View Full Version : Why do sellers charge up to $200 for $20 books?

Brian Elfert
03-10-2010, 11:16 AM
I have been buying up certain DIY books recently. These are not rare books and I have paid as little as $1 before shipping costs. Most sold for $19.95 originally, but some sold for $34.95.

Why the heck are sellers charging anywhere from $50 to $200 for these books that can be found for the original MSRP or less every day?

These books have been recalled and the manufacturer is paying full retail for the books to get them back. Because of this sales on these books are through the roof. I don't know if sellers see the sales going crazy so they raise the prices or what.

David G Baker
03-10-2010, 1:22 PM
Much like the farm auctions in my area, people are actually paying the price and many times for junk.

Mac McQuinn
03-10-2010, 4:30 PM
I have a lot interests, boat building, motorcycling, etc. I have noticed that on occasion books with only 1 printing and focused on a specialized subject from smaller publishing houses sometimes go for a princely sum once inventory is gone.


Brian Elfert
03-11-2010, 8:50 AM
I have a lot interests, boat building, motorcycling, etc. I have noticed that on occasion books with only 1 printing and focused on a specialized subject from smaller publishing houses sometimes go for a princely sum once inventory is gone.

I could certainly understand high prices if these books were rare or desireable. They are neither. They are fairly generic DIY books. These are all Sunset books so they sold all over the place when new.

From a used book marketplace the same used book can range from $18 up to $200. I have no idea why anyone would ever buy the $200 book.

Curt Harms
03-11-2010, 8:58 AM
"illustrated cabinet making" by Bill Hylton went through that. it was out of print for a while and prices were going nuts. A publisher saw there was demand and started printing it again. $16.47 on Amazon.:)

Archie Hendrick
03-11-2010, 10:25 AM

My wife and I are small time book collectors and as such we've bought and sold many books locally and on line. It's a crazy business. I can't tell you why the Sunset books are are commanding such prices because they are readily available and are hardly "collectible." Having said that, though, some people think that if they have a first edition, first printing of a book, then it must be valuable. They fail to realize that EVERY published book, even terrible ones, had a first printing. The question is, was it good enough to have a second printing?

Mac is right. In the non-fiction realm, the more specialized a book's topic, the smaller the print run and the more valuable it is likely to be - you should see what old books on say, falconry, surfing, or obscure firearms can command.

Scarcity and condition also play roles, of course. Carol (my wife) once spent $10 for a lot of five knitting books. I chided her because she doesn't knit and knows little about it. She gave me the Big-Eyed Face, sat down at her computer and sold three of them for $260. I shut my mouth. She'd done her homework and knew these books had patterns in them that were in great demand but they had small print runs. They were also in "Gift Quality" condition.

Also, just because a particular title is readily available doesn't mean collectors won't pay a lot of money for the right copy of that title. You can pick up a copy of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath for a buck at a thrift shop, but if you want a first printing in a pristine dust jacket, then you better talk to your banker ($15k+ last time I checked).

Just an FYI, bookfinder.com is a great place to search for books you may want to buy. You'll find copies in all price ranges and conditions. Also, bookthink.com is a fantastic site to learn the ins and outs of book collecting and selling.

Now, if I could only find a copy of that pamphlet....what was it? Oh yeah, Tamerlane by A. Bostonian. I could build a new shop with all the great tools, and I could build an identical one for the villa I'd buy on the Riviera and I could buy....


Ben Franz
03-11-2010, 10:38 AM
My wife sells an art instruction book of her work on both ebay and Amazon. She has found listings for resale at prices nearly four times her price. Some people want to know why her books are so cheap - what's wrong with them? Go figure - I guess Barnum was right.

Dan Friedrichs
03-11-2010, 12:26 PM
I wonder if sellers use some sort of auto price-setting script or something. I was looking for a textbook that had been printed in hardcover, then in softcover. The used hardcover editions on Amazon were listed at $800. (yes - eight hundred...). The new, softcover, was $42.

Brian Elfert
03-11-2010, 12:46 PM
There is high demand for these particular Sunset books right now because the publisher Oxmoor House is buying them all back for the original full retail price due to a recall. Enterprising folks are buying up these books for less than full retail and mailing them in to get full retail back from the publisher.

Automated scripts make sense. The sellers are probably seeing the high demand for these books and automatically raising the price sky high. Nobody is buying books that won't make them a profit when they ship them to the manufacturer.

George Sanders
03-12-2010, 7:10 AM
I once bought a book at a flea market for 5 bucks. It is a book on tree identification. Looked it up on Bookfinder and it listed for $250. :eek: I won't sell it because it is too useful. Like anything else, price is dictated by what the market will bear.

Norberto Coutinho
03-12-2010, 9:07 PM
show this. in portuguese, with some english intervew in english.
= http://jornalnacional.globo.com/Telejornais/JN/0,,MUL1527652-10406,00-MORADORES+DE+NOVA+YORK+ABANDONAM+LIVROS+VELHOS.htm l

mike holden
03-13-2010, 10:58 AM
Because they can, it is called "free enterprise".

Also, there are other reasons than logic involved, go to any auction and watch people pay over list price for items they could buy on the way home; coin and stamp collectors paying over what the mint is offering coins for (complete set of state quarters anyone?)

People are so intent on getting a bargain that they forget the basic price.


But then, if they feel happy getting the book for $200, then what is the harm?

Brian Elfert
03-13-2010, 10:16 PM
If I go on the Internet, search for a book and say 20 sellers have the book. Two or three of the sellers charge $1 to $5, another eight or so charge $15 to $20, three or four might charge $20 to $50, two or three at $99, and finally one or two at $200.

Who in their right mind would pay $200 for the same book that can also be purchased for under $5?

Yes, I have seen books listed for sale on places like Abebooks or DealOz where the price spread is exactly as described. Prices ranging from $1 to $200 for the same book.