Why is the one title by an out-of-print writer so much more expensive?
May 18, 2015 7:20 AM   Subscribe

I grew up in a home where post-colonial literature got a lot of discussion and now I want to read one of the books I remember my sisters talking about. The book is My Bones and My Flute by Edgar Mittelholzer, a Guyanese writer with a respectable amount of books published but who struggled to earn a living by writing. His books are out-of-print but reasonably available (example Abe Books) except for My Bones and My Flute which is going for silly.money. My question is why?

Although I see it's available in German more cheaply. No use to me! I will try to get hold hold of it by inter-library loan, so I don't need suggestions there, but I'm curious as to why used copies are so expensive when nothing else he wrote seems to be? Is it a secret cult classic? Is it because it's about to be reprinted this September? I remember Mittelholzer's novels being kind of ubiquitous in the 60s and 70s, especially the Kaywana books (Pan paperbacks) so I'm finding it odd that just this one in particular is so elusive.
posted by glasseyes to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why don't you buy from Amazon Germany? Cheap River says the shipping is cheap.
posted by devnull at 7:53 AM on May 18, 2015

Algorithms, perhaps.
posted by jquinby at 7:54 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

If there's only one copy out there, supply and demand suggests that the guy who owns the one copy can charge whatever he likes. He (or she) is waiting for the one person who absolutely must have the book.
posted by musofire at 8:24 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Amazon link has it for 18 Euros. Not sure what "silly money" is, but 18E is on the high side of reasonable to me.
posted by AugustWest at 8:29 AM on May 18, 2015

Response by poster: I find that rather high. The Amazon Germany price is €56, even higher. As I say under the cut I'm going to get hold of the book through an inter-library loan: the question is more has anyone an idea why this particular book has more value than the writer's other work?
posted by glasseyes at 8:38 AM on May 18, 2015

jquinby has it. If a pool of sellers are all using optimization algorithms, then it is far more likely that the price will be higher. It has more to do with the pool of sellers rather than the particular book itself.
posted by Monday at 9:10 AM on May 18, 2015

As a friend in the used/rare bookselling business told me recently, high list prices represent what a book's not selling for, because if it were selling at that price, someone would have already bought it. When you have an inelastic market, and only a few sellers who don't have massive incentives to reduce their prices, then you get this kind of stickiness.
posted by holgate at 9:19 AM on May 18, 2015

Response by poster: But I guess none of his books are selling? Why aren't they all so overpriced? And the one in question is due for a reprint soon, so there must be some kind of perceived demand for it...does anyone know if it's highly thought of or anything?
posted by glasseyes at 11:25 AM on May 18, 2015

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