What's with $.01 books sold on the internet?

Now, I’ve been eyeing a bunch of books on various internet sites and noticed that there are a significant number of them that sell books for $.01 + shipping.

This seems a bit odd to me, especially as I know someone who has collected a veritible library of penny books. The other day he asked me how these people could sell these books for this price and then charge a shipping/handling fee that was in some cases, less than the cost of actully shipping the book, while in others, it was negligibly higher than the shipping cost (in no case was the shipping enough to come anywhere near a profit insofar as we could figure).

Given the time it takes to crawl through their store, update an inventory, buy shipping supplies, pack the damn thing, address it, take it to the Post Office and pay for the credit card transaction, where’s the benefit? A friend said it was to just clear their inventory, but they could just put the damn thing out in front of the store for some bum to use as insulation and lose less money!

These can’t all be loss leaders, can they? I mean, if I’m buying these on amazon or abebooks, odds are I’m searching all listings and not one or two stores (unless, of course, I see they have a specialty that I’m particularly interested in).

Do they sell the lists? Provide some sort of industry-wide personality mapping experiments to sell to Tom Ridge?

My queries to the purveyors in question go unanswered…

I’ve bought a couple of “penny books”.

They charge you twice the usual shipping & handling, & often you don’t get the book.

You get what you pay for.

It depends on the site, but if Amazon gives you a buck ninety for shipping and it costs you a buck for shipping, there’s your profit.

Two points.

One, I have never bought a penny or other low price book in which the shipping price charged was less than the cost of shipping. In my experience, it has always been more and that’s where the profit on an otherwise unsellable book comes in.

Two, it’s important for the books to go out in good order. The combination of a really cheap book and a quick arrival greatly increases the chance that they will get a five-star rating and make their overall pattern look better.

I have never had a problem in receiving one of these books and I’ve never been charged a higher than normal shipping cost. YMMV.

Book rate postage.

county is right.

(Yeah, I know. I hope I need never say that again. He’s right, though.)

the USPS has special ultra-cheap rates for shipping “bound printed matter” - e.g., books - that are a result of a longstanding policy encouraging the dissemination of same. It’s also the absolute slowest service you can imagine - since the rates are so low, you end up with negative priority. Undoubtedly, the sellers in question are taking advantage of book rate shipping to subsidize their business. In other words, the “reasonable” shipping charges have a lot of built in padding.

Well, Christ, I had cleared my cookies and my post ended up getting erased during login. Fucking hell.

Anyway, I figured two things: 1) the people who were losing money were sending things priority and 2) assuming all the costs as I can figure, there’s a net $.05 loss per book given the $3.50 charge that the people he orders from have. The only way I can figure that this is worth the time is if, instead of sitting around doing nothing during slow times, the employees mail the books at which point, you’re not necessarily making any money, but breaking even for the dead time which, could make this worth it.

Freakin’ cookies.

I used to work in a satellite post office and I can tell you that the current ‘Media Mail’ rate is substantially cheaper than Parcel Post, but generally travels at the same speed. Hence, I don’t understand the posting from Some Guy. Typically, it takes a Parcel Post or Media Mail package about 8-10 days to cross the country.

When I ship out stuff for eBay auctions, I almost exclusively use Media Mail rate even though about 90% of the time, it doesn’t qualify. Media Mail is meant for books, CDs, DVDs, video tapes, and other bound materials. They should be basically ‘crushable’ (they will be packed in tight when they travel and may have a lot on top of them if your package ends up on the bottom of the crate.

We were supposed to ask people when they requested Media Mail rate what was in their package to ensure it qualified, but in my experience, I have only been asked once. If you are willing to pack extra protective materials in your box, I’d recommend this rate for everything other than fragile glass objects. I sold a 1960s microscope on eBay that weighed about 35 lbs and shipped it this way. In fact, my strategy for eBay has always been to calculate the Parcel Post rate, charge the buyer this fee, then ship it Media Mail and treat the profit as my ‘handling fee’ since it’s a pain to get a box, pack it up, drive to post office, wait in line, etc.

My experience comes from working at a bookstore some years ago. 90% of the book rate shipping we did was to jails and prisons - they won’t take private shipments for inmates, but they will take USPS. In my experience, book rate shipping from my store (in Atlanta) to a prison facility in Atlanta took a minimum of two weeks. Even assuming a 24 hour hold time while the prison inspected the material (which is a reasonable but uninformed guess), that’s pretty slow. It’s possible, however, that for cross-country shipping the relative delay is less noticeable.

Perhaps some sellers do this also to accumulate positive feedback.

This surprises me. When I’ve had books shipped to me, and I’ve thought to look at the postage price stamped on the package, it’s always been at least a buck or two less than the $3.50 that Amazon.com, for instance, charges for S&H on a single book. Not a big profit, certainly, but hardly a loss.