I don't understand (some) textbook prices

  • Thread starter Bandersnatch
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In summary, the conversation discusses the varying prices of the same book being sold by different retailers on online platforms such as Amazon and Abe Books. The prices can differ significantly, sometimes even reaching a difference of thousands of dollars for the same book in the same condition. Possible reasons for these high prices include misinformation, shady practices, and special features of the book. The use of book pricing algorithms may also play a role in the fluctuation of prices.
  • #1
Bandersnatch
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I don't mean why they're expensive in general, or the existence of cheap 'international' editions.
I mean the same book in the same condition being sold by two different retailers on Amazon or Abe Books or some other place with many times difference in price.

So, for example, I was looking up Vallado's Fundamentals of Astrodynamics and its price on Amazon for a new copy varies from 100 GBP to 300 GBP. A used copy on Abe Books goes for 40 USD to 1000 (!) USD. (admittedly, 1st vs 3rd edition, but e.g.a new 4th edition goes for a 100 bucks)
http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Vallado&sts=t&tn=astrodynamics

I want to know what is the rationale behind trying to sell a book for a grand or otherwise significantly overpriced.

Do they include 70 virgins in the more pricey deals? Do some people have so much money that they buy the most expensive copy just because? Is this a front for drug dealing or something similarly illicit? Does it mean I can start selling my textbooks for twenty times the price I got them for and still find some buyers?
 
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  • #2
Many possible reasons.
- The vendor could be misinformed in some way from simple lack of knowledge to full blow mental illness.
- The vendor, or one of them, might be doing something shady. The cheap guy might not really have it at that price for example. You order it and he tries to get you to pay more.
- The info on the website could be wrong due to some such thing as a typo or variations.
- There could be something special about the particular issue. A signature by the author for example.

Heh. In stamp collecting, an inverted picture on a stamp can make the stamp very valuable. However, I have a copy of a fairly pedestrian textbook, and the cover is stitched on upside down to the contents. I'm doubting this makes the book highly valuable.
 
  • #3
IMHO, the expensive prices on sites like Abe Books or even Amazon are all the fault of book pricing algorithms. I don't know if you remember, but a few years ago there was that book about flies and biology that Amazon priced at something like $23.6 *million* dollars, but then people figured out that competitors' pricing algorithms were playing off of each other. I think it's just the result of something similar happening.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-14306146
 
  • #4
Huh, I haven't even realized there were some algorithms used to set prices. My iron age mind had thought it was all done by hand by some hard-working shmoe.
 

Related to I don't understand (some) textbook prices

1. Why are textbooks so expensive?

Textbooks are often expensive because they require a lot of time and resources to create. Authors and publishers spend a significant amount of time researching, writing, editing, and designing textbooks to ensure they are accurate and informative. Additionally, textbooks are often updated frequently to keep up with new information and advancements in the field, which can add to the cost.

2. Why do textbook prices keep increasing?

Textbook prices continue to rise due to a combination of factors, including inflation, increased production and distribution costs, and the lack of competition in the textbook market. Publishers have a monopoly on the textbooks they produce, allowing them to set prices as high as they want without fear of losing customers.

3. Can't textbooks be made more affordable?

Efforts have been made to make textbooks more affordable, such as offering rental options or digital versions. However, these options are not always available for all textbooks, and they may not be significantly cheaper. Additionally, some publishers have been accused of artificially inflating textbook prices to make up for lost revenue from used book sales.

4. How can students afford expensive textbooks?

Many students struggle to afford expensive textbooks, and some may choose not to purchase them at all. This can lead to lower grades and hinder their academic success. Some students may opt for used textbooks or share with classmates to save money. Others may rely on financial aid or scholarships to cover the cost.

5. Are there any alternatives to traditional textbooks?

There are alternatives to traditional textbooks, such as open educational resources (OERs) and online resources. OERs are freely accessible educational materials that can be used and shared by anyone. They can include textbooks, videos, and interactive learning tools. While these options may not cover every subject or course, they can provide a more affordable alternative for students.

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