Why does this used paperback mystery novel cost $700?

Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh. It’s a HarperCollins mass market paperback from 1999. The seller says it’s in “acceptable” condition.


No, that appears to be a trade paperback; it doesn’t look like anything remarkable, though. I’m at a loss as to why there are 8 listings at $700, and 12 other overpriced listings for a perfectly ordinary, if elderly, reprint.

All eight listings are from the same seller.:dubious:

It is possible there are some edition of the title which are quite collectable, and Amazon just mixed them up.

Abe books has some of her other books going for over $2000.

You often see books at bizarre prices on Amazon marketplace.

This was the very first one I looked up after reading this thread so there’s nothing in the least unusual about it.

At the time of posting there are ‘As New’ copies available for: £4.15, £5, £8.62, and £19.95.

There are far more extreme examples. I’ve never heard a convincing explanation for this.

If there’s no evidence that the book is rare, then the most plausible explanation is a typo. Probably the dealer typed “700” instead of “7.00” when entering the price.

That doesn’t really work as an explanation because it’s just way too common.

Another random example - I picked a title and picked the first ‘edition’ (not a ‘first edition’, obviously) listed on Amazon - then clicked on ‘buy used’.

Note that there are plenty of ‘very good’ and ‘as new’ for under £5 and yet, on page 2, there is a ‘good’ example for £49.99. Not all that likely to be a mistype.

Maybe when the $700 seller listed the book on Amazon, there were no other copies for sale- in which case, why not take a punt and list it at $700? You never know, the book might have sentimental value to someone who can’t find it anywhere else.

Now, when other sellers appeared with lower priced copies, they should have reduced the price to compete, but they clearly haven’t got round to that yet.

That, like any of the explanations I’ve heard might make sense if the phenomenon was only encountered occasionally.

But it seems to be virtually every book.

Here’s another one that I entered at random.

Once again, dozens of copies at a reasonable price and a few (on the last page) at an outrageous price.

Ask the seller why the book is special. Are you afraid the inquiry will raise the price?

All the books under any particular listing should be the exact same condition.

The seller can make a note if there’s something special, such as a dedication signed by the author. It would be ridiculous to list something for 20x the normal used price without explaining why.

Again, it could be an explanation for a one off but this seems to be almost universal.

Another example picked completely at random.

I used to sell books via Amazon marketplace and occasionally (that was more than three years ago) the ‘on vacation’ functionality (which temporarily takes the offers off the market when you are not on a position to ship promptly) did not work properly, so I resorted to prepending a ‘9’ or for the low-priced books even a ‘99’ to the price (e.g. 7.50 to 997.50).

But that looks unlikely for a price like $700. My best guess is that the seller uploaded the offers from a spreadsheet and there was a data conversion problem (or else his spreadsheet/database internally represented the price in ¢)

Again, possible every now and again but why do virtually all books seem to have a few copies available at a price that you would imagine would never attract a customer? Not that often in the hundreds but you’ll often see books in a less than as new condition going for 10x the price of as new copies. Often at considerably more than the new price.

Amazon has had (and still has, FWIW) people offering used copies of my book for nearly double the cost of a new copy. And, the book is POD, and has only been in print for about six months, so something isn’t adding up.

I asked about this on the Dope, and the answer was that it has something to do with drop-ship and computer programs that scan amazon looking for items.

Here’s the thread:


I noticed an example of this a month or so ago. I saw a book that was originally published several years ago. It’s about a subject that I know something about and that I’m on a E-mail mailing list of people interested in this subject. It was originally published at a cost a little above that of average hardbacks, although it wasn’t that expensive compared with other books from academic publishers. It didn’t sell particularly well and soon went out of print. There are no left-over copies available from the publisher. It doesn’t have a particularly good reputation among experts in the field.

There are now two copies being offered for sale by Amazon in its used book listings. They are priced at over $2,000 - about 40 times the price for a new book. I asked on the mailing list (of people interested in this subject) why anyone would offer a book at such a price. They all agreed that there’s no way that this book is that valuable. Even the author of the book thinks that the price is absurd.

I suspect that what is happening is that sellers will sometimes price a book at a bizarrely high price just to see if anyone is dumb enough to buy it. After all, it doesn’t cost any more or take any more time to sell a book at an absurdly high price than at a reasonable price. It’s like spam, where the offer is usually for things that are basically worthless. It doesn’t matter that far less than 1% of the recipients will take the offer in the spam. It takes so little time and money to send out spam that when even a tiny proportion of recipients will buy the item in the spam it’s worth the time and money that the seller will spend.

The same thing is true of absurdly high prices for used books. It takes very little time and money to offer hundreds of used books for sale on websites. If you price them all at absurdly high prices, there’s a reasonable chance that someone eventually will be dumb enough to pay those prices. If you sell just one book at some absurd price, it will pay for all your effort.

I agree with you. Bizarre prices on books in Amazon marketplace have been around since the thing started. When I was looking for an out-of-print paperback last month I saw a “like new” for $30 and on the other end was a “used/torn cover” for $500. I cannot imagine why one would pay $500 for the torn one when the “like new” is available for $30.

Huh? Used books and other items are in vastly different condition. Some books have foxing, others have torn or chipped covers/DJs, etc. It’s up to the potential buyer to read the description and see which copies are acceptable for his/her purposes. For instance, if I’m buying a used item for a gift, I will want it in at least Very Good condition. If I’m buying a book for my own use, I might very well find Acceptable condition to be adequate.

:smack: I don’t know how on earth that slipped through.

It should, of course, say 'exact same edition.

There are only four conditions that I’ve seen: ‘acceptable’, ‘good’, ‘very good’ and ‘as new’. I presume there must be a lower classification for very rare books but I haven’t seen it.

The absurdly priced books are frequently of an inferior condition classification than those at a much lower price.

Just a WAG, but could it have anything to do with money laundering? Someone makes money selling drugs (or whatever), advertises a book for $700, and then “buys” the book from himself to make it look like legit income?

There’s more than four: http://www.goldenbooksgroup.co.uk/index.php?target=pages&page_id=bookterms http://www.amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=10194751 both list six classes, for instance, but neither lists the class “reading copy”, which means that the book is readable, but it might have flaws like the pages are loose. This is the Independent Online Booksellers Association definitions: http://www.ioba.org/desc.html .

I particularly call your attention to the fact that ex-library (exlib) books must always be noted. While there are techniques to give an exlib book a facelift, the fact of the matter is that a library book usually gets read more, and abused more, than a book that’s been in a home library.

Yes, I assumed that there were more categories. I’ve just never seen the others on Amazon.

I once ordered a book and was contacted by the seller to tell me she’d discovered that the book was ex libris and that fact had been mistakenly omitted from the listing and asking if I wanted to complete the transaction.