News stories about publisher prices come and go; the latest has the U.S. attorney general going after Apple’s iBooks prices. Let me key that in again… Apple’s iBooks prices. Not the New York big six; not Amazon. While I do believe that book prices are as artificial as aspartame, I don’t really believe that Apple is the culprit in price fixing. The attorney general is just doing some election year grandstanding.
As I have stated in previous blog posts, the 800 pound gorilla in book sales in the U.S. is Amazon. Even when Amazon begins charging sales taxes, and that will happen because our government’s spending is out of control; Amazon will still have the lion’s share of new book sales, due to its ubiquitous internet presence and its killer Kindle app. But, increasingly, Amazon is the best way to sell used books, and that is the reason all books will eventually be around four bucks.
I’ve been selling off my home library for a few months now, but I still have the bulk of it, because I have not found a way to compete with the “power sellers” who offer thousands of used books for a penny, plus Amazon’s $3.99 shipping. Thus, virtually any used book is available for a mere $4.
Having moved recently, I packed many, many boxes of books, and I usually check the price for anything that I don’t want to own forever. Most of them are only a penny on Amazon. I can’t make any money on that sale. Here is how the math works for me:
Book price .01
Shipping fees to me 3.99
Commission(s) to Amazon -$1.00 (transaction fee) and -.80 (minimum commission)
Postage to customer -$3.15 (for a book weighing between 1 and 2 pounds).
Thus, I lose $.95 per book, or more if I use packaging that I purchased, if the book sells at the going rate of $4.00. Heavier books will result in a greater loss, because Amazon’s shipping fees do not adjust for heavier items.
So, most of my books either end up parked on a shelf or in the “yard sale” pile. And, I do know that most of those won’t sell at a yard sale, either, so they’ll end up being donated to charity. Therefore, the owner of a used book must either want to keep it, or be ready to toss it.
Tis sad, but all physical books will become used books. So, if you don’t like the publisher’s price, just wait. Eventually, most any book will be available for four bucks.