work on ebay.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ben on July 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've never liked auctions, but that has not reduced the interest of this book in any way. It gives clear and engaging explanations of how different auctions work, both in theory and in practice. Special attention is given to eBay of course, and why it works the way it does.

The main text discusses strategies and the effects of different auction rules without resorting to any math, allowing the reader to gain an excellent grasp of the issues without concentrating on technical details. But the underlying theory is not shortchanged in any way by this, since the math is contained in substantial appendices, where it is laid out with complete, easy-to-understand explanations.

I highly reccommend this book both as an introduction to eBay, and to auction theory. For me, it's both.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Debby in DC on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The title says it all. A really in-depth interesting analysis. However, it will not be a best seller because most people are not so nerdy.
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