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Amazon.com a Rip-Off? (Long) Rant about Textbooks.

  1. Mar 9, 2008 #1
    So I was looking about for an electrodynamics book I needed for my course (the international version):

    Now, if I had ordered it from amazon.com, it would have cost me about R.1 200 (that's in our local currency), and that's excluding import tax etc.
    Actually, one of the local bookstores ordered it, and I only paid R215 !!! Amazon.com would have been at least 6 times more expensive!!
    Also, I look around on amazon.com for cd's and they are very expensive- one album I wanted for a friend is going at $40.00, now that's a rip-off; it's just an ordinary album.

    Also, while I'm on the topic of textbooks, why do university insist you have the most obscure books, and then never order them? Then you have to find them yourself, and no bookshops want to order it blah blah blah. I'm thinking of a certain book I still need for a course. The physics department told the university to get it last year Nov. or something, then they only ordered it Feb. this year. I was counting on them to get it, then they tell me this Friday past that they're not ordering the book!!!!! And I have needed this book for 3 weeks now! I have no idea what I am going to do!

    Now I needed two books for physics, the one is in the link above, and the other one I discussed in the previous paragraph. I put my name down on a list at a second bookshop that said they would call me when they got the two books. I phoned them on friday to enquire about the one Griffiths book, and they said they had it in the store, but they never contacted me to inform me it had arrived! Now the other book is the one the university cancelled the order of and never said anything, and I haven't heard from the second bookshop about this book, and I am suspecting it should hve arrived by now, because the Griffiths one is here already, and possibly it's sold out already.

    If I have missed this second book, I am really at my wits end, this course has been going on for three weeks now, and I still don't have the book! It's not in the library, and I have no idea what to do.

    I ordered one book online (totally un-related to the above two) about two weeks ago and it still hasn't arrived, I'm afraid if I order the book I need it will take too long to get here, and be seriously over-priced, like the amazon.com book.

    Thanks for reading that long post, I really needed to get that off my chest :tongue:
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 9, 2008 #2
    For the past years, I've ordered ALL of my books from www.half.com
  4. Mar 9, 2008 #3


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    Amazon.com has the same price or less than every single book that I've ever seen at a real-life vendor. Usually it has a "Buy Used or New for: " price, and that's always a good source.
  5. Mar 9, 2008 #4


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    I've never seen anything priced higher than the local bookstore on Amazon, and usually it's a bit lower, if not a lot lower, depending on the book. Once in a while, I've seen other vendors who sell through Amazon selling books at higher prices, but those are bookstores just using the Amazon marketplace and aren't actually Amazon itself (and you don't get free shipping with them either)...sometimes those have much better prices too, especially if you can buy after most courses have started and bookstores are trying to get rid of overstock (this works well for me, since I'm not buying for courses, but for reference texts for my own use).

    I don't know where you attend school, but here, all textbooks are sold in the university bookstores...the orders go in months in advance (rarely, the bookstore will buy too few copies and run out though...places like Amazon have made that worse because we can no longer predict that pretty much everyone in a class is going to buy locally, so they try to anticipate what percentage will buy from other sources and sometimes predict wrong).

    With other merchandise (not books), sometimes you can find items cheaper locally, especially if you factor in shipping costs, but I've never seen anything grossly overpriced on Amazon.

    Though, I still prefer buying used books locally. I just don't like relying on the vendor's description of a book to really know what condition a used book is in.
  6. Mar 9, 2008 #5
    Amazon.com is a consistent 20% cheaper than my university's bookstore.
  7. Mar 9, 2008 #6
    I usually buy all my textbooks from a seller in India or China. International Editions are heck of a lot cheaper than the version they sell in North America. The same book that costs $150 here can be anywhere from $20 to $80 if I buy overseas.
    www.gettextbooks.com is a search engine I find useful for looking for the best deal on textbooks.
  8. Mar 9, 2008 #7


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  9. Mar 10, 2008 #8
    Thanks for pointing out the websites. However, my point about, in this instance, amazon.com was 6 times more expensive is still valid. And the university did order the books loooong ago, it's just that the university bookshop only ordered them late (start f the academic year), and then cancelled there order 3 weeks into the academic year without notifying anyone. And the million other problems I listed.
    Oh yes, I still have to import books, which adds to the price.
  10. Mar 10, 2008 #9


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    At the current exchange rate, R 1200 (I am assuming Indian R 40 ~ $1 US) is about $30, which is very low for a textbook, unless it's used and someone is reselling. R215 is about $5.40 US, and if that's a new book, then I would expect it to be a pirated copy in violation of international copyright laws. I had a colleague who back in the 80's who bought his textbooks in Taiwan. He got then for about $10-$20, when the rest of us paid $50-$100. Those cheap textbooks were pirated copies, many of them classic textbooks in math and science.
  11. Mar 10, 2008 #10
    Actually, "R" stands for "South African Rands", and it is about 7 or 8 rands to the US$. They are def. not pirated, as it is a well known bookshop.
    So R1200 is approx. $105, and R215 is about $30.
  12. Mar 10, 2008 #11


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    Probably not - most major textbook publishers print 'eastern/asian economy editions' for 1/10 the price. They know that India/China are big markets but nobody can afford to pay the equivalent of a months salary for Resnick so they print cheap local editions to prevent piracy/photocopies.
    They are often printed on poor quality paper and are supposed to be sold not for export. I have a paperback copy of Knuth I picked up on vacation in India 10years ago for about $5
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