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Ever look at the used book prices on Amazon? They don’t make a great deal of sense, do they? I’ve seen a number of out-of-print (OOP) books I either own or would like to have and there will be a single copy available for something like $200. And it’s silly because there are usually other copies available on bookfinder or other sites for something like $10-15. I’ve also ordered from booksellers on places like half.com and they seem to be from monstrously large sellers with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of books available for sale. Who are these people?

Well, one astute observer watched two Amazon sellers continually increase their prices on an OOP book until it reached over $23 million. Which is ridiculous, because there were other copies available for $35. This piece describes what happened. I wasn’t aware of just how automated this process is. The comments on that piece are particularly interesting, because they describe how many of these “mega-listers” operate (here’s a lengthy piece on this phenomenon). I was shocked to find out that many of them don’t even own the books they’re selling! If you buy from them, they quickly acquire the book from another online seller and have that seller ship directly to you, while making a profit. Not illegal — some folks call this an example of “arbitrage” — but it sure seems borderline unethical to me. In any case, these two pieces offer some insight into the world of book mega-listers.

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