Sitting behind the till in my bookshop, the books immediately beside me are the ones on military history, fortunately most of the books on this subject sell fairly well, so one of them should help to explain the situation.
OK “Defeat Into Victory” sums the situation up as good as any, the Pan edition came out in 2009 priced £9.99, it is a military classic and has been in print in various editions since 1956, it is an average seller and will probably go on selling indefinitely.
Once upon a time in the UK we had a thing called The Net Book Agreement, this lasted from 1900 to 1997 and fixed the price of new books, causing the UK to have the cheapest books in the world and causing a flowering of literature.
This is a post for readers, so here is a party trick – can you name three famous American novelists? Difficult isn’t it although easy to name three from the UK.
One of the results of the net book agreement is that books have prices printed on them, these used to be the real prices, but now something funny has happened – and not funny ha ha – the prices don’t really mean much any more.
So whereas once we would have priced a secondhand book like this one that said £9.99 on the back at £4.99, now if the book is in nice condition we look at the thing and try to work out what a realistic new price should be and price it at half of that.
So in this case the book is priced on the shelf in my bookshop at £3.99.
Looking on Amazon the book’s RRP has now gone up to £12.99 i.e. 30% inflation in three years, but this is fine because Amazon are selling it new for £8.96 and this means our guess at what the full price should be wasn’t far off the mark.
I should stress here that I don’t want to to buy this book at the moment because I already have it in stock, you can however sell a copy in nice condition to Amazon for a £1.90 Amazon gift card.
You can buy the kindle download from Amazon for £4.49 or you can buy it in book form, secondhand from Amazon for about £7.50
You can of course look elsewhere on the internet, the cheapest I could find it was on Ebay at £2.99 including postage, however the copies there at this price were described as being in “good” condition, which in the bookselling world translates as “not very good” finding a seller with no mentions of dreadful condition in their feedback takes you back to around £7 including postage.
A bit of a "bird in the hand" situation.
Anyway I have been re pricing the general fiction in my bookshop, working along the shelves, trying to make sure that what I have on the shelf, in terms of secondhand paperback fiction, represents better value than can be found online.
I was fairly surprised that in about half the cases, what we had on the shelf was better value than what you could get online and having now done it I am fairly confident that most of it is.
There are a lot of books listed on Amazon a 1p, yes a penny, but in practice because of the £2.80 postage allowance this doesn’t mean they are the cheapest copies on Amazon, most of the potboilers are available on Amazon, secondhand for about £1.50 including postage.
So something to consider here when someone says to you “I only paid a penny for it” this may not have been the cheapest option.
Another interesting thing here is that the Amazon app on my mobile phone didn’t bring up the cheapest copy available nor did the Ebay app. What got the price down was spending a considerable amount of time delving online.
This is the area where the difference between finding the price of a book you want to sell and making some sort of effort to buy the thing cheaply comes into play. A bit of advice here; if you are considering selling a book, look it up as though you were trying to buy it cheaply.
I will ramble on here.