Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I don't understand (some) textbook prices

  1. Feb 18, 2015 #1


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    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)

    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?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    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 web site 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.
  4. Feb 19, 2015 #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.

  5. Feb 19, 2015 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Huh, I haven't even realised 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.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook