Strange prices for used books on Amazon
March 27, 2009 3:00 AM   Subscribe

Why are there used books for sale on amazon for far more than amazon sells them for?

For example this book: Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions (Paperback) retails for just under $32 brand new but there are three used book resellers that have prices starting at $69.

What gives?
posted by srboisvert to Shopping (10 answers total)
Because books go out of print and Amazon sometimes runs out of stock, at which point people who really want a book will be prepared to pay a premium for it. It would be more convenient for the bookseller simply to give books an expensive price from the outset, so that they don't have to keep monitoring Amazon's prices/stock.
posted by mattn at 3:15 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The prices probably date from a time when Amazon didn't have a copy in stock.
posted by fire&wings at 3:46 AM on March 27, 2009

What they said. One book I own was out of stock at Amazon for a while and the prices skyrocketed, then they got it in stock again and the prices went back to normal -- only some sellers left their listings up with the higher price, because they probably just aren't checking.
posted by litlnemo at 4:12 AM on March 27, 2009

I've noticed that too, always thought it was lazy sellers not keeping their competitive edge in check.
posted by tokidoki at 4:14 AM on March 27, 2009

Used book sellers can't usually keep an eye on which books are going to be reprinted and when, etc. I personally have paid $40 for an out of print paperback on amazon (it will almost certainly become a classic and be reprinted, but who can say if that will be this year, or in another 10-20 years? ). ;) There's a market for this.
posted by shownomercy at 6:34 AM on March 27, 2009

As someone whose mystery novels are carried on amazon, I also see insane prices for my books - well above the listed price.
Like 8 times the listed price.
I think that some of these 'sellers' are somehow automated, and make listings merely based on ISBN. They may not even have the book in stock.
The higher the feedback number, the more I am inclined to think that the 'seller' is some large conglomerate or back end, as opposed to an individual selling books out of their spare bedroom.
I have no proof or evidence, just my gut feeling that a lot of listings are just thrown in there.
posted by willmize at 6:44 AM on March 27, 2009

Some of them are a collector's copy.
posted by Pants! at 6:51 AM on March 27, 2009

I think that all of the reasons above play a part. In addition, the "megasellers" sometimes use a huge figure as a place holder for stock they don't have--instead of relisting when they get the book, they merely change the price.

Amazon sales are a really interesting thing, really. It can mess with your sense of what "value" really means.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:39 AM on March 27, 2009

posted by Ziggy Zaga at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2009

"Previously", above, is a rich source of info.
In rare instances, as Pants! writes, there are collector's copies; some are autographed by the author.
I find it's good to check to find the going prices from many booksellers, some of the mega companies as well as many others.
posted by ragtimepiano at 2:01 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

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