What's going on with Amazon book prices

In looking at Amazon.ca books, I noticed some search categories for books by price.

There are 8,505 books priced from $2000-$4999

and 1,902 books priced from $5000 - $9999

With a further 1,014 books priced at over $10,000

Let’s take a look at some of these pricy books:

The Greek Myths: 1 by Robert Graves (Mass Market Paperback - 1966)
1 used from CDN$ 465,000.00

Puss in Boots by Barrie Wade and Neil (Illu) Chapman (Paperback - Jul 2006)
1 used from CDN$ 99,999.00

Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest: The Definitive Guide by Charles W. Kane (Hardcover - Sep 15 2009)
1 used from CDN$ 12,975.00

Audubon 365 Songbirdsand Other Backyard Birds Calendar 2008 by National Audubon Society (Calendar - Aug 1 2007)
1 used from CDN$ 10,904.80

Have this many people (thousands) screwed up and mis-priced their books? How com they have not caught the mistakes then? Are these just really, really expensive books?

I’ve wondered about this a million times myself and have come close to starting a thread on the subject an equal number of times. I don’t have the answer, but there’s something I’d like to add to further compound the mystery. There’s a company that runs off inkjet copies of wiki pages, binds them, and sells them on Amazon. Here’s an example. I’ve once saw one of these ridiculous things listed at $300. Are they HIGH? Why would anybody pay 300 bucks for something they can get for free and run off on a household inkjet printer?

I ran across something like this a couple weeks ago. Mrs. FtG’s favorite yoga book is on the verge of falling apart and I checked to see if I could get her a replacement. (Paperback from the 1970s.)

3 places had it for $2. But 4 places had it for over $60. The top was $229. This is not a collectible.

I can see listing it for $999 as a placeholder for something out of stock. What are the chances of someone ordering it for that price and if they do, you buy it for somewhere and then reship it.

But $229? Even $60 doesn’t make sense. Do they have the book? Do they want to sell it?

I was tempted to write to one of them and ask what the deal is. But I’m worried I might find out.

Wild guess, but could they be using a buggy automatic pricing calculation? You know, “if there’s only 1 copy, it must be rare, so take the highest used price and multiply by X” or code to that effect.

These prices are probably the result of amazon’s automatic pricing algorithm getting into a loop with another automatic pricing algorithm.


One thing I recollect from years ago when I sold books on Amazon was that the seller vacation mechanism (taking books off the Amazon shelf when I was not around to ship them) seemed buggy at times, so I resorted to change the prices to ridiculously high ones before one vacation.

I think you’ve found the answer! I’m going to see if the prices of these books increase each day…

At 23 million bucks, I bet it wasn’t flying off the shelf.

Would you come home early from vacation to ship a $10,000 book? :slight_smile:

I had a book on my Wish List for over two years and the cheapest price I could find second hand (it’s out of print) was about $700. I finally bought it, used, from a UK website for £16.

Money laundering! What better way to clean your millions of $$ in illicit drug money?

There is a book by a friend of mine (an advanced math monograph) that someone is selling for about $75 that can be downloaded for free. The site where the latter is posted has the permission of the author; the expensive one doesn’t. I asked the suthor about suing the guy who was selling it, but he claims it is not worth the trouble. The main difference is that copy that is sold is bound (or so it is claimed). But I think you can get a copy printed and bound at Kinko’s for something like $10.

Not usually $300, but sixty or so and very overpriced.

It’s like the old joke about the kid selling lemonade for $5000 a glass. All he has to do is sell one.

There are some outfits that seem to be selling perfect bound copies of scanned-in books you can get for free from sites like Google Books or Archive.org. It’s not really a scam, but is kind of obnoxious to be looking for actual old books and be spammed with offers for what are basically bound photocopies for over $20.

But apparently some people do scam consumers by jamming random content off the net into Kindle books and putting them on sale for a dollar. It costs them nothing, and the low price makes people willing to buy in, and unlikely to bother much when they realize they’ve been jipped.

I don’t have much experience with massively overpriced books, but I do have a little experience with massively overpriced DVDs. A few years ago, I tried to but a first pressing of Suspiria by Dario Argento. For months, the price was at least $500. After nearly a year, a copy turned up at $30 or so. I bought it and as far as I can tell it the genuine article.

Sometimes those pricing algorithms are just crazy.

People in the comments section talk about the implications in the stock market, but they don’t know or forget that the, in a panic, the market can be shut down, and all trades in a certain period undone, and then the market restarts. Thus the human monitors don’t need to catch it before it happens.

Plus you’re likely not to be so stupid with your algorithms.