The older I get the more grumpy I become about ‘stock images’.
When buying second-hand books on the internet I like to be able to read an accurate description, which includes details of all the faults, and also view an image of the book that is being offered for sale, not some generic image of a book of the same title which may or may not be a true reflection of what the offered book looks like.
In the early days of the internet the existence of stock images was perhaps more justifiable at a time when digital cameras and scanners were expensive. Now that they are much cheaper a serious seller really has no excuse not to provide an image. To use a ‘stock image’ rather than an image of the book itself reveals a rather cavalier attitude towards the buyer or perhaps just lazyness.
Some of the major selling websites such as Advanced Book Exchange and Biblio are not free from blame as they seem to offer individual sellers a stock image facility. It is a well known marketing adage that an image will help to sell a product but if it is a misleading or inaccurate image then you are far more likely to end up with unhappy customers. To maintain their reputations these sites need to encourage the sellers who offer their stock through them to provide images of their stock and discourage or discontinue the use of stock images.
The position on Ebay is more ambiguous. I haven’t been able to establish whether or not Ebay themselves offer stock images but a number of mega-listers there certainly use them and some add disclaimers to their descriptions such as ‘Please note, the image is for illustrative purposes only, actual book cover, binding and edition may vary’ or ‘Stock photo for illustration purposes’. The snag with these is that the disclaimer is sometimes not quite so obvious as the image and you may need to scroll some way into the description before you find it.
I have chosen ABE, Biblio and Ebay because they all offer me, the customer, the facility to record my ‘wants’ and then email me when matching stock is added. The anticipation of finding a long-awaited book when such an email arrives is tempered with disappointment when one finds that the new matching stock is illustrated with a ‘stock image’.
As a buyer I want to see an image of the actual item being offered for sale, not one like it (or in some cases nothing like it!). Please support the more diligent internet sellers (of anything, not just books) who provide you with an image which is a true representation of what they are offering, and beware of ‘stock images’.