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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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Used book pricing online ... what's up with that? (PHOTO:

I don't understand the online used book business

I'm using my own book as an example in this posting, but so you don't think it's merely for shameless self-promotion, I won't use the title. But, seeing copies of the book for sale online has me wondering how this online used bookselling game works.

My most recent book carries a cover price of $19.99 and that's what you'll pay at bricks and mortar shops. Some retailers sell it a little more inexpensively and online-only vendors go even lower. The latter is also true of bricks and mortar megastores like Costco.

I get all that. What I don't understand is the trade in used copies of the book. For example, from Amazon, you can buy the book new for $15.16. Amazon vendors sell new copies for $11.16.

The cheapest used copies from Amazon vendors sell for $12.86. Who wants to pay nearly $2 more for a used copy than a new one?

And even more baffling are the two vendors selling used copies for $30.77 and $31.41! Who in their right mind would pay $31.41 for a used copy of a book that retails new for – at most – $19.99?!

And on top of it all, you get the pleasure of paying about $4 in postage.

I see this all the time at online used booksellers. There will be multiple copies of a title available, ranging in price from under $1 to sometimes more than $100.

Considering no one is likely to buy these insanely overpriced copies of books, why do vendors even bother listing them? Can someone please explain this to me?

And if you want to buy my unnamed book, I recommend you go to Boswell Books on Downer Avenue and support local independent retailers.


CarolV | Feb. 6, 2013 at 2:19 p.m. (report)

I like it when your book's promo copies turn up all over creation as used for sale online. Or, when you see your book on an end cap at the Goodwill (I guess at least its on an end cap?). Or when Amazon lists it discounted right away when you have a wholesaler. Tough to get into traditional book sales. I'm curious about eBooks and self-publishing on demand to see if that's any better. No matter what, authors are almost always losing 40%+ on retail for new sales unless they sell direct themselves. Tough business unless you're JK Rowling or something. I don't get it either Bobby.

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littletinyfish | Feb. 6, 2013 at 9:58 a.m. (report)

There are weird robots that game the Amazon system, and when you get two of those robots competing with each other it can really drive down prices. The places that list the books more expensively (the $30 seller, for instance) is just hoping that some poor sucker stumbles upon the book and buys it without thinking about it further. That seller may not even have the book. They'll list it higher, wait for someone to buy it, then they'll purchase a cheap copy later and send it out to the sucker.

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